I was inspired this afternoon to take a break from the turbulence of my life and take to my blog to write about writing…in this case, tropes. The inspiration for this came from the writer’s group on Facebook, to which I am a member, and I would suggest adding groups such as this to your social feed if you are an aspiring writer, as you never know what gems can be mined there.
Maybe ‘inspired’ is not the right word. A more accurate assessment would be that my Muse was inspired to put in her two cents on the subject, and I always do what my Muse tells me (she has a whip and isn’t afraid to use it).
So…tropes. Entertainment is full of them, and many of them range from humorous to worn to just plain bad. The chosen one. The Evil Nanny/Babysitter/Stepmother. The Virgin and the Rake…they can be found everywhere. Not that having a trope character is a bad thing in itself; plenty of tropes are popular, if they are handled well. Most agree that putting a spin or a twist on an overused trope can breathe life into an otherwise flat character or story, but all too often, writers fall into the trap of inserting character tropes and plots that have been beaten to near-death.
So, why does this happen? Is it just lazy writing? This may be the truth in some cases; the writing world is as populated with those who are not willing to put in the long hours and hard work necessary to elevate their profession or craft as any other aspect of our society. I do not believe this is the only cause, however. Many times, I think we find these types of tropes in authors at the beginning of their careers. They have the drive and the talent and the skill, but lack the practical experience that comes with time and research. This accounts for another portion of the overall whole, but those are subjects that are covered elsewhere, and not what inspired me to write this post. Pondering on the subject made me also examine my own process, which I’ve already stated in the shorthand version: I listen to my Muse.
For me, ideas and stories come to me. I rarely have to go to them, if you get my meaning. Once I home in on a story, it begins to tell itself in my mind. Characters, places, events, plots, announce themselves, and i copy them dutifully off the movie screen in my mind. I don’t work the story as much as it works me, and I think when the source of the story comes from something other than inspiration – to meet a deadline or contract, to make another buck, etc – the story suffers, and the tropes rattle the bars of their cage looking for freedom. The next time you find yourself looking for a plot point, the motivation for a character, or a character to fill a particular purpose, do not make the mistake of trying to bend the story to what YOU want. Trust the Muse. Take a breath and clear your mind, and let the story tell you what it needs. Take the time to listen to that voice arising from the creative center. You might just be surprised, and if your Muse is kind, they may even give you a happy ending.