Rules? There Are No Rules! Part 2

I’m going to start this post by saying that I’m going to focus mainly on science fiction and fantasy rules, tropes and clichés, because that’s what I write. If you enjoy another genre, there are a lot of resources out there for you. Just remember, Google is your friend.

Beyond the rules of grammar that we talked about last week, each genre has it’s own set of rules that are sometimes referred to as tropes or clichés.

Let’s start this discussion by defining tropes versus clichés.

Trope: A commonly reoccurring device used in literature. For example: Elves are a common trope in fantasy novels. So is the theme of good versus evil. If you want to get some good ideas of tropes of all types check out TV Tropes. Be prepared to get sucked into a never ending black hole of useful/less information.

Clichés on the other hand are kind of seen as tropes gone wrong. A trope that is over used and abused can become a cliché. Of course this is a totally subjective thing, one writer’s trope is another writer’s cliché. A personal pet peeve cliché of mine is love triangles between a “normal” girl and two “magical/special” boys. The Twilight Series killed that trope and everyone after that has made it into a boring and predictable cliché. Of course, who am I to judge because stories like that sell like hotcakes.

Your job, as a writer, is to know what the tropes are for your genre. Readers are used to these tropes and love them. When they pick up your fantasy book they are going to expect magic, imaginary creatures and strange races. When a reader picks up a science fiction book they are going to expect advanced technology, space ships and aliens. Just to name a few.

How do you figure out what these tropes are? Read, a lot. That’s my answer to almost everything. Read. Plus, a little research online can go a long way.

Once you know what these tropes are and how they can be misused and turned into clichés, then you can start breaking the rules. Brandon Sanderson did this in Mistborn by taking the Chosen One trope and turning it on its head. Sanderson asks the question: What happens when the Chosen One fails? It’s a great book, I’ll be reviewing it soon.

It’s that kind of creativity, the ability to take what has become common and make it extraordinary again, that makes a great writer. It’s that willingness to break rules and to do it in a clever way that brings new life to a dying trope.

So, tell me what you think. Am I totally off base here? What are some of your favorite tropes or clichés? Leave a comment so we can chat!

Thanks for stopping by and have a Wonderful Wednesday!


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