Fantasy Faction

Fantasy Faction => Fantasy Book & Author Discussion => Topic started by: Arry on September 10, 2015, 11:22:34 PM

Title: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Arry on September 10, 2015, 11:22:34 PM
OK, so tropes a tropes for a reason. Often it seems like people make it sound like a trope in a book is a bad thing, but obviously they only become so popular because people like them.  I guess maybe it is just when it is a trope they are tired of. But with so many to choose from, obviously there has to be something for everyone. For anyone who is interested, Diana Wynne Jones has a great little book called Tough Guide to Fantasyland (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tough_Guide_To_Fantasyland) that lists tons of tropes common in fantasy. But even it manages to miss some.

So, what are your favorite tropes?? What books did you love because they had them?


One of my favorites:

The girl dressed as a boy trope. No idea why, but I generally love this. A few examples: Arya in ASoIaF, Coby from Anne Lyle's The Alchemist of Souls, Cithrin in The Dragon's Path. I know I missed many more.


Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Rukaio_Alter on September 10, 2015, 11:33:07 PM
Can't go wrong with a good Big Damn Heroes moment.

I also really enjoy the trope where the main hero and villain are forced to work together against another threat. You can get so many great moments and interactions between the two if done right.
Title: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: TigerBright on September 11, 2015, 12:04:27 AM
I'm just gonna sit down here and start counting... :)

Don't mind me, just having a bet with myself!
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Elfy on September 11, 2015, 12:57:35 AM
There's some really good ones on the TV Tropes website, although it was started for TV it's since branched out into all forms of media.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: JMack on September 11, 2015, 01:06:25 AM
So, I'm not saying this is my favorite, but the description on a site I found made me smile. Here it is, further edited by me.

Modern human, usually an American an English-speaking white Anglo-saxon, gets pulled into a fantasy world, usually a pseudo-medieval one, and manages to save the day without dying of disease or ignorance.

And I'll put forward this one (which is a trope beyond fantasy):

Evil is black and evil people are southern or eastern; while much our real world thinks white is evil, and are, er, southern or eastern

And southern or eastern relative to... whom?  :P

Sorry, probably not the intention of the OP.  :o
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: ClintACK on September 11, 2015, 01:08:22 AM
I'm not sure what the trope's called, but I love stories where the protagonist succeeds in extraordinary circumstances simply by being calm and practical and not giving up, while everyone around them is losing their heads (figuratively, that is).

A lot of the Ethshar books (Lawrence Watt-Evans) are based on this -- with a story built around standard fantasy tropes and a protagonist that is practical and reasonable and doesn't accept the fantasy trope role.

Favorite example: from "Once Upon a Time: A Treasury of Modern Fairy Tales" (DelRay 1991), Watt-Evans's story has a small isolated village fall prey to a dragon.  The dragon demands the sacrifice of a sheep every week.  Simple math tells the villagers that they aren't going to be breeding sheep fast enough to keep up, so eventually it's going to end badly.  They consult a magic oracle and send a boy on a quest to save the village.  He brings back a practical young woman who the oracle indicated would be their salvation.  The villagers, being genre-savvy, decide that they need to sacrifice the woman to the dragon because that's how it always works in the stories.  The boy frees the woman and together they gather poisonous mushrooms, fill bladders with them, and stuff them into the sheep that's being offered to the dragon.  The dragon eats the poison-filled sheep and dies. 

There's a hint of this in a lot of Discworld, too.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Elfy on September 11, 2015, 01:31:48 AM
So, I'm not saying this is my favorite, but the description on a site I found made me smile. Here it is, further edited by me.

Modern human, usually an American an English-speaking white Anglo-saxon, gets pulled into a fantasy world, usually a pseudo-medieval one, and manages to save the day without dying of disease or ignorance.

And I'll put forward this one (which is a trope beyond fantasy):

Evil is black and evil people are southern or eastern; while much our real world thinks white is evil, and are, er, southern or eastern

And southern or eastern relative to... whom?  :P

Sorry, probably not the intention of the OP.  :o
Jack L. Chalker used the top one to perfection in his Dancing Gods series, and he actually said that in part it was in reaction to his belief that for a number of years the genre never really seemed to progress.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: ArhiX on September 11, 2015, 11:17:03 AM
My favourite trope is "fallen hero". You know - "The one who hasn't died fast enough and now is a bad guy", or to put it simple:

"You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."


And I'm not only talking about Anakin suddenly slaying a bunch of innocent children (but most of the times I think about it as a good example) and getting nifty machine to help him overcome his asthma, but also smaller changes. Like from hero to anti-hero.
The character is changing - and not in a good way. We all love to watch how characters are changing throught the book,trilogy,series, etc. So what made them to be like this? Why this good guy in a white armor is suddenly slaying his own, good-ol papa? Why is this girl killing homeless children - she was one before.

Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Rostum on September 11, 2015, 11:22:29 AM
Quote
One of my favorites:

The girl dressed as a boy trope. No idea why, but I generally love this. A few examples: Arya in ASoIaF, Coby from Anne Lyle's The Alchemist of Souls, Cithrin in The Dragon's Path. I know I missed many more.

This is one of the oldest devices from storytelling in Europe through mummers plays and folk music to pantomime. Of course for much of this time the girls were all played by boys and this allowed some ribald humour that would not have been acceptable to the church or society in any other situation.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: DrNefario on September 11, 2015, 01:15:42 PM
There's some really good ones on the TV Tropes website, although it was started for TV it's since branched out into all forms of media.
But never go there if you want to get anything done.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: ClintACK on September 11, 2015, 01:41:36 PM
There's some really good ones on the TV Tropes website, although it was started for TV it's since branched out into all forms of media.
But never go there if you want to get anything done.

Seconded.

It's a black hole of procrastination.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: YordanZh on September 11, 2015, 01:50:05 PM
I've always loved the "Old (/ancient) master, teaching and mentoring the hero." Sure, 99% of the times it's cheesy and cliche, but I still love the trope itself. :)
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Rostum on September 11, 2015, 03:24:12 PM
How about the 'from a terrifying evil the world can only be saved by the arcane relic that someone carelessly lost (down the back of the sofa) eons ago'
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: JMack on September 11, 2015, 03:35:13 PM
How about the 'from a terrifying evil the world can only be saved by the arcane relic that someone carelessly lost (down the back of the sofa) eons ago'

which is relateed to: everything will be better for a very long - or forever - when succeed in doing one single thing.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Eclipse on September 11, 2015, 05:09:20 PM
I Like

The villain who turns good

Superheroes learning their powers for the first time

The villain beating the good guys
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Saraband on September 11, 2015, 05:17:49 PM
I enjoy the underdog protagonist - usually a prince/princess that is so down the line of succession, he/she becomes careless about most things, or who simply are some sort of black sheep in the family. And these protagonists tend to be sarcastic, which I like a lot. Two examples would be Jalan (Red Queen Trilogy, Mark Lawrence) and Tyrion Lannister, from ASOIAF, George R. R. Martin.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: tebakutis on September 11, 2015, 05:40:33 PM
Quote
I also really enjoy the trope where the main hero and villain are forced to work together against another threat. You can get so many great moments and interactions between the two if done right.

Yeah, that's really fun. In the same vein, I absolutely love villain vs villain, especially if both villains are unredeemable (this is one of the rare cases where I'm in favor of a "pure evil" antagonist, like Sauron).

Unlike an antagonist (who is opposed to your protagonist, but sees themselves as the hero), a true villain in black/white fashion is someone you can almost never root for. When the villain runs up against a WORSE villain, however, all the sudden you can root for the person you'd normally despise.

To take the Sauron example, Tolkein doesn't give us any hints Sauron is anything but pure evil. So, we can't root for him. But what if Middle Earth was invaded by Voldemort and a bunch of Death Eaters, and Sauron was the only being powerful enough to stop him? Or vice versa? All the sudden, I can root for the villain (for real!)
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: ClintACK on September 11, 2015, 06:12:51 PM
I Like]

The villain beating the good guys

Love this one.  Doesn't happen enough.

I think most authors (and publishers) see this as betraying the promise they make readers at the beginning of the book, so they shy away from it.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: DDRRead on September 11, 2015, 06:19:54 PM
I like it when we start during the protags late childhood/early adolescence then follow their progress to adulthood and  heroism. Even better if they make some key enemies during those early years.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Eclipse on September 11, 2015, 06:21:17 PM
I Like]

The villain beating the good guys

Love this one.  Doesn't happen enough.

I think most authors (and publishers) see this as betraying the promise they make readers at the beginning of the book, so they shy away from it.

I loved this books when I was younger

The Rise and fall of a Dragon King by Lynn Abby (Dark Sun)

I, Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire (Ravenloft #7) By P.N Elrod
King of the Dead (Ravenloft #15) by Gene DeWeese
Lord of the Necropolis (Ravenloft, #17) by Gene DeWeese
I, Strahd: The War Against Azalin (Ravenloft #19) by P.N. Elrod

and anything with Lord Soth in  :)

Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Ryan Mueller on September 11, 2015, 06:59:24 PM
I love anti-villains. They're some of the most fun people to write because they fill the role of the antagonist, but they don't always seem like such bad people.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Rukaio_Alter on September 11, 2015, 07:07:36 PM
I Like]

The villain beating the good guys

Love this one.  Doesn't happen enough.

I think most authors (and publishers) see this as betraying the promise they make readers at the beginning of the book, so they shy away from it.
Depends. Are we talking the villain beating the hero at the very end of the story or just partway through and leaving them to lick their wounds/get a second/whatever. If it's the latter, I can definitely get on board for that. That's a great trope. If it's the former... not so much.

To be blunt, unless you do a really good job with it and it fits perfectly with what has come before, having a sudden 'The Villain Wins' ending is probably going to make me fling the book at the wall. Why? Because it makes me wonder why the hell I wasted my time following these protagonists if they were all going to lose pointlessly in the end anyway. Having a sudden massive downer ending like that doesn't make your book any better or deeper or anything like that, it just makes it frustrating and makes you wonder why you bothered to get invested in these characters in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, the villain winning can work (hell, 1984 is a classic example of it working well) but it's really not something I think we need a lot of.

Speaking of villains and other tropes I love, I really like it when the villain is shown to genuinely care about the people working beneath him. Not only does it make a nice change from the common Bad Bosses who execute their mooks for the slightest mistake and generally make you wonder why the hell anyone would want to work for them, but it always makes the villain seem more 3-dimensional.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: tebakutis on September 11, 2015, 07:27:56 PM
Quote
Speaking of villains and other tropes I love, I really like it when the villain is shown to genuinely care about the people working beneath him. Not only does it make a nice change from the common Bad Bosses who execute their mooks for the slightest mistake and generally make you wonder why the hell anyone would want to work for them, but it always makes the villain seem more 3-dimensional.

Yup! That's why I almost never write a villain as "evil" - I write them as an antagonist (as you should write them) which means they simply have a goal opposed to the protagonist's.

Best example I can think of is Thrawn from the (now non-canon) EU novels. There's a great scene in there where a tractor beam operator almost captures Luke, but loses him due to an exploding shell ship gambit. The tractor beam guy thinks quickly and almost recaptures him, but fails.

So Thrawn walks down and everyone's like "Oh hell, the tractor beam guys gonna get forcechocked." And Thrawn calmly asks him what happened, finds out what trick Luke used, sees the beam operator thought of a quick workaround that didn't quite work, and so on.

Then Thrawn CONGRATULATES and promotes the dude for thinking so quickly, rewarding him for showing initiative. At that moment everyone on the Star Destroyer bridge is instantly team Thrawn - not because they FEAR him (like Vader) but because he's actually shown himself to be a good commander. He earns their respect.

It was such a great moment in those books, which goes to your point about a "villain" caring for his people. Thrawn was ruthless with his enemies, but took care of his own.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: JMack on September 11, 2015, 07:33:03 PM
Quote
Speaking of villains and other tropes I love, I really like it when the villain is shown to genuinely care about the people working beneath him. Not only does it make a nice change from the common Bad Bosses who execute their mooks for the slightest mistake and generally make you wonder why the hell anyone would want to work for them, but it always makes the villain seem more 3-dimensional.

Yup! That's why I almost never write a villain as "evil" - I write them as an antagonist (as you should write them) which means they simply have a goal opposed to the protagonist's.

Best example I can think of is Thrawn from the (now non-canon) EU novels. There's a great scene in there where a tractor beam operator almost captures Luke, but loses him due to an exploding shell ship gambit. The tractor beam guy thinks quickly and almost recaptures him, but fails.

So Thrawn walks down and everyone's like "Oh hell, the tractor beam guys gonna get forcechocked." And Thrawn calmly asks him what happened, finds out what trick Luke used, sees the beam operator thought of a quick workaround that didn't quite work, and so on.

Then Thrawn CONGRATULATES and promotes the dude for thinking so quickly, rewarding him for showing initiative. At that moment everyone on the Star Destroyer bridge is instantly team Thrawn - not because they FEAR him (like Vader) but because he's actually shown himself to be a good commander. He earns their respect.

It was such a great moment in those books, which goes to your point about a "villain" caring for his people. Thrawn was ruthless with his enemies, but took care of his own.

Welllllllllll... unless they were little aliens who just wanted their planet to not be diseased and stuff. They thought they were Team Thrawn, but... not so much.  ;)
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Yora on September 11, 2015, 09:13:29 PM
Much of the best writing I've seen is when stories directly point out that some common cliche or another is completely unbelievable or a classic piece of uplifting advice is actually terrible.

But there are a few exceptions:

Possibly my most favorite is a hero being put into a position where he has to chose between two bad options but refuses to go with either because the situation is much more complex than anyone makes it out to be and there are other options that could work once you start looking beyond the traditionally held truths.

Also very nice are heroes who don't want the power and wealth of the villain they defeated as they reason they got into the whole thing was that they simply wanted to be left in peace. Getting rid of the tyrant is great, but the burden of being a king can go to someone else.

(One work that does really well with old cliches is the videogame series Metal Gear Solid, which is a bit of a blend of the most ridiculous 80s action movie and the sillier James Bond movies. Someone once described it wonderfully as "Metal Gear Solid plays all the overused and cliched tropes so incredibly straight that they curve back onto themselves and become actually as cool again as they originally were.)
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: tebakutis on September 12, 2015, 02:04:33 AM
Quote
Welllllllllll... unless they were little aliens who just wanted their planet to not be diseased and stuff. They thought they were Team Thrawn, but... not so much.

Didn't Thrawn inherit that whole mess from Vader, though? It's been awhile since I've read the books, but I swear I recall that Vader was the one who lied to the Noghri originally (getting them to join the Empire) and Thrawn was basically saddled with it when he took over managing them. So really, he just inherited a mess from his predecessor and made the (reasonable) decision not to mess with the status quo.

Hahah, either way, it was a good play until it wasn't. :0

Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: ArhiX on September 12, 2015, 11:42:29 PM
How about Pyrrhic victory? When everything that protagonist worked for wasn't quite worth it. Yes - you have The Magical Sword of Fighting - but your best friend is now dead. Yes - you have entered The Lands of Doom of Big Bad Boss - but 90% of your army bites the dust. Yes - you were able to kill Big Bad Boss - but you lost your arm, and propably soul. Yes - you saved the princess... but she has herpes (and now he has it too). We are satisfied - after all Hero managed to do everything he wanted to, but in the end we are like... "Maybe it wasn't THAT worth it? Maybe he should have stayed on the farm to feed pigs with potatoes to this day?"

My two favorite examples are from Malazan - Memories of Ice - Heroic defence of Kapustan (this name gives me giggles because in my language it can be translated as 'cabbage town') and a desperate battle of Koral.
Also pretty much every victory - even little personal ones - in a "Song of ice and fire" feels like it ie. War of Five Kings.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Hedin on September 13, 2015, 01:20:54 AM
I Like]

The villain beating the good guys

Love this one.  Doesn't happen enough.

I think most authors (and publishers) see this as betraying the promise they make readers at the beginning of the book, so they shy away from it.
Depends. Are we talking the villain beating the hero at the very end of the story or just partway through and leaving them to lick their wounds/get a second/whatever. If it's the latter, I can definitely get on board for that. That's a great trope. If it's the former... not so much.

To be blunt, unless you do a really good job with it and it fits perfectly with what has come before, having a sudden 'The Villain Wins' ending is probably going to make me fling the book at the wall. Why? Because it makes me wonder why the hell I wasted my time following these protagonists if they were all going to lose pointlessly in the end anyway. Having a sudden massive downer ending like that doesn't make your book any better or deeper or anything like that, it just makes it frustrating and makes you wonder why you bothered to get invested in these characters in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, the villain winning can work (hell, 1984 is a classic example of it working well) but it's really not something I think we need a lot of.

I think the trick is to make the villain interesting enough of a character.  If they are just a one-dimensional background baddie and actually give them depth and clear motivations and desires beyond destroying everything.  If an author could pull that off I don't think I would be upset that the good guy lost.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: cupiscent on September 13, 2015, 10:26:37 AM
I am super-heaps fond of lady characters who have strength and power in traditional (for our society or their society) feminine roles - basically, ladies who have been raised and trained to be "proper ladies" who nevertheless move and shake. It's a powerful subversion of the idea that there's no power in lady-business. The best example I can think of right now is Clara in Daniel Abraham's Dagger and Coin books, but Guy Gavriel Kay's work is also full of great examples.

I'm also exceedingly fond of wry, jaded, bitter rogue types. From Eddings' Silk through to Locke Lamora, I'm fond of bitter men hiding genuine pain under whimsicality, and the shades of grey they have in their moral pathways.

Possibly relatedly, another favourite character trope is the hero who's been heroing long enough to rub the shine off it, and who knows it's all just mud and blood at the end. Basically, give me an older chap who's embarrassed about his own heroic legend and complains about how his knees hurt, and I'm probably halfway to sold. (Which is why it surprises even me that I didn't enjoy The Name of the Wind, but to my mind it didn't really deliver this trope.)

In terms of plot tropes, I must admit to loving a plotline where a hero has to do something bad in order to avoid something worse happening. Bonus points if no one ever knows the why, and it just looks like he's gone villainous.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Eclipse on September 13, 2015, 01:51:05 PM
Possibly relatedly, another favourite character trope is the hero who's been heroing long enough to rub the shine off it, and who knows it's all just mud and blood at the end. Basically, give me an older chap who's embarrassed about his own heroic legend and complains about how his knees hurt, and I'm probably halfway to sold. (Which is why it surprises even me that I didn't enjoy The Name of the Wind, but to my mind it didn't really deliver this trope.)

Sounds like you would love Legend (Drenai) by David Gemmel
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Hedin on September 13, 2015, 03:03:51 PM
Possibly relatedly, another favourite character trope is the hero who's been heroing long enough to rub the shine off it, and who knows it's all just mud and blood at the end. Basically, give me an older chap who's embarrassed about his own heroic legend and complains about how his knees hurt, and I'm probably halfway to sold. (Which is why it surprises even me that I didn't enjoy The Name of the Wind, but to my mind it didn't really deliver this trope.)

Sounds like you would love Legend (Drenai) by David Gemmel

Yeah that immediately came to mind when I read his description.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Yora on September 13, 2015, 03:28:10 PM
That actually sounds exactly like Legend.

I am super-heaps fond of lady characters who have strength and power in traditional (for our society or their society) feminine roles - basically, ladies who have been raised and trained to be "proper ladies" who nevertheless move and shake. It's a powerful subversion of the idea that there's no power in lady-business. The best example I can think of right now is Clara in Daniel Abraham's Dagger and Coin books, but Guy Gavriel Kay's work is also full of great examples.

Yeah, I agree. I feel that this whole Strong Independent WomanTM thing more often than not ends up as "To earn respect, a woman has to become a man".
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Justan Henner on September 13, 2015, 04:55:00 PM
That actually sounds exactly like Legend.

I am super-heaps fond of lady characters who have strength and power in traditional (for our society or their society) feminine roles - basically, ladies who have been raised and trained to be "proper ladies" who nevertheless move and shake. It's a powerful subversion of the idea that there's no power in lady-business. The best example I can think of right now is Clara in Daniel Abraham's Dagger and Coin books, but Guy Gavriel Kay's work is also full of great examples.

Yeah, I agree. I feel that this whole Strong Independent WomanTM thing more often than not ends up as "To earn respect, a woman has to become a man".

Well then, ? Let's get down to business... ?

EDIT: *sigh* let's just pretend those question marks are music notes, shall we? The alt code worked in the preview, but it seems to be a liar.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: DDRRead on September 14, 2015, 09:17:54 AM
Possibly relatedly, another favourite character trope is the hero who's been heroing long enough to rub the shine off it, and who knows it's all just mud and blood at the end. Basically, give me an older chap who's embarrassed about his own heroic legend and complains about how his knees hurt, and I'm probably halfway to sold. (Which is why it surprises even me that I didn't enjoy The Name of the Wind, but to my mind it didn't really deliver this trope.)

Sounds like you would love Legend (Drenai) by David Gemmel

Yeah that immediately came to mind when I read his description.

You might also like Luke Scull's The Grim Company books too. I just read the second and your description exactly matches the hero Brodar Kayne who was complaining about his knees. They're fun, but not as good as Gemmel.
Title: Re: Favorite Tropes??
Post by: Rostum on September 14, 2015, 03:53:55 PM
I loathe the strong women tag and think it is ultimately counterproductive. It implies there are two types of female characters strong and weak. Writing is rarely that simple (nor is life).
If you want a characters with real strength read the Liars key. There are three siblings in that book that have to be the definition of strong. The two females have done terrible things and the male was a willing sacrifice, but you believe they would all die before they would admit defeat.
Be they male or female a well written, believable character beats strong hands down.