Image from Story Tropes Bingo Almost Every Genre
Tropes drive the publishing and entertainment industry. We’ve all heard about doing the 15-second elevator spiel and other methods to condense our plots to sell to publishers. The only way to do this is through tropes – such as the famous pitch for Aliens – “Jaws in Space”. As readers, we constantly flip over books for their blurbs to see if we might be interested in the book. Oh, a book about pirates in space with a charming doctor trying to redeem them – looks interesting. We buy based on tropes, we sell based on tropes.
An author cannot write to the trope, not like sit-coms writers can. Tropes are tropes because they are easy and simple to digest, but writing and reading need also to be unique and through-provoking. An immersion of the brain to take you away, even during a beach read. If an author writes to the trope, they need to twist it and turn it, even flip it on its edge. One of my favorite trope flips is “Resenting the Hero” by fantasy humor writer Moira J. Moore. TV Tropes breaks down many of the tropes we all know and love: the hooker with the heart of gold; fathers can’t change diapers; slap-slap-kiss (anger causes passion); and smart people are experts in all knowledge bases. Sure, many characters start off as tropes, just like we make assumptions about the person across from us because our interaction is limited. We know how a cashier, a waiter, or a police officer should act, but the longer we know them, the simple and easy assumptions based on tropes and prejudice break down.
If you need ideas of what may constitute tropes beyond the quick mentions above – Story Tropes Bingo Almost Every Genre by Jenn Northington (2/17/2015) – gives many good examples.
WRITING EXERCISE: Review you body-of-work and find a character or situation which is a trope. Rewrite or add to the scene to break the trope. For commenting, post a link showing the trope you fixed.