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.

Sharing My Love of the Written Word for the Holidays

I have always been a fan of the written word.

I started reading at a young age, and when my family began to get shaken up, I think I probably escaped into books a lot.

Writing has always come easily to me.  Genre, topic, doesn’t entirely matter to me.  When I get to put words to the page or screen, I find that I am in my element.

For a time, I avoided embracing calling myself a writer.  The written word never lost its importance to me, but I found myself spending far less time honing my craft.

Then, something changed.  In the late 1990’s, an idea popped into my head, and my series The Source Chronicles came to life.

For a short time I managed to land an agent, but Fantasy was not his familiar genre.  So we didn’t really go anywhere.

Then my friend suggested I have a real editor go over my first completed fantasy novel, then titled Seeker of The Source.  She not only helped me turn my novel into a much more coherent, solidly voiced story – she also made me a far better writer and editor.  Her instruction helped me to make some fundamental changes in my approach, and with that a far better writer.

I was fortunate that a friend was editing an anthology of short stories about pirates and magic.  I seized upon this awesome opportunity, and wrote A Treacherous Stone, which was published in Rum and RunestonesWhen the second anthology, Spells and Swashbuckers was being assembled, I created The Vapor Rogues.

Times and technology have changed, and while I continued seeking an agent or publisher, I decided it was time to strike out on my own.  I stated by taking the first year of my main blog post, and published Pathwalking: A 21st Century Philosophy.

I have continued to blog three times a week at The Ramblings of The Titanium Don.  Not long ago I refocused my posts to all address the ideology that consciousness creates reality.  Mondays I present Positivity, Wednesdays I write Pathwalking, and Friday Crossing the Bridges.

Once I had dipped my toe into the waters of self-publishing, I decided to share with the world Seeker – The Source Chronicles Book I.  A year later, after having it edited, I shared Finder – The Source Chronicles Book II.

When I wrote The Vapor Rogues for Spells and Swashbucklers, I did a huge amount of worldbuilding.  This was not just Steampunk from an alternate Victorian reality, but a wholly unique world I created.  With all that worldbuilding, I needed to write more.  From that came Clouds of Authority : A Vapor Rogues Novel.

On several occasions, I have participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.  This is where you are challenged to write 50,000 words in 30 days every November.  I have succeeded several times with this.  One year it was my fantasy/Steampunk Infamy Ascending, another year my technothriller Shades of Mediocrity.

Two of the stories I wrote for NaNoWriMo I have published.  First, my homage to Paulo Coelho, Vortex Pilgrimage, an embellishment of my hikes around Sedona, AZ.  And then a deeply personal story, a humorous narrative of the time in my life when I was recovering from being struck by a car while crossing a street.  The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Trip to the Post Office is all stuff that happened to me, but all the names have been changed.

The written word is my passion, my heart and soul.  I am working on my blog every week, and new stories to share with the world.  With the holidays being upon us, is there a better gift than the written word to share with friends and loved ones?

I hope you enjoy what I present here to you.  Thank you for your support!


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What Do I Name This Thing?

Sometimes it takes me a while to find the name.

When I first began work on The Source Chronicles, it was my unnamed Fantasy project.  I began my glossary so I could track the characters, and I called it The Source.  This would, in turn, lead me to find the plot, whereby my mysterious sorcerer was questing to find an ancient something called The Source.  He would be called the Seeker.

Seeker of The Source  would be completed, and I had even acquired an agent to shop it around.  But he was not normally an agent for YA or Fantasy, and after I think two years, we ended our association.  Then it was suggested I hire Lone to edit my work, and my writing would never be the same.

I am a far better writer and editor today because of all I learned from Lone’s edit of Seeker.  Further, since I was already done with Book 2 and starting on Book 3, she suggested I give the overall series a name.  With a suggestion from my best friend Kristin, The Source Chronicles  was born.  Seeker of The Source  became Seeker – The Source Chronicles Book I

Lone and I have long since lost touch, but I found an editor for both Finder – The Source Chronicles Book II, and Clouds of Authority, my Steampunk novel (and first book of The Vapor Rogues series).  But for Harbinger, which covers a great deal of characters and time, I am beginning to work with a new editor.  Thus far, I suspect she may also help me to grow as a writer and editor.

In addition to regular blogging over at The Ramblings of the Titanium Don, and editing Harbinger, I have been working on an epic sci-fi adventure.

The Space-Opera with No-Name.

I have been working on this sci-fi opus for more than a year.  I have created an incredible number of characters, worlds, starships, races, and many unique names.  There have been battle scenes, character development, plotting, and both the use and rejection of numerous tropes.  This is the kind of sci-fi I would love to watch on a screen, and it’s a whole lot of fun to write.

Yet after all this time, a name eludes me.  Sure, it took me some time to come up with Seeker’s original name, but I do not recall it taking me this long.  I wait to be inspired, to find the title that will not only excite me, but entice you to want to read it.

Drawing by MJ Blehart

There was a professor of mine in college who said every name an author creates has meaning.  From my own work, I can tell you that this is bullshit.  Certainly there are writers who place meaning in names, and that is a part of their mystique.  But many of us simply create names out of randomness.  That’s how I work, at any rate.

The title of the novel is important.  If it turns out this is going to be a series, or I feel the need to create other stories in the same universe – and I might – the series will need a name as well.  On the one hand, this can be somewhat frustrating.  But on the other hand, this is part of the fun of writing in general.

Eventually I’ll also have to work out cover art, but that won’t be for a while.  So far, I have drawn the top-view of one of the main starships in the series, and I will eventually find an artist to render this better than I can.

A rose by any other name…

Names have power.  How many tales are out there where someone hides their “true name” so as not to give away their power?  It’s an intriguing concept, really, because we humans are almost obsessed with giving things names.

I write because I feel a need, akin to breathing, eating and drinking.  Writing is a part of who I am.  I am signed up for an online group and class to improve how I work and earn as a writer, and will likely post something about that down the line.  There is always work to be done.

I know that eventually I will have a name for this novel.  There is always a name to be found.

Thank you for staying abreast of my work.

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