Why is Breaking Tropes Good?

Sometimes tropes should be broken.

What is a trope?  In the literary sense, a trope is an often used, even over-used theme.  Perfect example – the heroine in a horror movie who runs away, only to trip while running and be brutally murdered.

Breaking TropesThese are many and varied, but comfortable and familiar.  The elder wizard with the long, white pointy beard and staff; the dashing hero, able to avoid obstacles with little or no permanent injury; the maiden in need of rescue, beautiful and feisty but still in need of saving.

Sometimes, though, breaking up these tropes is a good thing.

I believe one of the reasons many disliked The Last Jedi is because it smashes several of the better, well-worn tropes.  The biggest heroes in this movie are not the guys…it’s the women.  Between General Leia, Rose, Rey, and Vice Admiral Holdo, you get some spectacular, strong, independent women.   Sure, Finn and Poe are also heroes, but they are strongest when they come around to the thinking of their female counterparts.

Let’s be blunt – Last Jedi is NOT high art.  Frankly, nothing from Star Wars is “fine cinema”.  It IS fun storytelling, visually stunning, and overall a great turn-your-brain-off-and-enjoy-the-ride experience.

In the age of the Internet, we have reached this point where people can express opinions instantly.  They can also build bases of similar-thinking individuals, and together attack the things that upset them.  Sometimes this is for good, such as protesting injustice in government and such.  Other times, it’s not, like spreading and sharing so-called “facts” such as the debunked autism/vaccination link.

Along those lines, there have been actions taken to take people down a peg whom some disagree with.  Perfect example is Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars Aftermath series.  Because of a gay character, certain internet trolls went nuts.

Tropes can be a good starting point

After years of wanting to write a sci-fi story, an idea finally popped into my head.  I had something that was going to be fun to write, and an opportunity to create some pretty awesome characters, worlds, and spacecraft.

Early on, I wanted to toss in a lot of different forms of government.  So I created a sector that was a Kingdom.  But when I first started to write it, I decided to break from the normal trope of a King and Queen…and instead created a Queen and Queen.

This is a space opera.  They have a son whom genetic engineering allowed them to create from both of their DNA.  And, just to make it more fun, they are not a pair of young and stunningly beautiful women…they’re in their late 30’s early 40’s.

One of my other characters got semi-inspired by Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who.  While not one to openly seek relations, we learn that he is omnisexual.  Men, women, non-humans.  If there is mutual attraction and interest and consent, he might just go there.

As I developed the characters, I created a race with no gender.  I even had to create gender-neutral pronouns for them.  My spellcheck hates this.

I have gone to some trouble to describe my alien species.  Many are more-or-less humanoid, two arms, two legs, one head and so on.  But several are not.  There is a race that are gelatinous.  Another that are sort-of centaurs. I wanted to help the readers visualize them as I have been.  It’s a lot of fun to create such things.

Ignoring the typical tropes can be fun.

But when it came to my humans, I made a choice.  I mention male versus female.  In one or two instances I think I mention height or body-type.  But apart from that, I give no descriptions of my humans.  Why?  Because I want my readers to be able to envision them however they like.  I want them to be able to see them with any skin-color, eye-shape, hair color or whatever they choose.

As I dream about being able to sell the movie rights to this story one day, anybody can be cast as one of my humans.  They could be black, Asian, Hispanic, Arabic, Hindi, Native-American, white, mixed, whatever.  Diversity of characters from a diverse universe.

There are certain people who want their tropes unchanged.  White guys rescuing damsels in distress and such.  I think the time has come to break these tropes, and see what kinds of new twists we can put on old stories.