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The question of whether Vance was dead or not became more than academic when he found himself in a bathtub up to his chin in ice water like some forgotten cocktail garnish, a demonic woman standing over him, and no memory of how he got there.
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Read free chapters of Dispensing Justice here (or get it here).
Read free chapters of The Red Rook here (or get it here). -- Fritz Freiheit

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Unraveling the Uselessness of the Trope (link)

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A malaise threatens the landscape of screenwriting. A dark pretentious cloud of misunderstanding and misdirection, this fiend fogs the minds of would-be Authors and reduces the beauty of subtle complication to clickable buzz words. It’s name? The Trope.


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Within five paragraphs, three of which are definitions of "trope" (I define tropes as the idioms of storytelling), Jim Hull makes this statement:

Yet, in creating this massive glossary of familiar cultural shortcuts TvTropes has done just that–made storytelling dull and uninteresting. They have made the act of writing a story something stock and commonplace. Something banal and imitative.

At which point I see that this isn't an essay, but a rant against the use of tropes. What is irksome about this, at least to me, is that this approach smacks of complaining about the man behind the curtain, the draining away of magic because one can see the mechanism of storytelling, that the process of classification and categorization makes a story mundane and gray with bureaucratitis. While disagreeing with it, I can understand this viewpoint. Having taken up (digital) pen and spun a few yarns myself, I find that I have trouble not seeing (at least some of) the moving parts of a story. I try not to let this ruin my enjoyment of the story, and, in fact, create a new form of pleasure in so far as I can see how the story is being told and appreciate intricacies and power of its development and ultimate unfolding.

The claim that tropes are useless and have no affect on a story is to blind oneself to the power of tropes in establishing a connection with the reader (or viewer, etc.) of the story. Like it or not, the reader will apply their knowledge of a genre, neatly bundled up in a set of tropes, to establish a bond with the story, internalize and make it their own. Better still, I find myself in awe of the author who can slip an old trope into a story in such a way that I find myself realizing some distance in that I am in the middle of said trope.

I encountered one memorable instance of skilled trope use was while reading Charles Stross's Saturn's Children. I realized that the main character, a fembot, had been strapped the railroad tracks without eliciting a "Hey! Not that old trope!" out of me. Rather than feeling cheated by an old and worn-out trope, I felt invigorated by it, sharing a feeling of cleverness with the author in that recognition.

The use of tropes can be, and unfortunately are, frequently overplayed and handled as a blunt instrument of storytelling. The vast majority of readers want a story they can recognize, that falls into a genre, and gives them a chance to play along with the author in telling the story. Without tropes, you have stripped away what is recognizable, what makes it a story. Without tropes you have moved into the abstract realm of the avant guarde, a realm where the reader has to work way to hard to create a sense of story that may not even exist.

2018 Blog

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Blog posted:2018/02/27
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