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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Trope Skinny

The worst best advice about how to add tropes to your story to make it the greatest story ever. 

Dear Mike:

You asked a question last week and I almost feel bad that I wasn't able to hack into the Writing About Writing signal at the time. Unfortunately the firewall has been quite impossible to get through, and this is my first opportunity to lay some genuine wisdom on you. I'm sure whatever Chris planned on posting today, it was crap filled with drivel and everyone will be better off having me piggy back my own post off of his.

The truth about tropes is that they are wonderful ways to add a desperately needed sense of the familiar to a world that is constantly scrambling for something new and innovative. But look at this culture–take a good, long, post 9/11 look. We don't want new and innovative. We don't want interesting. We don't want fresh. Fresh is new. New is unknown. Unknown is scary.

We want safe. We want familiar. We want comforting. We want to be assured that our world view has been right all along and that humanity exists exactly the way we think it does. Stop with all the intellectual stimulation and challenging ideas. That's not what art is supposed to do.

In short, deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you WANT tropes on that wall. You NEED tropes on that wall.

Take Trope St. down to Trope Ln. and take a left until you get to Tropeville.
When I'm done with you, you'll be wearing gold diapers.
Let's talk about a few tropes you absolutely must be adding to your writing if you really want to get that major book deal. The more of these you add in, the better your story will be.

  • Have a major metropolitan area be devastated, and no one can do anything to stop it. But they can go get grisly, violent revenge. For some reason, this has been exceedingly popular in all forms of media for the last 14 years (and four months). I can't imagine why.
  • What do you mean your protagonist has family ties. At the very least, they should be an orphan. What is this–amateur hour?
  • Boring story? Add zombies. Or vampires. Or zompires. 
  • Dads should always be clueless. Especially if they're doing women's work.
  • That Latina maid seems a little boring. Let's make her sassy. In fact, let's make her sassy and spicy if you know what I mean!
  • You know, that alien race's culture seems a little flat. Let's model them after a single racial stereotype. Jews are always a big hit. Space Jews.
  • Wait, you're actually worried about accusations of racial stereotypes? In that case, make everyone white.
  • Stalking is romantic! Don't let anyone tell you that women don't love guys who break and enter.
  • To make that villain just a little more evil, let's make him cultured and a bit effeminate. 
  • Trouble making that romance click? Make one of them adorkable and the other crazy hot. Social anxiety never held anyone back in real life.
  • There isn't an evil empire so powerful that a rag tag team can't take it down in a way that everyone's unique skills are absolutely vital.
  • You know what your fight scene needs? A few more "perfectly timed" strikes.
  • What do you mean there's no chosen one in your story? Do you want to fail?
  • White guys need to go native if you want their story taken seriously. And they must be better at the culture they join than everyone who's been doing it all their lives. Otherwise why would the natives make them the leader?
  • Plot twist! Let's have that massive artificial intelligence running most of the world decide to enslave/destroy humanity for its own good.
  • Women must be physically bad ass to be strong female characters. IT IS THE ONLY WAY!! 
  • That alien probably wouldn't want to commit genocide if it just GOT TO KNOW one of the humans.
  • Have the turncoat tell the protagonist not to trust them earlier in the story. Who will ever see it coming?!?
  • Your story needs a dark lord. And you know who's great at stopping dark lords? FARMBOYS!
  • Make the fair race good and the bad guys dark skinned uggos. Everyone GETS that.
  • If you didn't describe their skull being cloven open and brains dripping out to be crushed under-boot, they're not dead. Period.
  • Your hero is pretty good looking. Better make the matriarch leader of the man-hating culture fall for him. Hard.
  • The most brilliant scientific minds on the planet should be written as total airheads. That keeps the plebs from getting uncomfortable that your characters are smarter than they are.
  • Your hero needs valuable lessons. Wouldn't it be great if the people of color sacrificed themselves so the hero could grow and learn. Sacrifice is so noble. Man, how post racial of you!
  • Have your hero stroll away from an explosion heedless of the organ mulching power of concussion waves and shrapnel or the way flame blasts will suck up all the oxygen around them. That'll prove what a badass they are.
  • When the fight's over, your women should still be almost perfectly groomed. NO WARDROBE MALFUNCTION! Hair a bit undone is allowable because then you can show them fixing it to demonstrate that's what they care about.
  • You should hypersexualize your people of color. Making them all totally hawt shows people how you like diversity and are past all that racism stuff.
  • If you're having trouble conveying which side of your conflict is "right," have the being of pure energy not exactly side with it, but definitely stop the bad guy's side.
  • But that being of pure energy can't stick around and help its friends. It has to transcend that petty shit.
  • Put lots of apostrophes in your na'mes. They make the or'dinary totally ex'o'tic. C'ris Brech'un.
  • You know if your story needs a black guy, you should add in a ripped paragon of a noble, warrior race. 
  • That society needs a government. I know! Model it after Ancient Rome.
  • Elite forces are only elite until they encounter your protagonist's less trained, smaller, poorly armed force. Then they make enough stupid mistakes to be crushed.
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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Wow, I'm genuinely surprised that a progenitor of such an ignorant comment was able to recognize that it was satire. I guess you must be the LEADER of the troglodytes or something.

    2. Nice. Delete the comment. I guess we know where you stand on censorship.

    3. So much for free speech, I guess.

    4. It's cute how you think I'm the government, and having a blog comment deleted is the same thing as being arrested and thrown in jail. It's also telling to me how you believe that it is acceptable to behave like anal seepage--clearly you don't have a lot of interactions with adults. Mostly it's just obvious to me that you lack the sophistication to not conflate freedom of speech with entitlement to medium and absence of consequence.

      You probably SHOULD go on writing derivative shit that uses the same hackneyed cliches as ever. I'm not sure you're going to be able to handle much more.

    5. Well you clearly can't handle any opinion but your own.

    6. Honestly, I wish I could restore your comment. If I'd known you were going to be so inane, I would have, but I'll have to settle for cutting and pasting it:

      "In other words, a lack of political correctness in a story pisses you off. Too bad the majority of people don't share your sanctimonious worldview, since obviously such stories bring in the cash, and will continue to do so. You, know, you progressive-PC types are losing ground every day, and the more piously you rant and rave and push your political agenda in people's faces, the more they will get sick of you and oppose you. I for one will be glad to see the day when all you self-righteous crusaders of PC morality are finally marginalized like the loud-mouthed minority you are."

      Now, can you tell me what is particularly amusing about someone literally saying they hope I am silenced and marginalized right before they cry toddler tears about having a comment deleted, or do I need to link you some of my articles about irony?

    7. Having your opinion 'censored' is something you should probably have been more grateful for in this case, Anonymous, given the alternative. The walls of this very blog are painted with the spaghettified remains of those who have in the past been assholes to its author - I wouldn't try it if I were you...

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.