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View Full Version : Tropes that work their way into your WiPs again and again...


lvae
11-30-2010, 01:28 PM
Does anyone else do this?

When I began the initial drafts of my WiP, I had my characters attending a neo-Victorian private school exclusively reserved for the kids of the super rich.

Then I hit a wall, and I tried to work through what was going wrong, and then I realised for all the WiPs I ever plotted my characters always attended private schools reserved for the kids of the super rich. No matter the setting - dystopian! historical! fantasy! contemporary! - no matter the circumstance - teenaged angst! The end of the world! Authoritarian governments! - I always, always fall back on that trope.

It get worse. In my WiPs, there always has to be that one character in my novels that has to be good looking to the point of ridiculous. The super-rich-but-entirely-not-suited-for-the-heroine guy always falls for the heroine. There is always unrequited love. There is always a masquerade ball past the halfway mark of the story.

For my current WiP, I managed to avoid some of these tropes (some, sadly, not all) and I realised how much easier it was, to be relatively trope free. But then when I started plotting for my next WiP, the problems came again. Somehow, I couldn't manipulate the plot so the characters didn't attend a ridiculously wealthy private school.

So I trunked it. And my new plan of attack is to purge my system of the urge to fall back on my usual tropes - by writing a story that features all these tropes, write it with gusto and all the extravagance and OTT-ness my inner twelve-year-old can muster... and hopefully I'll never touch stories like that ever again.

But writing a story filled with tropes to end all yearnings to write said tropes isn't as easy as it sounds in theory. Currently I'm in plotting hell. I really want to do this though, because if I brainstorm another plot that involves my characters attending a preppy private school filled with rich kids, I am sure my brain is going to explode.

So. :D Tell me I'm not alone in my clichéd insanity. Who else has tropes that they turn to over and over? (You don't have to hate them by the way. I secretly like the masquerade thing... and the unrequired love thing...)

maggi90w1
11-30-2010, 02:49 PM
I have the opposite problem. I'm a total TV Tropes addict and every time I visit this page I find new shiny stuff that I have to cram in my story. Doesn't works too well, either.
Now about your problem: Maybe the preppy-private-school is just your thing? If that's what you want to write about, then why don't you just write about it as much as you want.
Maybe you could take your favorite project and turn it into a series. Then just spit out preppy-private-school novel till you run dry. :)

Captcha
11-30-2010, 03:32 PM
Is there an underlying theme that you might be trying to explore, via your prep-school obsession? Because I agree that it sounds like you've gone overboard on that particular setting, but I think if you could boil it down, you could find something that resonates with you but that could be expressed in a wider variety of settings.

Most novelists return to similar themes, book after book. Think of your favourite multi-book authors and try to find theirs. I know that my books all tend to deal with the effects of difficult childhoods on adults, characters who are their own worst enemies, etc. These are things from my life that have leaked into my writing, and I don't think it's a bad thing.

So if you could figure out what it is that intrigues you about the private school setting, maybe you could use that broader theme, without using the trope itself. Is it the lack of parents? The struggle of people who can have every material thing but still can't find wisdom/happiness? The isolation from traditional family structures and the need to find something else? I think there's lots of good stuff you could work with, outside of the school itself.

lvae
11-30-2010, 03:58 PM
I wish it was so deep that I'm trying to explore some hidden and meaningful issues (and you brought up some pretty good ones, Kate. I could only wish!). I'm not sure why I'm so drawn to private schools. I suspect it might be watching one too many asian dramas set in private schools. But the real problem whenever I get sucked into WiPs that somehow fall into the setting of private schools is that the main conflict always happens between the super-rich-hot-guy and the shy-but-secretly-kick-ass heroine.

It's actually quite fun, in a frustrating way, plotting my way through my trope-filled WiP to end all my trope-ly yearnings. It's given me a lot of insight into my plotting process. First and foremost being... this private school obsession must end. :p

KimJo
11-30-2010, 07:21 PM
Maggi, you visit TV Tropes? You brave, brave person... Every time I go to that site I get sucked in for hours and get no writing done at all!

My "pet trope" in my YA tends to be outsiders. In my Reality Shift series, Shanna's very shy, is teased and bullied, and her mother's abusive; Jonah has a good home life, but he does things like meditating in the school lobby, so kids either make fun of him for being weird or accuse him of devil worship. In my Dark Lines series, out of the primary characters I have a boy who's pretty much had to raise his mother since he was five, another boy who was put into foster care because his mother turned him over to the state, and pretty much all of the characters are outsiders anyway because they have psychic abilities that they don't want their peers to find out about.

Abusive/neglectful parents or living with a guardian instead of a parent are a couple of other tropes that tend to pop up pretty frequently in my stories. (I once challenged myself to write a character with a healthy, stable home life and biological parents who were still married to each other...that worked great until the character's younger brother died fighting a force of darkness, and then the whole family went to crap.)

LadyA
11-30-2010, 09:38 PM
I, after reading one too many regency romances, have always had to include a few members of the Aristocracy (I mean come on, check out my username! ;) ) - my MC's best friend will inherit a Viscountcy (whether he wants to or not) and another best friend has a Baronet for a granddad.

Another favourite theme is what someone on another site (the name of which i can't remember for the life of me) called 'man in jeopardy'. I'm not one for the hot jock, or anything like that - i prefer my male MC to be a little misunderstood, and a bit of a loner.

eyeblink
12-01-2010, 12:15 AM
I've had Polish characters more than once. I'm not Polish, though I have visited the country.

CheyElizabeth
12-01-2010, 12:26 AM
My characters are always eating Taco Bell.

FalconStorm
12-01-2010, 12:43 AM
I have to confess, I like to do the whole 'heroine in distress' thing with the guy that comes along to rescue her...although sometimes he's the reason she's in distress too, although generally inadverdently on his part.

But, yeah. That trope creeps up a LOT in my stories. If they're ever published, I'll probably have feminists all over the world breaking down my door to beat my head in. *shrug* Oh well.

(I once challenged myself to write a character with a healthy, stable home life and biological parents who were still married to each other...that worked great until the character's younger brother died fighting a force of darkness, and then the whole family went to crap.)

This sounds sooo familiar. It does occur to me, though, that happy home lives, while pleasant for the person living them, are really, really boring to write about. *grin* Most of my characters have problems with family too. Reality is, most people have family problems, some more severe than others. Having a healthy, stable home life is almost more fantasy than the messed up home life.

maggi90w1
12-01-2010, 01:10 AM
I thought about this again and I found a trope I use pretty much every time.
A ragtag bunch of characters forming a family type group. A Werewolf pack, a rebel group, a group of apocalypse survivors, a group of hunted wizards...

Stunted
12-01-2010, 04:57 AM
I've discovered that I really love writing stories about socially unacceptable characters who find a way to turn their deficits into strengths.

I also have realized that every novel, I have to edit out a possessed character before I can really get going. This time around, I edited out one, but another appeared and seems to be staying!

bertrigby
12-01-2010, 10:38 AM
Boys who get awkward and blush a lot.

UST relationships where the MC and LI can't be together for some reason or another, so they angst about it a lot!

amlptj
12-01-2010, 12:16 PM
My characters are always geeky kids who were bullied at some point...

mickeyDs4
12-01-2010, 12:28 PM
All my MCs names end the same way. Ithaca, Veronica, Lyrica and Bianca. Three of the four have crappy relationships with their mothers. I tend to have them be from the wrong side of the tracks in some way. Ithaca (MC in A Ghost of You) is HIV-positive. Veronica (1st MC of An Egyptian Secret) dresses in the Arabic style while in the US. Lyrica Holly (2nd MC of An Egyptian Secret) is literally from the wrong side of town. Bianca (MC in Days Like These) is homeless since Hurricane Katrina.

KimJo
12-01-2010, 03:08 PM
This sounds sooo familiar. It does occur to me, though, that happy home lives, while pleasant for the person living them, are really, really boring to write about. *grin* Most of my characters have problems with family too. Reality is, most people have family problems, some more severe than others. Having a healthy, stable home life is almost more fantasy than the messed up home life.

That's true, but with some of my characters I go to the extreme... They're always strong characters who don't let their home lives or their pasts keep them down for long, though, so I guess that's another trope.

erin_michelle
12-01-2010, 08:02 PM
Most of my MCs come from one-parent households with the mother usually dead or not in the picture, which is odd because my parents never divorced and my mother is very much alive. I guess that's my subconscious telling me I have Mommy issues. :)

CheG
12-01-2010, 10:30 PM
I don't know if it a t**** (refuses to use word on basis of a cliche is a cliche no matter how hard you try to rebrand it) I would rather call them plot fetishes which recur. But I like rich people and noblility a lot. A lot of what I do revolves around characters from the nobility modern/fantasy what have you.

I like supernatural/paranormal/magic a lot. That shows up in my work.

Sometimes private schools, mostly just schools. I have a whole thing that revolves a library.

I also love tropical places! Anywhere warm is good for me!

The occasional orphan.

And vampires.

Shady Lane
12-02-2010, 12:01 AM
Protective older brothers
Sick younger brothers
Sharing a sexual partner with a sibling
Siblings in general, let's be honest.
Half-Jews
More gay characters than straight characters

The_Ink_Goddess
12-02-2010, 12:12 AM
Unbalanced (I will not call them crazy. They are not crazy. Well, most of them.) MCs. Usually female.

Unstable female characters in general.

Difficult family relationships, esp. mothers. Which is weird, because my relationship with my mother is great.

What TVTropes calls "darker and edgier." Every. Single. One. Of my MSs. Seriously, so dark I worry about myself.

Main character breakdowns. Usually in the climax.

Creepy-close friendships. Particularly between girls.

Ryan_Sullivan
12-02-2010, 09:45 AM
Romantic scenes in parks.
Starting chapters with waking up. (huge bad habit.)
Parents with minimal roles.
Descriptions of light.
Mocking PT Cruisers.

ex_machina
12-02-2010, 10:16 AM
My characters are always eating Taco Bell.

I love you hard.



The tall, dark and snarky trope has had me in it's clutches since I was but a wee tot of ten.

Nightmirror
12-02-2010, 10:18 AM
I used to be stuck on:

Teen boy hero. Seemingly normal and average, possibly a peasant and almost always an outcast.
Half breed of some kind: half-elf, etc.
Discovers he is not normal and he is destined to save his world.
Overcomes poverty, proves worth in combat, gets the girl.
Happy ever after.
Typical Star Wars / Eragon type of story.

I got bored of writing stories with that structure, so I started writing about a girl in an elite private school setting, where she has everything most people could ever want but is missing something that most people take for granted. I guess everyone has different comfort zones when forming plots.

Zoombie
12-02-2010, 11:30 AM
My characters are always eating Taco Bell.

Do they know how to use the three sea shells?

As for me, my trope has been and always will be the fundamental power of human creativity.

I rarely - if ever - do the "humans as powerless" in my urban fantasy. In fact, my two most recent urban fantasies have humans being the fundamental power of the universe.

In Wake Up, ALL magic derives from human dreams. Proof wakes people up, and so if you wake up enough people, then the dream collapses...and the dream is what powers creation, innovation, everything.

Why do you think the Dark Ages sucked so bad? People were using their magic so openly that the dream collapsed, and with it, the Roman Empire and western civilization.

China and the middle east were fine, though.

So, all the magic was based around the dreams of our modern era. Hence why the primary foot soldier of necromancers are the souls of people killed by car crash victims. And the main character is a magical hermaphrodite representing modern culture's struggle and confusion over sexuality and gender.

...I like Wake Up. I should write more in it's universe...

amrose
12-03-2010, 12:21 AM
Mocking PT Cruisers.

I just did this the other day.

My trope:

Having the MC left with a journal left to him/her written in code that she needs to decipher in order to move the plot along. Sometimes it's written in another language and sometimes it's just describing things they will come to understand later.

::shrug:: I've left that behind with my current WIP when I realized I was doing it.

CheyElizabeth
12-03-2010, 12:34 AM
Most of my MCs come from one-parent households with the mother usually dead or not in the picture, which is odd because my parents never divorced and my mother is very much alive. I guess that's my subconscious telling me I have Mommy issues. :)


Now that you mention it, my books always have a deadbeat mom/drunk mom/shitty mom/nonexistent mom. My mom is nothing like that.

mickeyDs4
12-03-2010, 07:25 AM
I have the absent/crappy mom bit in all my stories. But I have a crappy relationship with my mom so that's "writing what I know". Most of my characters all either lose their cell phones or leave them at home during very important moments of their lives. My music references are always the same, Josh Groban, Josh Groban and did I mention Josh Groban?

erin_michelle
12-03-2010, 09:01 AM
Now that you mention it, my books always have a deadbeat mom/drunk mom/shitty mom/nonexistent mom. My mom is nothing like that.

Mine isn't either. I was a lot closer to my dad, so I think that's why my characters' moms always get a raw deal. Funnily enough, my new WIP has the father dead and the mother alive and remarried. Ah well, maybe next time I'll have a typical nuclear family...

MissMacchiato
12-03-2010, 09:12 AM
I almost always have what is known on the tv tropes website as a slap slap kiss kiss couple - a couple who are always sniping at each other, when deep down they're secretly in luuuuuurve. Nothing like a heated argument to lead into a raunchy scene!

I also find I have a crazy best friend who makes inappropriate comments at funny times, and a person in a position of power who is actually a bit of a fool. lol!

True
12-03-2010, 10:21 AM
I almost always have what is known on the tv tropes website as a slap slap kiss kiss couple - a couple who are always sniping at each other, when deep down they're secretly in luuuuuurve. Nothing like a heated argument to lead into a raunchy scene!

I also find I have a crazy best friend who makes inappropriate comments at funny times, and a person in a position of power who is actually a bit of a fool. lol!

These tropes appear in my novel more than anything else that's been listed, especially the slap slap kiss kiss couple. :D They're my favorite type to write because I just love to see the development. But I think the trope I see most often is the person who is reluctant to face their destiny--usually because they're quite fine with where they are in their life, and actually couldn't ask for anything more. So it normally involves taking apart their life, and then building it up again.

Well, partly. Sort of. Maybe. Sometimes?

MissMacchiato
12-03-2010, 02:05 PM
haha, high five, true! that's how I feel about them too!

Zoombie
12-03-2010, 02:06 PM
Everyone loves slap slap kiss couples.

Why?

Anger sex on the coffee table is hot.

Duh.

Jean
12-03-2010, 02:41 PM
All stories I've ever written had early teen female MC, trouble lives, encountered paranormalcy (call me fan boy but I started writing them before Twilight hype) , found solace in abnormal things.

Carradee
12-04-2010, 12:52 AM
My FMCs tend to be petite brown-eyed brunettes. Brown-eyed brunettes because that's the most common phenotype. Short and small because that's me, so I best know what problems can come from having a too-fast metabolism and being short.

Rape and its effects (even on those born of it) is a common theme.

For awhile, I also tended to have blonde BFF, but then I noticed that and changed it.

True
12-04-2010, 01:49 AM
High five!

And yes, Zoombie. You're absolutely right. That's exactly why I love slap slap kiss kiss couples. They're my weakness.

maggi90w1
12-04-2010, 03:40 AM
Everyone loves slap slap kiss couples.

Except Limyaael (http://limyaael.livejournal.com/506653.html).

True
12-04-2010, 05:00 AM
Except Limyaael (http://limyaael.livejournal.com/506653.html).

That was long--as most rants usually are--so I didn't read all of it. I did read most of it, though. I agree with her for the most part. All romances--if they're going to have us believe they'll last forever--should be believable and realistic and have a very good reason for why they're in love. My only point of disagreement, for as far as I read, that is, would be the whole, it takes a few months or years to fall in love. I don't think there's a set time to know when you're love. I totally believe that is something internal and between the people involved. There aren't any rules to falling in love, and certainly no manual. Other than that, I agree with a lot of what she had to say. There should definitely be something there after the 'trappings' are taken away.

It was interesting, though. The best rants are to be found on Livejournal. :D

adarkfox
12-04-2010, 05:13 AM
I always have evil mother figures... and what's odd is that I have a great relationship with my mom... but for whatever reason I always model my MFC's mother after my aunt. Apparently she left one heck of an impression me that I'm still modeling nasty mothers after her.

ex_machina
12-05-2010, 10:38 PM
TV tropes calls it the 'Apocalypse Maiden.'

Oh my god, I've done it to death. I slapped myself around for two years just to get it out of my system. Same with slap slap kiss kiss couple, even though they are still my secret indulgence. ;0

SafetyDance
12-05-2010, 10:50 PM
Love triangles. I can't get away from them. There's just too much juicy conflict begging to be explored.

I did briefly consider writing some sort of YA menage novel where the heroine can't choose between two male friends and they end up feeling their way (excuse the pun :P) through a relationship all together, facing hostility, blah blah -- but I couldn't see how I'd ever sell it, even if it wasn't particularly graphic. I know a lot of the very popular novels give the heroine two love interests, though they tend to dislike each other and they definitely don't want to share!

goddessofthehunt
12-06-2010, 03:20 AM
I always have characters who are good musicians and/or have great singing voices.

lm728
12-06-2010, 03:24 AM
Difficult moms.
Quiet characters who observe the world instead of taking part in it.
Prettyboy LIs.
Absence of girl friends. (i have literally two good girl friends in real life. i just hate/am indifferent to/am distant relations with all the other girls in my school.)
Drugs.
Self-image issues.
tall people. :3 (will fulfillment perhaps. i want to be 5'8".)

eta: oh. and also, asians. or half asians. but they don't have the whole "look at me i'm asian but oh look this toaster cooks eggs too (http://www.amazon.com/Back-Basics-TEM500-Muffin-2-Slice/dp/B000B18P96)" thing going on. they're pretty whitewashed. i'm pretty whitewashed.

JustLaurie
12-06-2010, 04:57 AM
head bitches in charge on the edge. boys both terrified and unable to look away. creepy close girl relationships. crappy exes.

lvae
12-06-2010, 09:01 AM
eta: oh. and also, asians. or half asians. but they don't have the whole "look at me i'm asian but oh look this toaster cooks eggs too (http://www.amazon.com/Back-Basics-TEM500-Muffin-2-Slice/dp/B000B18P96)" thing going on. they're pretty whitewashed. i'm pretty whitewashed.

LOL! I'm totally getting where you're coming from... especially with the toaster that cooks eggs!

eyeblink
12-06-2010, 10:55 AM
Love triangles. I can't get away from them. There's just too much juicy conflict begging to be explored.

I did briefly consider writing some sort of YA menage novel where the heroine can't choose between two male friends and they end up feeling their way (excuse the pun :P) through a relationship all together, facing hostility, blah blah -- but I couldn't see how I'd ever sell it, even if it wasn't particularly graphic. I know a lot of the very popular novels give the heroine two love interests, though they tend to dislike each other and they definitely don't want to share!

I'm working on a YA with a F/F/M triangle (see below). :)

As to selling it, not ready to go there yet. I'm hoping to have a complete draft of Version 2.0 done by the end of 2010.

The_Ink_Goddess
12-06-2010, 11:31 AM
This might be the opposite of a trope, but I'm obsessive about having characters that don't look like me. I know, weird. Mainly because I have nightmare scenarios (I have A LOT of these) in which everyone gets the idea that I based one of my f--ked-up characters on myself and/or someone I know just because it sounds a little like them. So since I have brown hair and blue eyes, there are a lot of brown-eyed and brown-haired characters and/or blonde-haired characters in my WIPs.

And I like my characters to not get good grades. I prefer my street-smart characters who aren't your traditional preppy middle-classers. But I have them from time to time.

erin_michelle
12-06-2010, 06:24 PM
This might be the opposite of a trope, but I'm obsessive about having characters that don't look like me. I know, weird. Mainly because I have nightmare scenarios (I have A LOT of these) in which everyone gets the idea that I based one of my f--ked-up characters on myself and/or someone I know just because it sounds a little like them. So since I have brown hair and blue eyes, there are a lot of brown-eyed and brown-haired characters and/or blonde-haired characters in my WIPs.



We can be weird together! I have red hair with brown eyes, and more often than not, my MC's don't have red hair. I was always pointed out as "that red head girl" so I try to spare my characters from that humiliation.

lulzy
12-07-2010, 06:24 AM
Possibly my tropes are... I almost came close to the slap slap kiss couples, but in the end, I don't really write them. Mine's an opposite to that.
I also write difficult mums which is particularly strange as like stated with the others, have a good relationship with my mum. (I also like calling moms, mum even though I'm American)
I have a tendency to write my characters non-multicultural. It's something I find strange as I'm Asian.
And in my stories before, none of my MCs ever had siblings. Nor did their friends. Or love interests. Again, I have siblings. But in the end, I fixed the problem in one story. I'll fix it later in the future when I get to writing those stories.

Renee Collins
12-07-2010, 09:03 AM
Impassioned revolutionaries. You'd be surprised by how many different genres these can sneak into.

Thedrellum
12-07-2010, 10:26 PM
Characters in a world they don't understand.
Sacrifices that end up being meaningless, except for the fact of the sacrifice.
False prophecies/predictions.
Things never being what they seem.

LadyA
12-07-2010, 11:09 PM
Ooh also teachers being a bit crazy and/or being married/getting off with each other - all VERY true to my school - i have been known to make my MCs tutor quite similar to my bitch of a tutor at school - not so she'll ever know though ;)

SafetyDance
12-07-2010, 11:22 PM
I'm working on a YA with a F/F/M triangle (see below). :)

As to selling it, not ready to go there yet. I'm hoping to have a complete draft of Version 2.0 done by the end of 2010.

You mean like a triangle, or a triangle? :P

Also -- I am not far from Aldershot at all, lol. I was shopping in Camberley earlier.

Wolf in the Fable
12-07-2010, 11:45 PM
My friends have pointed out tropes I use frequently. Some of them I use on purpose - others, well...

- Unusual names, usually with some degree of significance
- Superficial wounds described in great detail
- animals used as symbolism
- Volatile and sullen characters
- Characters that are not necessarily attractive but charismatic

What can I say? I have my favourite things.

Becca C.
12-08-2010, 03:55 AM
My WIPs always feature pathological liars as MCs. And not just people who lie occasionally - their huge lies are always the basis of the entire plot.

MStarky
12-08-2010, 05:37 AM
Every cliche I write, I can find on TVTropes. (But as they say, Tropes Are Not Bad (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TropesAreNotBad)...)

Bittersweet Ending (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BittersweetEnding): Usually, if not a downer ending.

Disappeared Dad (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DisappearedDad): Pretty much all of my main characters suffer from this.
Like Brother and Sister (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LikeBrotherAndSister): I tend to like these kind of relationships... Really, it's so prevalent between my male and female characters it's rather strange.

mickeyDs4
12-09-2010, 03:26 AM
My MCs are usually only children doted upon by their parent/s. The only MC that doesn't apply to is my new character Bianca Wilson who is a middle kid. My MC's have high hopes for themselves and what they want to be when they "grow up".

mickeyDs4
12-13-2010, 05:55 PM
The male LI always says "I love you" first. Never fails.

KidCassandra
12-13-2010, 08:26 PM
All my characters have strained or nonexistent relationships with their parents--I've had four orphans characters, several characters living in a one-parent household (and the other parent is always dead. No divorce. Dead.) and in the one story where both parents are alive, loving, and still together, the MC hates them because she feels they favor her twin sister.

I'm not sure where this comes from. My parents are divorced, but I'm extremely close to both of them, so I have no personal experience to base these situations on. I guess I just like the drama.

Also, my female characters always seem to have a Best Guy Friend, their one and only confidant and compatriot who is always funny, supportive, and "safe"--no romantic tension. I've recently realized that in these stories, the BGF is pretty much interchangeable--I rarely give each instance of him qualifying characteristics that make him unique. I've been working to change that--though my current WIP does have a BGF, he's got a life and goals of his own and isn't just there to serve as Mary Sue's sidekick.

lvae
12-14-2010, 01:00 AM
The male LI always says "I love you" first. Never fails.

My male LI are the same!

I just realised that everything I've ever wrote falls firmly in the 'missing parents!' trope.

Woe. It's not like my parents are missing. They're quite awesome, actually. I'm wondering why I do that...