Trope-a-Dope

Blog No. 211

b6fbceab59813af2241550849b719005I’m about to hit the end of the first draft of my first novel, and I’ve been inclined to look back on the whole thing. It’s the season for looking back (being the end of the year and all) and I’m coming up on a whole year of writing this thing, so a look back seems fitting. I’ve been consciously not looking back for most of the year, as I didn’t want to be sucked into doing an edit before I actually finish (slipping into a cycle that prevents me from finishing and consumes my mortal soul). I’m getting really close now though, so I think it’s safe to take a peak at one element of the story—the protagonist. While I’ve admitted it before, I fight against the reality that my main character isn’t the most original.

Actually, the whole story is a classic space opera, with all the bells and whistles. I’ve developed a few elements that stand out, but having a different backstory for my roguish space pilot doesn’t make him that much more different than any other (already better established) roguish space pilot. Really,Pilot is just my Han Solo or Malcolm Reynolds (or even Spike Spiegel). Essentially, I’m writing a Star Wars book that doesn’t take place in the same universe. I’m not the first to do it, in fact, all the characters I just mentioned as inspirations for Pilot, were in tern, inspired by similar characters (or even each other). There is room for another space opera, so long as it’s fun and different enough to keep things interesting.

cowboy-bebop-spike-spiegel-cosplay-costumes-0001But while I’ve been developing and writing the book (over the last fifteen years or more) I’ve had to keep those tropes in mind. With every plot point and story element, I’ve had to made a decision as to how original I have to be, and figure out how I can be different. Some conventions are in place because they work (and/or dealing with the alternative takes the story to hard sci-fi). I don’t have anything against hard sci-fi. I hope to write several of those books in the future, but that’s not what works for this story. It’s an odd tightrope act that is held together by the idea that I want this story to be something specific (and that specificity puts it in the wheel house of a space opera). With that in mind, the job is back to balancing those tropes, using what makes the story work (or easy) and finding something new to replace the ones that don’t. Which, in the end, after all that work, ends up being mostly the same as every other space opera.

Tropes are a funny thing. They can be really helpful and sometimes essential. I use tons of cliche metaphors in this blog, which makes it more interesting and easily relatable (according to my feedback and my belief). They can also be the scourge of the earth though. They seem to be at their worst in advertising and television. Some TV is great, especially lately, and even some commercials are fun to see, but the mediums are rife with lazy, archaic writing and laugh-tracks. The trope of the stupid, childish husband and the bitchy, uptight wife needs to die. It’s not only over used to the point of hyperbolic nonsense, it’s destructive to those people who have come to believe that, that sort of nonsense is real. To steal a phrase I enjoy, every time I see (or hear) an example of the dumb husband and nagging wife, my eyes roll back so far in my head I can see my own brain cells dying.

hagar_the_horrible20020710That makes me worry. What about my story. And I using tropes correctly, abusing them, is it stupid and inane? Will people read it and scoff, commenting that they may as well have read a Star Wars book? Really, it’s my first full novel, so I have no idea how good it is. I could get to the end, pour a bunch more time into editing it, and have it be an uneven mess—or it could be great. Who knows? I’ll have to finish it and rely on my alpha readers to tell me the truth. Either way, even though I’m almost finished, I have a lot more work to do. I’m thinking of adding a couple new characters. One is a goofy guy who acts like a child, the other is his wife who has to scold him all the time. What do you think?

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