Thursday, June 7, 2012

Stuff For Writers - Television Tropes

Today I'm going to share one of my favorite sites. I can literally spend hours on this page without realizing that more than minutes have passed. TV tropes is "a catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction." 

What are tropes, you ask? "Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations." They're similar to cliches, but without the negative connotation. (Although if you've read this post, you know that well done cliches are A-OK with me) I found this video through a link on one of the pages (I can't remember which one, I spent hours there the other day) and it illustrates tropes far better, and funnier, than I could describe them.

That was awesome right? Anyhow, the site breaks down tons of plot devices and other writing tidbits with really funny, easy to understand descriptions. There are also examples of each one, in several types of media.

A few of my favorites: (Be forewarned - This site is addictive!)

The Law of Conservation of Detail - I cannot stress how incredibly important this is. If you tell me something random and unusual about your character, it had better come into play again later. When this is missing, I feel cheated. But when it's done well, the payoff is so, so good. Also, you don't have to tell me everything your character does. If it's not important to the plot, leave it out. Knowing what a person is wearing could tell me something about their personality, but unless her good hygiene or lack thereof is central to the plot, I can assume your MC took a shower before going to school.

Ass Pull - Excuse my French, but that's what they call it. I hate these! Every writer should be familiar with them so he or she can avoid them at all costs.They can be an unfortunate side effect of pantsing, but editing should catch and remove them, so there is really no excuse.
Basically, it's when you randomly add a detail to a story right in the moment where it's needed, without ever mentioning or foreshadowing it previous to that point. Like if 3/4 of the way through a book, the dashing hero has to get to the tower right away, but alas, his map is in Russian. And suddenly, out of nowhere, this best friend reveals that he actually speaks Russian. Only he's been described as a Latino paleontologist who loves chess and cooking, and at no point has the author ever implied that he knows anything about Russia. I had a big one of these in the old version of My Superhero Book, and the entire novel suffered for it. I shudder to think of it now. And I will never do that in a novel again.

Mary Sue - A lot of you are probably familiar with this term already, but TV Tropes description is so good that it's worth reading anyway. This paragraph in particular stopped me in my tracks: 

"The prototypical Mary Sue is an original female character in a fanfic who obviously serves as an idealized version of the author mainly for the purpose of Wish Fulfillment. She's exotically beautiful, often having an unusual hair or eye color, and has a similarly cool and exotic name. She's exceptionally talented in an implausibly wide variety of areas, and may possess skills that are rare or nonexistent in the canon setting. She also lacks any realistic, or at least story-relevant, character flaws — either that or her "flaws" are obviously meant to be endearing."

That was my MC from the old My Superhero Book to a 'T.' I still struggle with giving my main characters flaws that are realistic enough to make them human, but not so bad that they are made unlikable, but they say the first step to fixing a problem is ID'ing it. My name is Gemma and I'm a 'DontLikeMakingMyMainCharactersFlawedAholic.'

Check out the site, and then join the conversation. What are your favorite pages? Did you find anything that will be helpful in your writing?

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