Tuesday, April 30, 2013

8 Tropes That Writers Should't Stop Using (unless they want too.)

Recently I read this article http://litreactor.com/columns/top-10-storytelling-cliches-that-need-to-disappear-forever by Rob W. Hart over at http://litreactor.com.

They shared their "Top 10 Storytelling Cliches Writers Need To Stop Using" and why; I had a bit of a disagreement with 8 of them so here is my defense of those 8. I'm also opting to use the word trope over cliche when I feel that is more appropriate. I use Tv Tropes heavy and that is the reason for this.

I'm speaking solely from personal preference/opinion and do not pretend to be an expert. Also this is my first non-personal blog post in a while so their might be some mistakes.

1.) "Characters describing themselves in mirrors"

 As someone who started out there creative life as an artist, I believe the visual appearance of something is critical even in literature; and getting that out their critical unless you are going for mystery or fear. A character's appearance in my mind should be described in as much detail as possible, as soon as possible. If I'm going to be spending an entire book with this character I want to know what the person looks like.

Are there other ways to do this? Sure; but that doesn't make the mirror cliche bad. I've been hearing this over and over again and although I've never used the mirror cliche myself, I've never groaned at it's use or found it to be "bad writing".

I agree there are ways to work it into the narrative that are less upfront, but sometimes that's a bad thing. When details of character come after the reader has already developed their own vision, it creates dissonance; And while cliche, using a mirror or similar device avoids this entirely when done early on. I've personally put down more books because of visual dissonance than because of a mirror. As for the nobody takes stock of their features. I'm proof this factually incorrect because I almost always stare at my features in the mirror and take into account their details.

2.) "Broadcasting an upcoming plot twist."

I fully admit the "little did he know" example is pretty lazy writing, but there is nothing wrong
with foreshadowing events, in fact the opposite is what's know as Deus Ex Machina, and if "little did he know" prevents that I'm all for it. Even in mystery events shouldn't be random and out of left field that's more of cop out than anything on this list.

3.) "Blaming bad behavior on bad parenting."

 I can see this as cliche, but sadly this is just truth in television. You may call it a cop-out but
it's a realistic and sadly common in real life. It's just factual, you can call it bad writing all
you want but that won't make it go away. This doesn't mean writers shouldn't explore alternatives,
they should and I agree it's easy to just make the parents the villain but in some peoples cases
sadly they are; and sometimes it's just a matter of them writing what they know.

4.) "Too many inside jokes/references."

I love references, I would not shy away from calling myself a reference author. I make
references, my characters make references. I will defend references up and down,
and back again and I don't just think they can only be used for humor and wit. I believe they can be used to convey intense meaning, subtext, draw parallels and invoke powerful emotions. If done poorly it can alienate readers, but when done right which they often are from what I've found most readers don't even notice them and those who do have a deeper experience with the text.

5.) "The chosen one."

I can fully understand being adverse to this one, I hate the idea of a fate in the real world myself and I agree on his point about heroism but I also understand it having it's place. Plus this cliche has a big aspect of escapist fantasy to it, which is why people keep coming back to it; they love it.

They aren't just special, they're a hero and the only one who can help us. They get special powers,
and awesome weapons. Some people need this, it's comforting, it's confidence building, it gives them hope. That maybe just maybe they they have some grand fate waiting for them, some great task,
and the hope that a work like that inspires in them can help them move mountains.

6.) "Countdown clocks."

 This one doesn't even have a legit reason why it's a cop out, it's a just cheap dig at The Dark Knight Rises.

7.) "Veiling your message in a dream."

This is another case where the hyperbole of "Nobody ever X" really starts to grain on me, mainly
because I have dreams like this all the time, and I know several people who also dream
like this. So in an event of "Write what you know" I do in fact write like this and see nothing
wrong with it.

8.) "Using sex as wish fulfillment."

I don't really have an issue with this personally, but I'm not going to defend it either.

9.) "Magical Negroes and Noble Savages."

Finally something we can agree on!

10.) "Knocking characters unconscious for plot convenience."

This another one of those I do this and I'm proud of it issues. Granted in my works, it's justified through super-powers and the like.Though in this case I conceded ... in stories where it would be logical for them to be taken to a hospital but usually they are being knocked out by someone who probably doesn't want them to get medical care; like a bad guy.

But that's just my thoughts on the matter.