Writing with Tropes: 4 tips to help you do it well

Hi, guys!

So, there are these things in literature called tropes. Basically, tropes are themes or character types that pop up over and over in a lot of books. The hero’s journey or forbidden love, the jock or the hardass or the air headed pretty girl.

Or the smart pretty girl that doesn’t realize she’s pretty even though literally every one she meets falls in love with her and wants to get into her pants. That one seems to be increasingly popular, of late.

Tropes are everywhere, and they’re pretty hard to avoid.

And tropes aren’t bad, in and of themselves. If you’re not sure where to begin, they can provide a jumping off point.

But relying on them to heavily can prove disastrous for a book.

It breeds boring, two-dimensional characters and insanely predictable books.

If every character is a well-known stereotype and the story itself is a formula story, then there’s no real depth to draw a reader in and make them wonder what might happen.

Because they already know.

Because they’ve read that exact story with those exact characters a million different times.

Or worse, the cheesiness of all the over-the-top tropes could just become too much, ruining what might otherwise be a real edge-of-your-seat page turner.

You might think, “Well, I’ll just be completely original and not use a single trope.”

To which, I say…good luck. There’s bound to be some sort of trope in there somewhere.

There are literal tons of them.

Orphan finds out they’re magical, marriage of convenience, whirlwind billionaire romance, elderly mentor, secret heir, magical object to save the world, love triangle, the list goes on.

Plus, when you’re busy striving for originality, you get stuck thinking of what’s already been done (trying to avoid it) rather than just writing and letting your voice make whatever you write an original.

Which brings me to the first way to avoid over-troping your book.

Find your voice.

Every author has a signature style, a way of writing that is uniquely them.

It’s a mixture of the types of stories they tell, the words they choose, the aesthetic they tend to go for, the level of detail they strive for, the tense and the POV they write in, and many other things.

And if you really develop your voice as an author, you can write the tropiest tropes that ever troped, and still make something original.

Because it’s been spun in your unique voice.

The second way to avoid accidentally trashing your book with tons of blatant tropes is to study psychology.

Getting a better grasp on how people think (and what might have lead them to think that way) will inform your writing and deepen your character development.

You don’t have to get a degree. (I did, but not with the intention of using it for writing. I intended to become a therapist, at the time.)

But do some research into personality development and the effects of trauma or various disorders. Maybe buy a used psychology textbook online or take a class at a community college.

Third, study sociology and history. Again, no degree necessary, but do some research, watch some documentaries, read some books.

Learning how empires rise and fall, seeing how precarious some societies really are, and how small problems can topple mighty countries might show you something that you could use in a rebellion in your book. Or it might show you what it takes to rebuild afterward.

Tropes for the story line (star-crossed lovers, make-over, villain decay, the chosen one, etc.) are usually okay because there’s so much going on within and around them that it mixes it up. Just try not to draw attention to the fact that it’s there (let the readers analyze/enjoy the story without you saying hey look what I did here), and don’t throw too many of them into one story.

And last but not least, ask yourself these simple questions. (And answer honestly. The success of your book depends on you being honest with yourself about what it contains.)

Is there more to this character than the trope they spawned from? If the answer is no, you need to workshop that character and develop their personality.

Are all of my characters directly linked to a trope? If the answer is yes, you might need to mix it up. There should be at least a few characters that don’t spawn from a trope.

Get a second opinion, if you aren’t sure. Ask them to read it with this in mind. If you’ve developed your characters well enough beyond their trope spawn point, you could pull it off beautifully. But there’s the risk of making your book cheesy if all your characters are tropes.

And no one wants that.

Now, go forth and write deeply developed characters and plot lines.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Three Types of Writers and What They Might Mean For You

Hi, guys!

There are so many ways to write a book. Every author has their own method, their own process. But there are a few basic types of writers that most can agree on, though some have different names for them.

For all the readers out there who are curious and for all the writers just looking to figure out where you fall (maybe you’re looking for a group of like-minded writers to seek out tips on streamlining the process you prefer, but need a name for your group), I’ll be going over three types of writers.

There’s the pantser, the plantser, and the plotter.

Basically, it’s a range of planning.

Plotters do ALL the planning.

They’ll take personality tests as their characters, building in depth profiles for every single one. They might spend months or even years building their world, ironing out every detail of that realm’s history, weather patterns, physics, and magic before ever putting down a single word of prose.

And they need that.

A lot of plotters feel lost or overwhelmed without those things. They need to have that organization, that detail, laid out before they start writing to ensure that when they start to write, they never mess anything up or forget anything.

Every twist and turn, every angle, every character development is planned and accounted for before they start writing.

Then, there’s the other end of the spectrum.

Pantsers (aka discovery writers, aka flashlight writers) jump right in. No planning. No outlines.

All that extra stuff, the detailed character profiles, the story bibles… feels like a waste of time to pantsers. It cages them in, restraining the characters and the story. It impinges on their creative freedom, a thing they value above all else.

They’d rather let the story unfold as they go, exploring the world and learning about the characters as the plot develops. That might mean going back and adjusting things every now and then to accommodate new developments, but that’s something they’re willing to do.

For these writers, the book is every bit as much of a mystery to them when writing as it is to readers. And they love it.

Characters often feel like separate entities and sometimes “refuse” to talk to them, a thing that plotters often put down to inadequate planning, but plotters chalk up to fully developed characters.

And then, there are the people in the middle.

Plantsers do some level of planning, but also enjoy the exploration and mystery.

They might put together a small outline, maybe a page or so, but deviate from it if necessary. And they probably won’t lose sleep over doing so.

They like to have an idea of how things will go and where the character arcs will lead them, but are open to change.

Personally, I tend to fall on the pantser end of the spectrum. If I know too much about a story when I start writing, I lose interest. Because there’s no freedom left in it.

There’s one story that I started writing several years ago, and one day, the ending just appeared in my mind, and I wrote it out, word for word, in complete detail.

And in my head, that story was done. I knew the ending. I knew how all the characters developed.

But the middle of the book wasn’t written.

And it still isn’t.

I’ve written several others instead.

Eventually, I’ll go back and write the middle of that one, but there are all these other ideas that haven’t reached a conclusion in my mind. Those just pull me in more than the one that’s “finished.”

Now, I do take notes as I go, putting character descriptions into a separate document as I go so I don’t give a side character blonde hair at the start of the book and black hair at the end.

But that’s about it.

What should all my fellow writers take away from this?

The resolution to write how you need to write. Everyone has their own process. Writing a book is an intensely personal experience. What works like a charm for one person might stop another in their tracks.

Write your book however you need to.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

The Dangers of Comparison

Hi, guys!

Writers tend to want to learn from their favorite authors and writer friends. Which is good. We need to learn.

With the importance of maintaining a good author platform, social media has made it easier than ever for writers to network with each other and show their readers how they write.

That also means that writers see exactly how other writers write. Sometimes, that makes for a good bonding opportunity or lively discussion. Sometimes, it can be discouraging to newer writers who haven’t quite found their own creative process, yet.

Lurking on social media, comparing ourselves to each other…does very little good.

So what if someone else wrote more or less than you did this week Maybe they used a vacation day to stay home and write. Maybe they had a bunch of overtime.

Did a writer friend start a new project the same day you did? Maybe you were both psyched that you’d be working on your projects, side by side, but now…one of you is falling behind.

That doesn’t mean anything bad about either of you. It doesn’t mean one is better or worse than the other.

It just means that you’re not the same person, and the two of you approach writing in a different way. Maybe you edit as you go, whereas your friend types anything and everything that comes into their head. Of course, their word count will climb faster than yours.

If you like to plot your book ahead of time and your friend doesn’t, they’re going to jump in and write. If they have a few chapters written before you ever start writing? So what.

Your writing journey will be different than theirs.

There comes a point where we need to stop comparing ourselves to others and just write like ourselves.

After all, the thing that could truly make you a great writer…is your unique style and process.

There are so many options, so many ways to personalize your writing.

Trial and error is the best way to find your own voice. Practice writing and eventually, you’ll find your groove.

It might be a niche. It might be a wildly popular genre. Maybe you like to write in the mornings like Stephen King.

Maybe (if you’re like me) that just doesn’t work for you. Writing in the middle of the night instead of getting up at 5 am to write doesn’t make you less of a writer.

Maybe you like typing anything and everything that comes into your head and organizing/editing later. Or (if you’re like me) you make sure everything is halfway decent before moving on to another chapter.

As long as you don’t let that stop you from actually finishing your book, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Writing is a very personal thing. The creative process varies wildly from one person to another, and that’s a good thing.

There are so many different readers out there, all searching for something different.

3rd person or 1st? Both are good in their own ways.

Present tense or past? Both are good in their own ways.

Whether you love interpersonal drama or action, whether you like your prose flowery or quick and punchy…That’s up to you.

Your stile and process will develop naturally. You just need to practice and try new things with your writing.

And most importantly, stop telling yourself that the way you write is wrong because someone else writes faster/slower or different than you.

Keep learning. But stop comparing your progress. You will grow and write at your own pace.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.