Monday, November 24, 2014

Turkey Baster

You were supposed to be working. You weren't. You were scrolling through your timeline on "FacePlant", trolling for ideas for your next blog. It was close to the Holiday break, so no one really noticed. You ran across this blog post about overused "tropes" in fantasy and sci-fi. "What the F are tropes?" you asked yourself silently. A click on the link lead you to a glitchy page (it could have very well been your computer and not the page) that listed a half dozen or so themes that the author thought were overused. You weren't convinced he was right.

OK. Enough of that. That's far too annoying.

However, it is true that I did stumble on a blog post about "literary tropes". Whether I was meant to be working at the time is not important. What is important is that I stumbled onto a subject that intrigued me. Tropes. I vaguely remember studying about such things in college, but most of the literary nuggets I squirreled away back then were overwritten by volumes of organic and biochemistry factoids (The vodka probably didn't help much either). In this case the author was using the term to indicate literary themes (e.g. - All powerful evil empire or farm boy becomes king). Now, I don't believe (this is based on the ten minute Google search I did before writing this post) that this is not the original meaning of the word, but that it has come into use as such in recent times. I will let the Professor clarify, if necessary.

So, I clicked on the link. The page was glitchy, but then so is my computer. I waited the appropriate amount of time before mumbling curses under my breath while randomly clicking around the screen in a Neolithic effort to hurry the process. Finally, the page loaded and I scrolled through it skimming through the snarky text. That's the thing about us geeks. When we're convinced we're right about something, we become rabid honey badgers foaming at the fangs. Anyway, I got to the part of the blog where the author was lamenting the use of the medieval as setting and form for fantasy novels.  At this point, I said out loud to no one in particular, "Well, what the hell else would you do?"

And that, dear readers, is what got the gray matter twitching. Now, I've stated before, I am trying to be different with my approach. Yet, in my mind if you are going to write fantasy, you've got to have some of the medieval involved. I mean, that's the whole point. No cars, no guns, no processed cheese spread. Actually, there is a sub-genre called urban fantasy (The Dresden Files comes to mind) that is set in modern times. However, even then it is laced with swords and sorcery. Honestly, it's why we read it. Right?

So what are we to do, then? As authors looking to set ourselves apart from all the others (just go to a large public library and look at all the fantasy novels you haven't read), how do we escape the clichéd tropes? It all comes back to one of my earlier assertions/posts. Tell a good story. If the story is engaging, the reader will forgive any but the most blatant clichés. Yes, there are a shed load of novels out there set in medieval times. And yes, there are an abundance of Sauron-esque villains on the landscape.  Yet, the ones that you remember (LOTR, Star Wars, Kvothe, or Rand al Thor) are set in stories that you want to read/watch. Tell your story and tell it well because all the techniques and gimmicks mean nothing if the story is a snooze.

plural noun: tropes
  1. 1.
    a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression.
    "he used the two-Americas trope to explain how a nation free and democratic at home could act wantonly abroad"
    • a significant or recurrent theme; a motif.
      "she uses the Eucharist as a pictorial trope"
3rd person present: tropes
  1. 1.
    create a trope.


  1. Well, at first I was the subject in 2nd person, and then I turned into Mike? Or was I a rabid honey badger? You stick to POVs like a medieval jester! (You've just been troped!)

  2. trooping trope
    a hesistent or tentative drugery in sticking to a basic theme: ie., this blog's recent obsession with the 2nd person.
    The Professor, The Crabby Viking

  3. You find yourself agreeing with The Professor. And then you wonder...what makes the Viking so crabby?
    Pancakes. Cold pancakes, you conclude.