Trope-y fun

Day 13’s topic from Supposed Crimes 30-day Challenge is What tropes do you enjoy reading?

Tropes exist in any frequently written genre. Tropes are patterns of storytelling elements that come up again and again in the stories in that genre. Fanfiction writers frequently use them as prompts to write about their favorite characters in situations because they provide a “skeleton” on which to hang all the lovely individualizing details of a story.

When I find a book or story I like, they tend to have these 5 common tropes as plots or subplots:

  1. Enemies to lovers (most commonly found in romance) – I love the dynamic of a plot where people are thrown together and forced to get to know someone beyond the surface. Often these people start off as enemies or obstacles, or seeming opposites, but reading about them growing together into a partnership/lovers rocks my happy boat like a lullaby.
  2. Returning home after “growing” away – Let me see if I can explain this one as I can’t find it on a list. It’s not “fish out of water” because the protagonist is back in someplace where they grew up, but they are expecting the trauma or difficulties of their youth to continue and as a result often only slowly accept evidence that places and people all change — including themselves. These plots boil down to self-discovery themes, but the protagonist is usually struggling with having to face a “foe” in the form of a person they knew in this place of their past. This foe could be a childhood bully, or a parent with whom they had a rocky relationship, or a love interest or friend with whom they had a falling out. But the experiences the protagonist had away from this place and these people have “grown” them into someone else and primarily the plot is they fear losing who they’ve become and “reverting” to the “broken” child they were. God I love these plots.
  3. hurt/comfort – I don’t need life/death hurt for a good hurt/comfort subplot. I just want to read someone noticing the pain of another person and spending time doing acts of comfort, however that manifests.
  4. Hero’s Journey – While this is a prolific structure it is often not done to the best of its elements. One or more “steps” are given short shrift, or a deus ex machina moment moves the hero too quickly to the next step. The true hero’s journey is going to leave a protagonist completely transformed. They essentially become the “elder” or “mentor” as a result of their journey and the wisdom about self and world (both fantastic and ordinary) which they have gained. Luke came closest in the Star Wars: Skywalker saga. But stories seldom go that far for the reader to see the cycle begin again. The closest was learning about (and from) previous Hunger Games winners in that series, and the previous Avatars (particularly Roku) in the series Avatar: The Last Airbender. You could see the lessons, and the maturing, and the wisdom earned by the protagonists as they struggled. And a hint of the “becoming the mentor” that end-tags both series.
  5. Strong Female – This is a fine line. I’m not talking about females who take on only male trope traits, but who also do not eschew “female” traits. I said repviously that I don’t like women (or men) who use sexualization to create a “superior” position. (I’m not a fan of the “femme fatale”). Gimme Janeway with a phaser rifle and also in tired, desperate need of coffee, over the heartless mafiosa boss who murders a father of two and then goes home to her own son without a second thought. Yes, I know the “mafia” trope entails that “familia first” attitude. I don’t like it because generally I don’t like emotional automatons who only have the emotions “called for” in a situation and don’t seem to suffer any existential fall-out from this.

So there you have it, a few of my favorite reading tropes. Notice these are all plot or subplot tropes, not single moment (like “there’s only one bed” or “meet-cute”) plot-initiating scene tropes.

~ Lara

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