A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

Twist the Trope


(Not my picture, by the way. Google provides all.)

You know, tropes are a tricky thing. Do you love them? Hate them? Eradicate every last trace of them from your writing? Murder them with fire?

I actually love tropes. At least, I think I do. Does it count if you only love tropes when the writer does something cool and fun with them? Example: the Wise Old Mentor trope. Meh. Boring. Done and done and then done some more. Except what if he’s Dumbledore, a wise old mentor who also uses the young hero shamelessly for XYZ reasons and also happens to have done some pretty selfish and grim things in his past? Now I’m interested.

Another example: The Mysterious Morally Ambiguous Beautiful Woman trope. Burn it with fire, I tell you. MURDER IT. Unless, of course, the writer takes the trope and turns it on its head and does something so awesome with it and you’re like “yes. Yes a thousand times this character is fabulous.”

I’m writing a retelling of Indian mythology right now. Tropes galore. And I’m having a fantastic time playing with these tropes, discarding the ones I don’t like and subverting the ones I think I can do something fun with. There’s a plot point in the original myth where Character A sends Character B, her newborn infant, down a river in a boat because she’s terrified of the shame of being an unmarried young mother.

There are two tropes there, the Baby Down the River trope and the Guilty Unwed Woman trope. I thought about that scene for a long time because it’s pretty integral to my own retelling. Eventually, I decided that my version of Character A was not going to get rid of her baby out of shame because frankly I don’t like Shamed Woman tropes and it didn’t fit my world or my version of the character. On the other hand, I decided to keep the Baby Down the River trope because I had some fun ideas for it. My book is set in space. So there was no river and no boat of reeds or rushes. No, my Character A puts her baby in a glass pod and jettisons her out into space. Not a big change, but one that was really fun for me to write.

I think my point here is that there’s a place for tropes. As long as you do something fun or new with them. Twist them. Flip them. Subvert them. Does anyone come up with brand new ideas anymore? Isn’t every story a reimagining of one or several other older ones? Tropes exist because they’re the building blocks of stories. You can construct bad stories out of them and you can construct good ones. It’s all about how you use them.

About Sangu Mandanna

YA author of THE LOST GIRL and A SPARK OF WHITE FIRE. Also a wife, mum and Netflix addict.


This entry was posted on August 3, 2015 by and tagged .

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