Characters and Tropes – Part 1

Wow… I finally missed a post just after 3 months without missing a beat. I feel proud, and ashamed at the same time. Maybe it’s a sign I should post a bit less frequently, with more meaningful content… or something. I dunno. Personally? I blame the proletariat. It’s always the proletariat. I’m kidding, though if I wasn’t would you know?

Well, enough with that. No excuses for it. So what’s today’s topic on the wheel of things I can ramble about in front of a small audience?

Characters! Characters are in every story after all – unless you’re writing about the tragic misadventures of a flowerpot or something – and with NaNo closing in fast, just behind Hurricane Sandy, it’s something to talk about. Characters, not the flowerpot.

What about characters though? Excellent question voice in my head. Excellent question. There’s a lot of places to go with this.

Physical descriptions? Recently my friend Musings of a Steampunk had a post on this topic. I did have an example in my comment on telling it through actions rather than a lump description.

||She stared at the man with dark, gray eyes, looking up at him. A quick glance at his muscles, and she knew she was out matched in a direct confrontation, so she did the next best thing. She ran. As she crossed the city, the thief made full advantage of her body, slipping into the smallest passages with ease. When she found her way to the rooftops she was able to make her escape. Like an acrobat, she made even the most death-defying jumps with a swan’s grace, and landed with cat-like reflexes.||

Though in this matter, to each their own, I suppose.

I’d like to talk about is tropes for a moment. The woodland Elves, the mining Dwarves, etc… The problems most people face with these tropes is in how they use them. They either follow them to the T or make blatantly obvious changes that say they wanted to be different, but couldn’t put in the effort.

Of course both methods can be done really well. For example, keep Elves the same, but make them ugly instead of fair. Why not? Maybe the Dwarves mine for metals because they are expert dentists? Do Hobbits actually exist, or are they just little people? Bad? Yes. Definitely. However, it puts a new spin on the classic without trying drastically to be different.

A lot of this is trial and error though, so more often than not, it’s almost better to think up something new, borrowing elements from the tropes that exist in your racial creations. One of my favorite trope reversals comes in L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s Recluce Saga. Black Magic stands for Order while White stands for Chaos. Darkness is a term associated with Order and Light is with Chaos. It’s just a simple reversal, but it does wonders for the world and bringing new life into the characters in it. Meanwhile, there are “good guys” on both sides of magic, and it’s the lust for power that corrupts one further.

I kind of charged into this without much of a plan, but let’s start a second part here. Story lines and ideas are always being repeated, so why haven’t all of the books been written? The answer? The characters. No matter how many times a story is told, the characters will almost always be different to some extent. If the heroes are the same, maybe their companions are different? They grow in a different way? Maybe they learn a new lesson?


And that was the power dimming. Hopefully there’s a few ideas in your heads now. I’ll have to pick this up tomorrow or Wednesday.

Keep Writing, and if I don’t see you soon, good luck starting NaNoWriMo!

~ Underdog


About writing underdog

I'm an aspiring writer of fantasy and science fiction. I graduated from a university with a degree in Writing and a minor in Philosophy. I try to learn a little about everything. I hope to update regularly, meaning at least once per week. View all posts by writing underdog

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