Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tropes Can Be Your Friend or Your Enemy

Tropes can be your enemy, plotwise, or your friend, especially if you can bend them somehow to be fresh again in your story.

One of my favorite sites is TV Tropes, where this is part of their mission statement:
The wiki is called "TV Tropes" because TV is where we started. Over the course of a few years, our scope has crept out to include other media. Tropes transcend television. They reflect life. Since a lot of art, especially the popular arts, does its best to reflect life, tropes are likely to show up everywhere.

I like to click on the Speculative Fiction genre link because there are so many choices, including the “Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Cliches”.  Feel free to use them or not, do whatever is right for your story. It’s good to have the awareness, however, that the tropes do exist, in any genre. Personally, I don't mind a plot based on a trope, if the story is well written and I'm engaged with the characters.

So, selected from the TV Tropes site, with my comments after the italics:
Discussions, ending with a joke, about how bureaucracies are the same everywhere in the galaxy: OK, I was coasting along pretty well in the movie “Jupiter Rising” until they made their pit stop at the intergalactic DMV or whatever that bureaucratic version of hell was supposed to be. It was kinda amusing but went on for too long AND didn’t feel like it fit into the otherwise serious movie with populations of whole planets dying…so if you're going to do this one, don't get carried away with it.

It was all just a dream/game/simulation: Some people do this very well, as with the “Matrix” or “Inception.” And then of course there’s “Running Man,” where the whole thing is a deadly game and everyone knew it, which was kinda cool.  Or “Tron”. I didn’t think the remake of “Total Recall” went so well. I believe if you’re going to spring this surprise on your readers or viewers, you have to have amazing worldbuilding, and subtle clues they can go back and ferret out later, so it’s obvious that you the Author knew what you were doing all along. The readers can rest assured they were in good hands and the author didn't just throw in a trick ending when they ran out of inspiration and the deadline loomed. No! See, there was a clue and there was another clue and....

Time travellers go back in time to prevent some Bad Thing from happening and in the process actually cause the Bad Thing to happen and its corollary Time travellers go back in time to prevent some Bad Thing from happening; they succeed, but cause something worse to happen: I suspect this is so prevalent because what is the point of time traveling if you can’t meddle? See all the “Back to the Future” movies. The underrated movie “Grand Tour in Time” is a really good use of this trope. I loved the old Jean Claude van Damme movie “Time Cop”, where there was a whole bureaucracy (oops, see above) set up to deal with the issues.  And of course, the other trope is that the people go back in time, to the sinking of Titanic perhaps and find they can’t prevent the disaster. Rod Serling got good mileage out of that for “Twilight Zone.”

Humans have a special quality that makes us unique, so that even superbeings can learn something from us: Excuse me? We ARE intergalactically unique in all ways, what are they talking about here??? Moving on…

A pet survives the disaster, and is discovered at the end of the story: I’m not arguing with this trope! Any pet animal in my stories will survive. This is so well accepted that people often get upset when the dog does die. A nice spin on this trope was Groot in "Guardians of the Galaxy," who (SPOILER) created a "cutting" or baby version of himself. Awww....

The gang of cute and/or misfit kids rescue the universe, where a large group of competent, organized and well-armed adults failed: Well but this one is SUCH a good trope that it can be spun many many ways, especially in scifi.  Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze, “Super 8”…."Goonies" (hey, it has fantasy elements...)

A high-ranking matriarch, in a society that oppresses men, falls for the Hero's rugged charms: OK, but we write romance so of course this is going to happen on occasion in our books, right fellow Authors? We’ll just write it SO well, no one will complain about the tropery.

Veronica Scott square photoVeronica Scott is the USA Today Happily Ever After blog’s SciFi Encounters columnist and a three-time recipient of the SFR Galaxy Award. She’s written a number of best-selling science-fiction and fantasy romances. Her latest release is Star Cruise: Marooned. Veronica grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories. She made the jump to fulltime author this past March.
All views expressed are solely my own and not those of the SFR Brigade!

 You can find out more about Veronica at https://veronicascott.wordpress.com/ or on twitter @vscotttheauthor or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Veronica-Scott/177217415659637

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