Trope Friction

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I was discussing tropes in a meeting of my fellow writers, and a thought came to mind.  Often when we writers discuss tropes it’s do we use them or not.  I realized that sometimes the value of the trope is something to bump up against.

Let me give an example.

In my Avenoth series, there is a sorceress, Marigold Rel-Domau.  Marigold is not your typical weedy magic user, she’s a 6’7” spell-flinger who works out and is willing to mix fisticuffs and sorcery.  The trope of the non-physical magic user was one I enjoyed running up against.  I thought about how using magic doesn’t give any reason not to engage in physical improvement and gives many reasons to hit the weight room.

In my thinking, her career involved troubleshooting dangerous occult and high-tech situations with her partner.  Marigold wielded gravity and kinetic magic, but being practical, she knew she needed more than one tool in her toolbox.  Sometimes punching someone is easier.  Sometimes it’s easier to break something with your hands than to try to leverage a spell.  She also had never gotten flying down so running proved to be a very important thing to perfect.

It could have been just a joke, but by the time I was done, I added to the world and the character.  Marigold, a constant planner in the vein of, well, me, would think that way.  So much came out of taking a trope and utterly inverting it.

Bouncing off the trope sent me higher – as well as leading to a wonderful metaphorical arc in the second book.

But the contrast is something that can draw a reader in.  At first, it may seem to be humorous in breaking a trope – a lot of humor is a kind of inversion or violation.  But the reason something doesn’t fit tropes gives you something to work on, turns the contrast into character, and makes the tale deeper.

Friction can slow things down – but it can also light a match and set ideas on fire.

Tropes may be fun to explore and deconstruct, and that’s a subject writers go on about at length.  But I think we as writers should spend some time looking at how we can use a trope by running up against it.  The friction of expectations can create sparks of inspiration in the author – and fascination in the reader.

So what trope are you sick of, and what appears when you break it open . . .

Steven Savage