Ravencon Panels (I actually DID do): Using Tropes to Tell Stories

Of note:  I am aware this blog is running late, even with the planned week off last weekend.  I’ve decided to officially reduce the posting rate for this blog to every other week (which is probably closer to how often I’ve really been posting my blogs, anyway), so my next blog won’t be until July 2nd, at the earliest.  Now, on to the interesting stuff….

As part of the promotion for the new World’s Enough: Fantastic Defenders anthology (which, contrary to my post last time, is still at the $2.99 “Balticon Special” eBook price; I’m not sure why it hasn’t gone up, but if you don’t have a copy yet that means you’re in luck), I participated in an interview with my fellow author Martin Wilsey. One of his questions asked about my favorite websites, and I just had to mention TVTropes.  I really do enjoy looking through it at times, and I’ve discovered a fun story or three I’ve never read, before, thanks to it… (but boy is it a time sink).

There are lots of ways to define tropes, but I think most people think of them, from a literary perspective, as a non-pejorative form of ‘cliché’.  In other words, they are a literary device that is observed in enough works as to be recognizable.  Or, rather, these could be seen as the “building blocks” for story construction.  I think it’s more that a when executed badly, this sort of thing gets seen as a cliché, but if executed well it is recognized merely as a trope.

As a writer, I think other writers should study the various tropes enough to be familiar with them.  Not only can it help you recognize the signals you’re sending your readers (you don’t necessarily need to follow the tropes, but you might want to find a way to tell your audience that you aren’t going that way), but they can give you a great frame of reference when trying to strengthen story points, or to figure out the important things to tell your readers when marketing your book.

Suppose, for example, you are trying to plot out what your villain (or even your hero, if you’re writing so-called “competency porn”) is planning to do.  You want to come up with a complex plan for them, but you’re just not quite sure you know what kind of plan to enact.  Well, tropes might give you an idea of what your villain is capable of.  Perhaps your villain knows your main characters very well — they might be capable of enacting a Batman Gambit.  Or perhaps your villain is very competent and would rather die than lose; he might create a Xanatos Gambit, so that no matter what happens he wins in some way… (though some ways might be preferable than others).  Do they make it all up as they’re going along?  It might seem like an Indy Ploy.

And then, when the book is done, knowing what a Batman Gambit is can help you in your marketing; you can explain the similarities between your villain and the oft-admired Batman-Gambit-using Star Wars villain, Thrawn, if you know what you (and your villains) are doing.

There’s a lot more I could say on the subject of tropes, but I think I’ll save that for the next time I’m speaking at a convention on the topic.  Speaking of which, I just got a guest invite to another convention; I’ll give the name of the convention and other details about this, soon, once certain things are taken care of.  Talk to you all again in TWO weeks.

I Promised a Post This Week…

So, I promised a blog post this week, and here it is.  Unfortunately, it’s not the one I was hoping for — namely, a blog on the panel topic, “Mythology as the Basis for Speculative Fiction.”

It’s already a week and several days late, and it really isn’t moving as well as I was hoping.  I have a lot of things to say on the topic, but my views seem… disconnected, somehow.  I’m having trouble finding ways to transition from point to point.

If these posts on the panel topics were REAL panels, there would be no issue.  I’d be led by a moderator through his questions.  Or if I were the moderator, I would be asking different questions — ones which regular followers of this blog would have already heard my answers to several times.

I mean, if you don’t know (for example) that, when confronted by an editor who insisted that Elves and Dwarves and Dragons were played out, I drew from the mythologies of Japan, Finland, aboriginal Australia, Inuit, and Shetland Island folklore to fill out a replacement set of mythological creatures (Kitsune and Wulvers and Bunyips, among others) as I constructed the world for The Kitsune Stratagem, then you haven’t been reading here very long — I’ve certainly mentioned it often enough.  In front of a new audience like a convention panel, however, I could expound on that and, for them, it would be fresh material.

Again, though, I still had a number of points to discuss; things on mythological allegory, things on the different types of Elf you can find in mythology (High Elves from the Norse, brownie-like Elves from Wales and Elizabethan England, etc.), a discussion of the different mythologies that were brought together for Tolkien (he drew from Norman, Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Arthurian myths, among others, while putting together what he considered a “British” mythology.  Finally, I wanted to talk about how the fiction popular in modern geek culture was re-interpreting or forming mythologies of its own, citing fiction like Dragonball, Superman, and Star Wars in the process.

But… none of those points seemed to fit together.  I’m not happy with what I have, either in the structure or in the depth of my content.  I’ve been working on it for two weeks, and it’s not worth posting.  It’s been distracting me from my other writing projects, and it’s already too late to start a different blog to be ready Sunday.

So… this is it for a blog this week, no blog will be available next week, and if I do continue this series I’ll be skipping this panel and moving on to “Using Tropes to Tell Stories.”

Finally, some business:  I just learned that the current ebook price of the new anthology I’m in, Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders, is a special introductory price.  It’s expected to go up THIS THURSDAY, first to a (still discounted) $3.99 and ultimately up to $4.99 in another few weeks’ time.  So, if you haven’t bought it yet, NOW is the time to get your ebook copy.  (Or you could go ahead and get it in print, but any discounts of that will be Amazon’s call)