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Gotcha! You've Just Been (Poorly) Troped | Anti-Reader Crime #1

Gotcha! You've Been (Poorly) Troped - Anti-Reader Crime #1

So What's the Deal with Tropes?

Is it a romance if the two love interests don't get together?


Is it a mystery if there isn't a crime?


Is it a western if some dusty beef-cake doesn't saunter in and offer to fix the wagon of some gal in distress ...


…and has a dog he won't admit he cares about? Not to himself nor to the dog? 


Though the dog totally knows.


And the reader totally knows. 


I mean, he leapt into that torrential river when brave Butch (the dog) slipped on the rocks in a scrabble of nails after saving little 5-year-old Thomas from being swept away into the churning white water, frothed up from the previous night’s storm that had sent the said dusty beef-cake, now thoroughly rinsed, into the howling storm in search of the lost child. 


With Butch. 


Poor puppy Butch. Who cried out in a dog yelp of pain as his side hit the unseen under-river log, bowing his body into a painful arc around it by the force of the water. 


With young Thomas safe, moistened beef-cake didn't wait a breath before running straight into the river,  willing it to race him in its storm-raged chilling fury to his trapped, wounded and drowning dog friend. 


That he doesn't care about. 


Nope, not at all.


Those, dear folks, are tropes.  Tropes are story themes, ideas - categories you could even say - that certain stories fall into.


And those categories are called genres.

"The tropes actually become the reasons you go back to the story."

How Do You Find Your Favorite Kinds of Stories? Tropes!

If you like whodunnits, stories with a puzzle, a team-up of people solving a crime, a big reveal or twist of an ending - you probably would first go looking in the mystery section of your local bookstore.


If you like your heroic quests, or someone with a destiny to fulfill, wise mentors, strange creatures, magical artifacts…you got it! You’re first venturing over to fantasy.


There are also overarching general tropes that can land in any flavor (genre) of story like…

  • Protagonist (hero) vs. antagonist (villain)
  • Rags to riches
  • The Quest
  • Voyage and return

And the list goes on…


Some genres can be quite strict in what tropes they use. But when writers get creative and start mixing different tropes together, they have gone on to create whole new genres - and tropes!

Good Gravy, We've Bred a New Breed of Tropes!

“What happened?”


“Well, I kept writing stories with strong female leads solving mysteries with a romantic interest as a kind of team-up, where they get into trouble a lot. Eventually they solve the crime together and hook up. Or really want to hook-up, but she is still unsure of him and/or there is a second guy that is equally awesome (and hot) but she isn’t sure of him either. Except that they are both awesome and hot. The story focuses mainly on the mystery solving, but I use the romantic tension to fuel the fire of the story.” 


“So it’s not just a romance because there’s too much mystery solving in it and not enough lovey-lovey?”


“Kinda? They always get together at the end, but there is a lot of solving action.”


“And there’s too much sexy relationship stuff for it to be a just a mystery.”


“Right. Too sexy-sexy, not enough crimey-crimey.”


“So, it’s a…”


“Right, it’s totally a…ummm…”


Eventually someone called it Romantic Suspense, and put these two made-up voices out of their Rosencrantz and Guildenstern misery. And it is now one of the most popular genres in fiction. 


With a brand new trope – crime-solving love interests! It’s a trope now mostly found in romantic suspense novels. So if you are a fan of crime-solving love interests you probably love reading the romantic suspense genre.


But this trope can (genre) travel! 


How? 


Put them in space (science fiction), on the back of a horse (western), oh heck - on the back of a dragon (you get the idea)! 


You may pick up a book you’d never think you’d like and end up loving love it…because it has the kind of stories (tropes) you love to read in it.

So Are You A Good Trope or a Bad Trope?

In romance movies, there is a trope where at some point the girl love interest gets something on her face after some romantic antic-filled activity, and the male love interest leans in and, in some variation of smolder, wipes it off in the first important connecting moment of the two characters touching intimately in the movie.


So is this a good trope or a bad trope?


First question: Do you like romance? 


If the answer is no, then no level of execution of this trope is going to land with you.

Second question: If you do like romance, then how well was this moment executed? 


If it's super dramatic - a bit of an emotional yo-yo of haha laughing together and then suddenly their eyes meet, and they both instantly go serious and eye wateringly love-gooey in an in-your-face moment of THIS IS ROMANTIC - then this is a bad trope execution.


This is the anti-reader crime #1 reason you might find a book sounding really familiar or you think it is bad, or boring or dumb or overdone. 


Because they didn’t pull it off.


You have just been poorly troped.

With Great Trope Comes Great Responsibility

The Harry Potter books, one of the most popular and beloved fiction book series on the planet, uses some of the most dragged through the mud, obvious story tropes to have ever been over used.


But they were used so well.


The tropes actually become the reasons you go back to the story.


So as readers, we find the books we like by knowing what tropes we like, and what genres they often fall in. We often like multiple genres, or different slices of genres, because many tropes are used across different genres.


But if they are poorly done - dramatic, bare-bones, just the tropes ma’am, and they aren’t well and creatively written - then there is no hope for that book. 


Set it down and go snuggle in with the well-executed tropes of your favorite books again…until you have gathered the courage you need to venture forth and dive back into that tumultuous river of fiction upon your own quest in search of your next favorite book.

But How Do I Spot A Good Book Before Plunking Down My Cash?

Excellent question!


Next week we shall delve into the quick tricks of spotting a “bad book” right off. The hows and the whys of spotting a bad book before it hits your home-shelf.


Have a gorgeous week and see you next Monday!

Stephanie Writt

Writer, instructor, graphic artist and all around lovely soul, with a generous sense of humor  (yes, I am totally writing this myself), takes delight in sharing her geeky knowledge and ridiculous joy in reading, writing and business. As the current Director of Operation at WMG Publishing Inc., she has the privilege and mischievous pleasure in writing this blog every week. 

What if beef-cake was a woman...and there was romance and time-travel too?

USA Today bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith weaves a science fiction tale of love and survival of two modern professors dealing with the past.


Offered a free trip into a remote Idaho wilderness that she loves and studies, Professor Dawn Edwards can’t refuse. On the trip she meets Professor Madison Rogers, and they fall for each other before they even reach their destination.


But living in the Old West proves to be a brutal task. Somehow, Dawn must survive to rescue herself, her friends, and the man she loves.


A science fiction novel of new times in the old west.

Bryant Street Books Series: SPRING Collection Book Cover

Learn More About Genres!

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