A little trope never killed nobody

Continuing on from my last post, World Building Fears, I’ve decided to stop illogically fighting my mind’s natural inclination to borrow from tropes simply for the sake of fighting it.

Trope exists because it communicates a familiar and known set of information to the reader.  It is a useful tool that communicates more than just the words you have written on a page.  As I’m writing, tropes sometimes comes to mind at times because they are what I have learned and absorbed as a reader.

Just because something is trope doesn’t make it bad, just as being original and different from trope doesn’t necessarily mean good.  After all, there are countless stories set in good ol’ medieval Europe, telling stories of romance, politics, warfare, treachery, and the like.  Why some achieve success and others don’t is because of how the world, characters and stories can engage a reader.  

For example, George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire– he does not shy away from trope, such as the sexualised wicked woman trope in Cersei or Melisandre. These characters remain powerful, interesting and vital to the story because they are well-written and complex.  Just because the sexualised wicked woman is a well-known trope doesn’t automatically make the characters two dimensional and flat.  When he goes against trope, such as the invincible hero, his character deaths makes an impact to the story, not just an arbitrary event for the sake of denying trope. 

When I contemplated writing a concept borrowed from medieval European folklore in a medieval Asian world setting, this was not for a meaningful reason.  I just wanted to lean away from the medieval European tropes that kept coming to mind for no reason other than that.  It would not have improved the quality of writing.  Likely the opposite as I would be writing a poorly explained world and story which mismatched against the expected assumptions both I and a reader might apply from internalised understanding of tropes. 

Hope my blathering about tropes hasn’t bored you!  This was the closure I had finally reached regarding my fear of tropes since my last post so thought I should share my thought process.  

What have your own experiences with tropes been as a reader, and particularly a writer? 


World building fears

Today I’ve started putting earnest thought into world building.  The mood of the world is so important not just as a reader but also the writer.  How to be engaged in your writing otherwise?

I started off finding myself assuming my world should be a certain way because that’s the common trope world for the fantasy element my story centres on, and feeling bored and uninterested in it.  It is not a world that at this moment I feel drawn to, to live in, to place my consciousness within.

And then lo and behold, silly me realised that no, if you are world building from scratch, what on earth means you need to apply a trope or anything against your own preference?

I’m now trying to determine if I can apply a Medieval Asian world to a mythical element drawn from European folklore, and still create a believable story.  A part of me says, “yes this is my story so I’ll do what I want.” Another part of me says, “it just feels a little funny against a reader’s expectations.”

Tropes do after all also serve a purpose.  Assumed information can allow a reader to understand more than is immediately said.  

If I’m careful about how I draw in the European folklore into an Asian setting, perhaps it won’t create a jarring experience……… and certainly there may be parallels in Asian folklore that can be applied.

To be honest too, I’m just intimidated by the task of world building.  There have been some truly great fantasy worlds created by talented authors that I could not seek to equal. As I try to create, I constantly find gaps, flaws and inconsistencies in my own logic, things that don’t make sense in the world I’m creating.

The last fantasy book I read (or re-read for the millionth time) was by Jacqueline Carey set primarily in an alternate medieval France.  She has created worlds so rich and vibrant and broad that I could almost reach out and touch those worlds.  As I try to create, I can’t help comparing what I have on a page in front of me to her glowing complete worlds.  It makes no sense I know to compare my incomplete draft chicken scratchings to a published work, but I still, stupidly and irrationally, do.

Now I’m leaning away from recreating my own medieval European world and try to find another place that I might be able to better create from scratch, not having something so close to mind for comparison……..

In terms of action plan, I think I might create a rough framework of a world first and try to start writing a first chapter and at least see how it feels.  Does it feel right and bode worth investing more in?

I’m sure I sound quite asinine right now.  Any advice on defeating that voice in my head that constantly reminds me that I’m hopelessly incapable and leaves me muddling around indecisively is very much appreciated.