I published my first novel in 1978. Since then I have self-published 138 novels (combined with trad pubbed novels through Harlequin and the likes the total is over 300 novels), 30 non-fiction books, 2,000+ short stories, a dozen plays, a few comic book scripts for Disney’s Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comics, a few dozen novellas, and 10,000+ non-fiction articles. I worked for the Boston Globe for 21 years and was the editor-in-chief of 2 small literary/short-story (horror) mags for 16 years.
In the past 50 years, I’ve published more words than the bulk of all the rest of the users on this subReddit combined will ever publish in their lifetimes... AND... I’ve never once written a trope or avoided a trope in that time.
Do you want to know why?
Because before joining this subReddit, I had never even heard the word trope before. Tropes are not a thing actual authors or publishers who actually work in the industry ever talk about.
Because we are too busy writing and publishing to worry about foolish things like: outlines, plots, character arcs, and 99% of the rest of the bullshit that gets tossed around as so called “writing advice” on the internet.
No, I’ve used none of those things either.
Besides never having used tropes, I’ve also never used outlines, plots, character arcs, beats, beat sheets. Tropes are an internet thing that internet people talk about when they are pretending to be writers. You don’t see writers talking about them offline. Internet people, mostly teenagers, talk about internet things because they are too young to understand how the real world or the real publishing industry works, while career professionals, mostly adults, in the real world talk about real world things that have real and actual effects on writing and publishing.
Internet people THINK tropes matter. Industry professionals KNOW tropes don’t mean shit and are just a way for internet people to categorize things because they are bored and have nothing better to do.
So, in 50 years of publishing several million words each year, I never heard or thought about using tropes, because I write. That’s it. I just write.
>>>Let’s discuss: what’s better, subverting common tropes, using tropes without subversion, or avoiding common tropes altogether? Should writers continue to use tropes without subversion, but still keep it original, subverting it, or not using common tropes and instead finding something new?
I think it is silly to worry about such things.
Because it’ll cause bad writing. And by bad writing, I mean, it’ll end being a story that feels too formulaic.
I wrote for Harlequin for a while, a few years back. Do you know why I stopped? Because I learned how much I hate writing to formulas.
When I first sent a manuscript to Harlequin, I didn’t know the gruelling, tedious formular they required their writers to stick too. One editor liked my story, but it didn’t fit the formulae, so the editor sent me a copy of the formulae and asked me to rewrite the story in that formula.
The formula read like this: “By page 3 the reader should have to meet the heroine, and should have at least heard the hero’s name mentioned; by page 10 the heroine must have established her reason she will do the things which lead to meeting the hero, the story must have three sex scene - no more - no less, the first must be on page _ and must not end with an orgasm so that both the heroine and reader want to hunt the hero more...” EVERY SINGLE PAGE number had a: this must be here, that must be there. The book had to end at exactly 182 pages, no more, no less. At the time Harlequin had more than30 lines varying from sex-free/sweet to spicy Erotica, and EACH line had its own formula and in order to be published by Harlequin, you MUST write one of those formulas EXACTLY as they laid out.
No where did they mention tropes, and yet, no publisher out there gets accused of trope writing more than Harlequin does. The fact is Harlequin has been publishing Romance novels. Since Barbara Cartland invented them in the 1940s. They are the first Romance publisher, the oldest one still going, and remain to this day the #1 go to publisher by Romance readers. Readers who don’t know the names of any Romance author, but Harlequin send them 3 to 4 new novels each week through the mail order subscription service, and those readers read every one of them. Harlequin HAS to mail out 3 to 4 each week, because Romance readers READ 3 to 4 each week. EVERY Harlequin book goes out of print less than a month after it’s published, never to be sold again. While they have a line that reaches store shelves, two-thirds of the 300+ new titles they publish every month are mail order only. Readers see so many author names each month that they remember none of them. But readers DO remember the publisher: Harlequin.
I know, I started my Harlequin subscription in the 1970s, and I have over 30,000 Harlequin books. And not just Harlequin. I have all 801 Barbara Cartland’s, over 3,000 Signets, over 8,000 Avons, and the pride of my collection is the complete run of Zebra Historicals - EVERY VOLUME, including ALL 2,378 Fabios. I’ve read them all. Ye, I’ve read well over 100,000 books in my lifetime. I’m an even more varousious reader than I am an obsessive writer. I subscribe to only 3 of their many lines. I hang out with other Harlequin readers, other Harlequin writers, several Harlequin editors. I’ve done so for 50+ years, and never once in that time has any of them used the word trope.
Yet come to the internet, especially Reddit, and you find a strange breed of reader and writer who does not exist offline and lives only in the mind hive of the internet: writers and readers who obsessive over and talk about nothing but tropes. To the extent that they’ve built multiple wiki-type trope sites devoted to nothing but dissecting every book on the planet into tropes.
They love talking about tropes; they love writing about tropes; they love thinking about tropes.
And people who don’t read their genre varosiosly enough to know which publisher wants what, simply by looking at the publisher's name on the back of their favourite books, run to places like TV tropes trying to figure out what to write.
You can tell the people who don’t read, by how much they talk about tropes. Readers talk about characters. Readers love this character, hate that character, wish this other character had more books about him. They don’t dissect the story like some stuck up know-it-all college professor who feels the need to dissect everything and slap labels and name calling on every sentence. They are too busy reading, falling in love with characters, having fun with those characters, joining the characters on an adventure, to have time to think about dissecting the story, analysing the story, labelling the story into tropes.
Every time I see someone talk about analysing a story, I roll my eyes, and remind myself how lucky I am that I never went to school, didn’t grow up in America, and didn’t have the hobby of reading spoiled for me, by middle school and high school teachers telling me to analyze what I read. I pity every person who went to American schools a grew up not knowing how to simply enjoy the story for the love of having fun with the characters in the story. I feel sorry for every American who possesses an inability to do anything other than dissect and analyze books, and is completely incapable of loving characters and having adventures in books. Your school system failed you big time, robbing you of the ability to JUST READ. Read with no goal of looking for hidden messages, deep meanings, or tropes.
That there is the problem. So many Americans hate reading, and why do they say they hate reading: often, they say it because they hate being forced to analyze every story in high school. Forced to analyze. Robbed of the ability to enjoy the story. Condemned to be able to nothing but comb through every word looking for tropes.
The greatest writers are always the greatest readers, and readers don’t analyze and dissect what they read. Readers fall in love with characters. Readers go on adventures with those characters. Readers ARE NOT looking for hidden meanings, themes, messages, or tropes in the story. They are too busy looking for characters to be friends with and go places with.
Writers who don’t read don’t understand this concept. So they put on their scientist caps and dissect the books, trying to figure out what readers want. They study grammar and outline plots and pull apart character arcs, and catalogue tropes, and they completely miss the point.
Me as a reader: Give me a character I like, and read EVERYTHING that character is in, no matter how bad the writing, no matter what trope is in which story. Why? Look at my bookshelf. Did you see what I said back there. Miss it? Let me repeat it:
>>>and the pride of my collection is the complete run of Zebra Historicals - EVERY VOLUME, including ALL 2,378 Fabios.
I didn’t buy those books for tropes, story, the author, the publisher... no... I bought those books because every single story in the series featured fashion model Fabio Lanzoni on the cover art. And I have a massive custom built bookshelf that displays them, cover out, so you can see the glory that is one of my favourite characters: Fabio. A real man, who was immortalized as a fictional character, in 2,378 Romance novels by over 400 authors, who got together to write lots and lots and lots and lots of stories about a single character. The Fabio character appears as vikings, pirates, cowboys, knights, highwaymen. You name it, he’s been it. He shows up in time periods from Bible era all the way to WW2 and everything in between. He shows up in Scotland to fight the British, in America to fight the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and be a pioneer crossing the plains. Every author had a different take, put him in a different setting, different time period, some authors wrote purple prose, others could barely write good grammar, but the books sold millions, rivaling the sales of the Bible, the top selling books of all time, until Harry Potter came along and kicked Fabio off his King of the Hill spot.
The Fabio books were a phenomenon unlike anything anyone had ever seen in the publishing industry... and we all know what happened the year Fabio couldn’t believe it was not butter at the SuperBowl... record breaking views, because more women watched the SuperBowl that year than men, just to hear Fabio say “I can’t believe it’s not butter” and then leave.
Many consider the Fabio books today to be the laughingstock of the Romance genre. One barely has to look at the TV trope website to see that. No books appear more on trope websites than the Fabio books. According to the creators of the trope websites, the tropes of the Fabio books are the worst of all and should be avoided like the plague.
They WERE the top selling books of all time, prior to Harry Potter, for a reason: readers loved them. Women couldn’t get enough of them, buying them with rabid abandon, to the point the publisher had to go out and find 400 additional authors to help write the books, just to keep up with demand. In the space of less than 5 years, 2,378 novels were published about one single character, and readers loved it.
What did readers love? The character: Fabio. And they didn’t care about lack of consistency (like, why is he Scottish in this novel and Comanche in that novel?) or over abundance of tropes. Heck, they didn’t even care which author wrote it or which publisher published it. Four other publishers besides Zebra put out an additional 3,000+ Fabio knock offs those same 4 years. Readers found a character they loved and gobbled him up anywhere they could find him.
Characters are what readers want.
Readers don’t care about tropes.
Readers care about characters.
And people who don’t read, just don’t understand that. And no amount of analysing or dissecting or looking for tropes is ever going to help them to understand.
People who don’t read think there must be some magic formula to follow, some secret writing trick to success.
The ONLY secret to writing successful books is to passionately write about a character you are passionately in love with. And readers will love him with you.
Write what you know = write what you love. So many people don’t understand that. They hear “write what you know” and their uncreative brain assumes that means “write only their personal life experiences”. That they think that is what “write what you know” means shows they don’t have enough creative energy to ever be a writer at all. Writing requires thinking to create. Write what you know does NOT mean write your personal life experiences, it MEANS write the things you love.
Me? I love Elves, but I’m not an Elf. I love wizards, but I’m not a wizard. I love 1400s to 1600s era America, but I live in 1970s to current era America. I write what I know, and I know what I love, so I write Elves and wizards in Salem witch trial era New England. Is it full of tropes? Probably. I don’t know. I’ve never bothered to find out what any tropes are and I’ve no plans to ever do so.
I take a character I love, in my case, an Elf wizard, and I put him in a time period/setting I love, in my case, 1400s to 1600s New England,, and I just start writing to see what happens. I made him a merchant, so he travels around the colonies and covers a wide era. And in every novel, he’s in a new town, meeting new people, and I just write the story of his interacts with those people in those towns. No plots, no outlines, no character arcs, no tropes intentionally added or avoided, and the top selling volume of the series sold 57million copes.
If you want to succeed in the publishing industry, then you NEED to create a character readers love, and then just pump out a LOT of stories about that one character, as fast as you can.
Perhaps I can shed some insight into how I came to write the way I do and maybe that’ll make it more clear, why I see trope/outline/plot/arc/etc arguments silly?
Let me tell you what working for newspapers taught me, and then perhaps it’ll be more clear why I think it’s foolish that so many newbie writers fuss over trope, plots, outlines, and arches:
Let’s start with a typing speed chart, because it’s going to become important to reference.
In order to get a job as a secretary, the requirement is to type 175 words per minute WITHOUT spelling or grammar errors. That’s 10,500 words per hour WITHOUT errors in either spelling or grammar.
This is why when you take a college touch typing class, the requirement to graduate is at MINIMUM typing for one hour, while sustaining a MINIMUM speed of 175 words per minute, though if you want to pass with an A, you need to sustain 195 words per minute.
There are millions of secretaries in the world who type at speeds of 10,000+ words per hour without breaking a sweat.
It is very common for people new to National Novel Writing Month/NaNoWriMo, to baulk at the idea of writing 1,667 words a day, but, consider this:
How long does it take a person to type 1,667 words?
If you write ___ words per minute, you’ll reach 1,667 words in:
If you type 10 words per minute, you will reach 1,667 words in just under 3 hours.
If you type 200 words per minute, which is fairly common for many law offices or court room secretaries, you will reach 1,667 words in 8 minutes.
* 10 wpm > 166m (2 & 3/4 hrs)
* 15 wpm > 111m (1 & 3/4hrs)
* 20 wpm > 83m (1hr & 13m)
* 25 wpm > 66 m (1hr & 6m)
* 30 wpm > 56m (average for most people) = 30wpm > 1,800 words per hour
* 35 wpm > 48m (average for most people) = 35wpm > 2,100wph
* 40 wpm > 42m = 40wpm > 2,400wph
* 45 wpm > 37m = 45wpm > 2,700wph
* 50 wpm > 33m (average range for many hobby writers) = 50wpm > 3k wph
* 55 wpm > 30m (average range for most hobby writers) = 55wpm > 3,300 wph
* 60 wpm > 28m (average range for many hobby writers) = 60wpm > 3,600 wph
* 65 wpm > 26m = 65wpm > 3,900 wph
* 70 wpm > 24m = 70wpm > 4,200 wph
* 75 wpm > 22m = 75wpm > 4,500 wph
* 80 wpm > 21m (average range for many career authors & journalists/reporters) = 80wpm > 4,800 wph
* 90 wpm > 19m (average range for most career authors & journalists/reporters) = 90wpm > 5,400 wph
* 100 wpm > 17m (average range for a few career authors & journalists/reporters) = 100wpm > 6k wph
* 125 wpm > 13m = 125wpm > 7,500 wph
* 150 wpm > 11m (average for many office secretaries) = 150wpm > 9k wph
* 175 wpm > 10m (average for most office secretaries & required to get a passing grade from touch typing college courses) = 175wpm > 10,500 wph
* 190 wpm > 9m (average for some office secretaries & required to get a grade A from touch typing college courses) = 190wpm > 11,400 wph
* 200 wpm > 8m (average for a few office secretaries) = 200wpm > 12k wph
* 210 wpm > 7m = 210wpm > 12,600 wph
* 225 wpm > 6m (the Guinness World Record) = 225wpm > 13,500 wph
My own speeds:
* 91 wpm > 19m (my average speed for casual typing, such as forums, Twitch chat, and Reddit posts)
* 175 wpm > 10m (my average speed during challenges like NaNoWriMo, The Novel In a WeekEnd Contest, the 7 Day Novel Challenge, and the 50k in one day challenge)
My highest word count in a single day is 57k (fifty-seven thousand) words, done for the 5k in one day contest, I started at midnight, and took a 15 snack/bathroom minute break every 60 minutes, and at the end of 24 of steady non-stop typing, with no sleep - I had 57k words, which was edited and published 5 days later as a 61k word novel (as part of the 7 day novel contest that was going on that same week.)
While writing an entire novel in a single day CAN be done, I do NOT recommend beginning writers try it, as it involves typing at speeds that you can’t jump into and do without training.
I took the secretary/touch typing course 3 times before I passed it, and each time was 3 months of daily 3 hour classes of doing nothing but typing whatever the teacher said. It was gruelling and took more self discipline and dedication than I think the average hobby writer is going to want to attempt, so I really do not recommend high speed typing, for people outside of secretary jobs.
At the time I took the course, I was also a newbie-journalist for the Boston Globe (newspaper, which I worked for for 21 years) and so I had a job that required learning speed typing, in order to work at typing news articles, against deadlines that were often something like: “We need a 5k article on this morning’s school shooting, ready for the evening edition” meaning I often had under 3 hours to research the event, type up the article, edit it, and hand it to the press shop for printing in the evening edition. I’d get the assignment under 3 hours before it had to go to press.
And that is WHY I (like every other journalist who ever worked for Boston Globe, The New York Times, or any other big newspaper) ended up being about to type at an average speed of 90 to 175 word per minute.
Every town has its own newspaper. Every state has a big newspaper, and EVERY journalist at each of them, types 100+ words per minute. It’s standard common practice for professional writers to have a 175wpm typing speed, that is WHY college courses use 175wpm as the requirement to graduate.
Hobby writers think EVERYONE writes 10 to 35 words per minute. But I’m not a hobby writer. I was a Boston Globe journalist for 21 years. That’s a high paced job, where you have to be on the scene of crimes, accidents, shootings, hurricanes, and you NEED to type fast, in order to get those news reports in the next edition of the paper, and you often have under an hour to do it. Newspaper journalism, they need to get the article in the paper as close to a few minutes after the event happens as possible, and if you can’t type 175words per minute, you won’t last 1 week in that job.
I write novels and short stories on the side of also being a journalist and the editor-in-chief of 2 literary magazines... so of course I type fast when I’m typing fiction too.
Here’s the thing: speed THINKING is needed if you want to speed type. You need to snap, snap, snap, think on your feet, not dawdling around all will-nilly ho-hum planning this, outlining that, procrastinating and blaming it all on writer’s block. No. You don’t NEED to pre-plan, think of plots, come up with ideas, or build outlines. You CAN write without those things. It just takes having the self discipline to train yourself to do it.
I think far too many fiction writers don’t take professional typing training, because they really don’t take their writing seriously. If they did, they also wouldn’t make fun of and mock those of us who take our careers as writers seriously.
I think too, far too many writers, think they can pop out a single novel, become an overnight millionaire, and then never have to work a day in their life, just live off royalties forever. But that’s not how the publishing industry works. Writing is hard work, long hours, gruelling schedules/deadlines, and far less pay than you could get flipping burgers at MckyDs or stocking shelves at Wal-Mart.
Think about it... I COULD, dawdle around twiddling my thumbs, blaming my inaction on writer’s block and publish 1 novel every 10 years... or I could take my job seriously, punch writer’s block in the face, and have the self discipline to sit down and type and publish 2 to 3 articles of 5k each per day, 1 short story of 35k words a week and 4+ novels of 150k words per year... oh, wait, that IS what I do, because guess what? I have bills to pay and I don’t have the luxury of sitting around waiting for inspiration or some muse to bite my ass and get me writing.
That’s why I mentioned typing speeds.
Think about it.
Speed typing also = speed thinking.
If you want to type fast, you also have to think fast.
Well, when you are thinking fast enough to be typing 175 words per minute, you are also thinking fast enough to be organizing the plot and characters as you go.
This is how it works in the newspaper industry. There is ZERO time to stop and ask questions like: “Should I avoid using this trope in favour of using that trope?”
You have under 2 hours to hand in your finished, edited 3,000 word copy and you are still driving to the crime scene.
The thing is, writing for newspapers taught me to think super fast, to plan in my head WHILE I’m typing. To outline in my head AS I TYPE. To think of the story on the spur-of-the-moment WHILE I TYPE IT. Granted this is not an easy skill to learn, and before writing for newspapers I too struggled to write 100 words a day, but then I learned to discipline myself to write without worrying about it. To just write.
Does that mean everyone should type like I do? No. Certainly not. But it does mean one shouldn’t lump every writer into ALL can do this or NONE can do that. And unfortunately, that is what many people do. They’ll say because THEY type 5million words of world-building and plotting and outlining a year, and only get 1,000 words of actual story written a year, that no one can write fast. We are all different and write as slow or as fast as suits us personally. No one way is right or wrong.
But, here’ comes back to things like using or not use tropes:
But, here’ comes back to things like using or not use tropes:
If you sit around thinking about tropes (or outlines or plots or character arcs) then you ARE NOT WRITING, and you also are not even actually thinking about writing either.
Let’s go back to the Boston Globe job... if I got a call at 10PM to show up at a crime scene and write a 5k report to publish by the noon edition, that leaves me 2 hours to not only write but also drive to the scene, investigate, drive back to the office, type, edit, format, then rush it to the printing boys. I do not have time to waste daydreaming about how I’m going to write; I don’t have time to diddle out an outline; I don’t have time to worry if I’m using overused phrases/tropes, I barely have time to drive to the crime scene, and I have to write after I investigate too.
In the newspaper business, your boss hands you a “headline” a single sentence, and expects you to hand him back a fully edited 2k+ word article in 3 hours or fewer. No time to plan. No time to outline. No time to think about anything but THE STORY ITSELF. You have to tell the story. Just write the story. That’s it.
Well, back to fiction writers and tropes.
I worked for the newspaper before I wrote fiction novels and so when I started writing novels; I went into it using the same method I used writing for the newspaper: Take a single sentence, and expand it into a novel. That’s it.
No thought about tropes, characters, plots, outlines, nothing. Simply writing on the fly, come hell or high water. If it ends up with tropes in the story, well, so be it. Maybe that story needed them. And you know what? If someone looks at one of my novels and says I use too many or not enough tropes, I’m just going to point out that they see tropes because they WANT to see tropes.
In writing novels, I take a “headline”, a single sentence/plot idea, and within 24 hours I’ve got a 17k word first draft. By day 2 I’ve rewritten it to 40k words. By the end of 7 days it’s at 120k. No time spent plan. No time spent outlining. No world-building. No character arcs. No tropes. No plots. I think only about THE STORY ITSELF. I tell the story. I just write the story. That’s it.
And my #1 top seller sold 57million copies, so I must do something right.
So, back to your question:
>>>Let's discuss: what's better, subverting common tropes, using tropes without subversion, or avoiding common tropes altogether? Should writers continue to use tropes without subversion, but still keep it original, subverting it, or not using common tropes and instead finding something new?
I think far too many young people who grew u with the internet forget that the world outside of the internet is vastly different from the theories tossed around on the internet.
What I mean by this is: They spend hours, days, weeks, months, years even, on social media, forums, Reddit, etc, debating this method vs that method of writing. Outlining vs panting. Embracing tropes vs avoiding tropes. Then they bitch and moan that they’ve worked on a novel for 5+ years and have yet to reach 10k words and they can’t understand why.
Meanwhile, I’m publishing 4+ novels of 120k words each per year, a 25k short story a week, and 2 to 3 non-fiction articles of 5k words each per day. I publish on average 2 million to 8 million words PER YEAR, and they bitch that they can’t reach 10k words?
Why am I different from them?
I’ll tell you: discipline
I had the discipline to take typing classes so I could learn secretarial touch typing.
I have the discipline to not spend 8 hours a day typing posts on Reddit, Twitter, FaceBook, etc, instead of spending 8 hours a day typing my drafts.
I have the discipline to sit down and JUST WRITE, without worrying about plots and outlines and arcs and tropes, without asking permission to write male characters (I’m female), without asking permission to write white characters (I’m not white), without asking for feedback between every paragraph, without sending every character to beta readers for second guessing, without cowering at the feet of every possibly nay saying of every possible race/gender/religion/sexuality/ect I give my characters.
I have the discipline to write my characters as people existing in a world that they must interact with.
I have the discipline to not spend 8 hours a day daydreaming about what I might write someday, daydreaming about which characters I’m going to write about someday, which things to add to the world, which tropes to use, which tropes to avoid.
I have the discipline to write WHILE I think, to think as I write, to write my thoughts WHEN I think them.
I have the discipline to know the difference between daydreaming about the world I built and writing about the characters who live in that world.
I have the discipline to know that bad writing results from over thinking, over planning, and spending too much time worrying about what others will think.
I have the discipline to know that every minute spent world-building is a minute not spent writing. Every minute spent plotting, planning, and outlining is a minute not spent writing. Every minute spent researching tropes and beat sheets and trying to find one to fit my characters, is a minute wasted, both of my time, and my reader’s time.
I have the discipline to know that tropes are not something to worry about, because all a trope is, is a way for bored people on the internet to label my characters and the books they are in.
I have the discipline to know that I am the Autistic author (Kannar’s Syndrome not Aspergers) who obsessively writes the stories, and not the Aspie geek who obsessively catalogues my stories into trope websites online.
I have the discipline to that it is my job as a writer to write stories about the lives of characters and how they interact with their world.
I have the discipline to know that it is the reader’s job, not my job, to analyze what I wrote and divide it into whatever trope they feel it is.
I have the discipline to JUST WRITE!
I JUST WRITE!
I have a character readers like, and I write stories about him doing things and going places and interacting with other characters. I tell his life story. Only this and nothing more. I just write his story. That’s it. I sit down and I think: What is he going to do today? And then I write it. I never know what I’m going to write before I write it. None of it’s planned ahead of time. I learn to story as I write it, the same way the reader learns it as they read it.
If what I write ends up full of tropes or ends up avoiding tropes, then so be it. I’m never going to know one way or the other, seeing how I’m still clueless what exactly it is that a trope even is. Heck, I may use them all the time and not know it. Seeing how I don’t know the lists of tropes wannabe writers like to throw around, I would have no way of knowing if I write any of those tropes or not. And you know what? I also don’t care. Why? Because I have a story to tell, so I just tell it. I write what I as a reader want to read. And if my work ends up having tropes in it, well, I guess that just means that I, as a reader, like to read tropes.
I find it odd that I’ve been publishing for 40+ years and before joining Reddit; I had never heard the term trope before.
I find it odd that so many unpublished writers on Reddit spend so many hours fussing over tropes and are too scared to write anything out of fear of writing a trope.
My advice to everyone looking to write anything: Just write! Whatever it is you want to write, it’ll never get written if you don’t just start writing it.
Stop worrying about tropes, plots, outlines, arcs. beat sheets, and all that other nonsense, and just write your story.
To write a good, delightful story, you need to know only 2 things: how to write good grammar, and the story you want to tell. Have the self discipline to learn good grammar, then have the self discipline to sit down and tell the story. That really is all that is needed.
All that said, I also don't think there is anything wrong with writing tropes or avoiding tropes if that is what you want to do, because you find it to be fun to do.
If you think a specific trope is great and want to write it 101 different ways just because you think it'd be a fun thing to do, than go ahead.
If you hate certain tropes and want to avoid them, then, go ahead.
When all is said and done, I think everyone should just write the thing their heart burns to write, no matter if others say they should or should not write it.
I think far too many writers, especially young and new writers, waste way too much time worrying about what they should or should not do, what others will or will not think, when they could have spent that time writing something they love instead of stressing out not-writing because they are scared of what others think.
Remember: people who love you, don't care what you write, and people who care what you write, don't matter in your life. You can't please everyone, so you might as well, please yourself.
Just write what you want to write, the way you want to write it. Use as many or as few tropes as you want,, or do what I do, write oblivious to tropes.
My Fantasy novel wish list:
You said you play Fantasy games. Witcher perhaps? We can definitely use more books like the Witcher series. Only 5 volumes in the set and I'm desperately wanting more books on that same vein (battle mage, wandering the world, fighting monsters).
Wizards as main characters. So very hard to find. Most Fantasy has wizards as sidekicks or the wise old dude the hero gets advice from. (Too many Gandalf wannabes) Or even worse, are young kids training to be wizards. (Too many Harry Potter wannabes.) Why can't an ornery old wizard, be the main character? Why must he always be the sidekick or the cameo? Why must all main character wizards be teenagers? I want to see more elderly wizards as main characters. They have stories that need to be told too.
Elves who are actual Elves. As in Elves before Tolkien came along. Elves from Norse mythology, who originated from ancient Hebrew Kabbalism. Badass Fallen Angels who had their wings cut off because they were too hung up on raping women (see the book of Genesis, Enoch, and Tobias in the Bible, for the origin story of Elves aka The Alfar aka The Watchers aka The Grigori Angels aka The Fallen Angels.) Angelic beauties with Demonic personalities. Lustful, sex crazed, evil fathers of the Nephelium. You almost never see anyone use the old school demonic, pre-Tolkien style Elf - immortal beauties, angels cast out of heaven, their wings ripped from their backs. Cursed to live among the Humans, whom they hate, because they were once angels who flew in the heavens, and now they live among the lowly Earthbound Humans.
Elves from other time periods and cultures. Okay medieval, European Elves are great and I love them, but what about Elves who live in the Arctic? How about Elves in ancient Egypt? Why not Elves in medieval Japan? Elves in space? Elves in the distant future? Elves competing against Humans in the Yukon gold rush (1860s)? Colonial era Elves? Persian Elves? French Canadian Elf trappers? Elves in Victorian England? Elves in Rococo France? More "Native American" Elves like in ElfQuest. Hippie Elves in the 1970s? Flapper Elves and Elf gangsters in the roaring 1920s? Elves starving to death in the Great Depression of the 1930s? Why are Elves only ever seen in medieval Europe? If they are creatures that live 500 to 1,000 years or more, then most Elves alive in medieval Europe were either alive when Jesus and Caesar walked in rome or are still alive today in the 2018 era. Where are the stories telling us of the Elves in the Roman empire? How were Elves affected by the World Wars? What are Elves doing today? I want to know. I love Elves, I just wish their was more variety in their culture - they seem to be eternally stuck in medieval Europe.
Less hero and questing stories. Less battle and political intrigue stories. More stories of the common folk. I loved The Little House on the Prairie series. 7 books that held my undivided attention (difficult to do). The books follow the life of the average, ordinary common farm girl, through her life from her 5th birthday, until her late 40s when her husband died and she stopped writing in her diary. Now, granted, The Little House on the Prairie are non-fiction reprints of a real farm girl's rather mundane diaries... but, it's captivating see how her family struggled through blizzards, tornadoes, droughts, famines, brush fires, scarlet fever, malaria, the death of two of their daughters and all 3 of their son (characters who were not in the tv show if you only know the series from the tv series)... there was no adventures or quests or battles... but is was still captivating because, they had to fight against nature at every turn to try to survive... devastated when the blizzards hit Florida and destroyed their orange groves... yes... that's not in the tv show either, in real life they lived on Florida not Kansas and grew oranges, not wheat. The books are so insanely different from the tv show.
But my point is... why can't their be more Fantasy books written in the style of The Little House on the Prairie books? Why must every Fantasy novel farm boy be "the chosen one" and have to set off on some quest? Why can't he just be an ordinary farm boy struggling to plough the fields, fight against locusts and famine, struggle to stay warm in the winter? Why? Stories of the mundane lives of common folk, who have no magic powers, are not chosen ones, and never leave to go on a quest, are just as fascinating. I realy, realy, realy, really, wish more authors were writing this style of more "historical family drama" Fantasy. I'd love to see these from all over the world too. Every culture. Every time period. I think this sort of Fantasy novel is far too often overlooked. I would love to see more of these.
You know what I'd like most of all? An old Elf wizard, leading a mundane common, ordinary life. What does he do between quests? How does he live his everyday life? Who are his lovers? What does his family think of his career as a wizard? What are his hobbies? Does he have a farm of his own to tend between doing wizardy-things? I want to know. I love Elves. I love wizards. I love The Little House on the Prairie style family drama. I want there to be more Fantasy books like this out there. (Yes, there are a few, but they are very rare. More are needed.)
All that said...
It's best, if you were to make up your own wish list for things YOU want to see more of in Fantasy, and then write that, because in the end, the most satisfying part of writing, is to write the thing that you personally want to see more of.
And, by the way.... yes, I did write that old (non-Tolkien/pre-Tolkien type) Elf wizard in the The Little House on the Prairie style family drama. He's Persian, and he lives in colonial era Quebec, Canada. See, that is what I wanted to read, and since no one had written anything like that, I went ahead and wrote it myself.
I write Literary Fantasy, that follows the life of an elderly Elf wizard, once the world's most feared and most powerful necromancer, a former wizard-for-hire whom was in high demand and called upon by royals and governments the world over to solve their problems, defeat enemies, and get rid of monsters, he's now in the final years of his life and just wants to retire from wizarding and live a "normal" life for a change. The series (which currently has 130 novels and 2,000 short stories already published, 2018 being it's 40th anniversary and no plans to stop writing new stories for it) is on one hand Epic Fantasy that spans a HUGE world, and encompases time travel and portal magic, resulting in stories set anywhere from 938 to 2525, not only on Earth, but on planets in 3 solar systems as well, and alternate dimensions of Earth.
The wizard is a wandering vagabond, and travels on foot, walking 10 or 12 miles a day across a wide variety of landscapes as he treks across the entire planet. Meaning there are stories in deserts, forests, tundras, arctics, savanas, jungles, inland, on coasts, you name it. He's looking for a place to settle down, but his fame precedes him and people either fear and loath him, thus chase him away, or want to hire him for some quest or mission, thus he flees because he doesn't do that sort of thing anymore and just wants peace and quiet. He's forced to live on the road, traveling constantly to get any peace or quiet away from haters and adorerers.
The series follows his every day life as he travels. Sometimes he travels alone, and sometimes he travels with random strangers he met on the road, sometimes he joins a caravan and travels with them, but usually it's him and 2 other wizards (one a Faerie and the other a half-Elf/half-Demon) who are his best friends, just traveling aimlessly, with no end goal of where they want to go, them just following a road to see where it leads them.
A lot of the series reads like a travelogue road-trip/camping-trip as a result. If they find a town, they look for a inn or tavern or hay loft or some place they can sleep inside. So what of the series is not on the road, is usually in an inn or a tavern.
even though the series is Epic Fantasy, genre wise, very High Fantasy with Elves and Dragons and magic, (the Elf wizard also has a pet Unicorn and a pet Dragon travelling with him); style wise it is Slice of Life Literary Fiction, following his very mundane everyday habits.
He could use magic to do everything. He can wave his wand and have a meal cook itself, but he's also actively refusing to use magic at all. He's used magic for everything his whole life and he doesn't want to rely on magic anymore. But having relied on magic for everything, means he has no clue how to cook, how to find food, how to grow food, how to build a fire, how to build a shelter, how to defend himself in a fight. Though he is an insanely overpowered wish granting, Di'Jinn wizard who can snap his fingers and make anything happen, he also desires to live a "normal" life like "common folk". He wants to live as though he didn't know magic existed.
Quaraun is continually frustrated with the simplest, most mundane of activities, because he was never taught how to do them and he sees other people do them with ease. He's used to grabbing his wand and poof he doesn't have to do a damned thing, so the series becomes a survival story of him just trying to figure out how to do common, ordinary things that everyone just knows how to do, but he's never done before. A large part of the plot is his struggle to survive without using magic.
In other words there is no action, no questing, no adventuring, no battles, no fights, no political intrigue, no wars, no wizard duels, or any of the typical stuff one would expect in the Fantasy genre. It's a very slow moving story that is pretty much like a video camera is just following him around every day as he hunts for food, cooks his meals, tends to his injuries, searches for a place to sleep for the night, then repeats it all the next day.
It's more or less an everyday look into the life of a common person who is not a hero and not on a quest and is just trying to live his life.
Shortly into the series, he meets up with the Faerie and they become lovers, but he's also sleeping with prostitutes in every town they visit which triggers a lot of arguing between him and his lover, bringing into the stories a very Soap Opera/Family Drama style to it.
Think of it as Little House on the Prairie meets Lord of the Rings and tossed into Days of Our Lives, and that'd just about describe it. Extremely NOT what you normally see in Fantasy, but very typical of what you see in Slice of Life Literary Family Drama.
It's not your typical Fantasy, but I have fun writing it, because it was the thing I passionately desired to read, so I wrote the thing I wanted to read. I wrote this, because it's what I wanted to read. It doesn't matter to me is anyone else likes it or not, because I like it. It's been an added bonus that a lot of people did like it.
TL:DR: My point is, that's what I suggest you do. Just look deep inside yourself and figure out what you most want to see more of in Fantasy, what things do you like and dislike, want more/less of? And then write it the way you want to see it. Write the novel, you most want to read, that no one else has written yet. Love what you write, write what you love and have fun doing it.
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