Tropes and Cliches Pt. Deux
Hey everyone. Just finished editing a video for C+ Studios. If you're into incredibly irreverent, borderline offensive ranting from two guys getting stuff off their chests, check 'em out HERE. They hired me to clean up their podcasts and up their YouTube game and they could use a little love. Tell them Matias sent you.
But, on topics of a more literary persuasion, I thought I'd share my feelings today on tropes and cliches. You know, story-telling shorthand that gets repeated often throughout movies, films, book, and games. Now, please don't confuse the two. There's obviously some overlap, but they are not the same thing.
Tropes are just same ideas and themes repeated over and over. You see them all the time, from the Five Man Band to the Monster with a Heart of Gold. Now, there's nothing wrong with these. We use them all the time because they're concepts that resonate with us as human beings. The problem becomes when they're overused and are lazy or predictable. That's when you're dealing with cliches.
You know a cliche when you see one. Movie studios are notorious for them because they, more than any other form of media, rely on giving people something familiar. That's why it's a huge deal when movies step out of those comfort zones. Remember Frozen? You better, that damned song was on everyone's lips for the better part of a year! But beyond the great music, it did something people weren't expecting. It played with the cliche of "love at first sight" with Anna and her would-be-beau, then tossed it out the window. "You can't be in love after one day." We've all thought that when watching Disney movies and the like, but when one of them actually came out an said it, they were breaking away from the cliche. We heard about "true love's kiss" and assume it was Anna and Reindeer-boy, but OMG! It's the love between sisters?
Okay, I apologize for using "omg." It was illustrative, please forgive me. Point is, we take notice when these cliches aren't there. Does that mean Frozen was the first story to subvert that particular trope? Highly unlikely. Does that mean all tropes must be subverted now? Definitely not! As I mentioned before, they're story-telling shorthand.
For instance... let's say you want to write a story about a team. If you haven't made up your mind about the make-up of the team, following the Five Man Band trope is a good start to filling out your ranks and figuring out what everyone's role is. New to writing long stories? The Hero's Journey is a decent guide for outlining your adventure. Heck, I keep TVtropes handy when I write, because finding examples of people doing what I've thought about doing is really helpful. It lets you look at others' examples, see where they went right, where they messed up, and what you might want to consider in your telling.
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Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.