March 23, 2019, 01:09:32 PM

Author Topic: New Tropes and Cliches  (Read 613 times)

Offline Neveesandeh

New Tropes and Cliches
« on: February 15, 2019, 11:18:32 AM »
It's long been an ambition of mine to write something subverting fantasy cliches, but I've noticed something. A lot of the traditional fantasy tropes, even if they are still overused in games and films, aren't really seen in books that much anymore. There are still lots of chosen one stories, for example, but the authors now nearly always know to do something creative with it.

This is excellent, but I can't help but wondering if there are any new cliches and overused tropes in more recent works. I haven't had the chance to read more recent fantasy for a while and I was curious as to whether anyone who has might have noticed a few reoccurring themes.

The only one I can think of off the top of my head is grimdark stories throwing in gratuitous violence and misery for pure shock value.

Offline ScarletBea

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Re: New Tropes and Cliches
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2019, 12:09:22 PM »
As I was reading your post I thought of violence too, but I don't think (at least in the books I've read), that it's gratuitous or just for the shock value.
I guess I just miss light funny books to alternate with the heavy dark ones... off the top of my head I can only remember the Greatcoats series by Sebastien de Castell and @OnlyOneHighlander's Here be dragons book that fit in this group that I've read recently.
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Offline Neveesandeh

Re: New Tropes and Cliches
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2019, 12:55:39 PM »
I should probably clarify I don't have a problem with dark or violent books, but that the only example I could think of for a more recent cliche is often found in poorly written grimdark where the writer is just trying to be edgy rather than use the violence to serve the themes and story. But I'm on relatively familiar ground with overused grimdark tropes, Terrible Writing Advice did a fantastic video and article on the subject. I'm more interested in tropes from across the fantasy genre as a whole that have only become prevalent more recently.

One is the world being post-apocalyptic, or having been post-apocalyptic at some time in the past. The Broken Empire, The Demon Cycle and The Broken Earth a;; come to mind. I enjoyed all three of those series, but often setting the story in a post-apocalyptic world doesn't really add anything to it.

Offline Elfy

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Re: New Tropes and Cliches
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2019, 10:14:33 PM »
One that’s being used a bit now to great effect is races that were formerly villains, or actual villains being used as the ‘good guys’.

Offline Skip

Re: New Tropes and Cliches
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2019, 01:37:14 AM »
Somewhat along the same lines as Elfy, what I see is the subversion of tropes itself becoming cliche'd. Maybe the subversive choice today would be to go back to the classics.

Offline cupiscent

Re: New Tropes and Cliches
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2019, 02:08:24 AM »
I have felt recently that the anti-hero, the grimdark MC, the jaded-bitter-warrior-who's-all-shades-of-grey is the new cliche/trope. I'm enjoying a bit of a swing away from that in stuff I'm reading recently, some books that are subverting that by having characters who are genuinely and earnestly trying to do good and the right thing, though that is sometimes a very complicated thing.

So maybe Skip's right, and the subversion is swinging back to the "hero genuinely does the right thing". :)

Offline Peat

Re: New Tropes and Cliches
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2019, 08:51:16 AM »
I'm with Skip here. Inverted tropes are the new tropes. But the old tropes still retain a huge impact, so they've got you coming and going.
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Offline Neveesandeh

Re: New Tropes and Cliches
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2019, 12:35:22 PM »
I would definitely agree that the subversions of various tropes have become tropes in their own right, but I would only go as far to call them cliche if the same subversion of a trope is seen over and over again, as is the case with the overly grimdark protagonist as a subversion of the heroic farm boy. (Another subject Terrible Writing Advice did a great video on.)

Right now I'm thinking an interesting way to subvert the standard grimdark protagonist would be by giving him a few redeeming features, (Something well written dark stories tend to do already) and a dull way to subvert it would be to replace him or her with the standard farm boy we've seen a thousand times before.*

I definitely think that overly cliched works have seen a marked decline in recent years, which I'm very happy about, but while I'm fine with being influenced by someone else's ideas, I don't want to shamelessly copy them with no thought of my own.

*I'm pretty sure there's a few stories that go the other way and give the farm boy hero a few serious drawbacks. I think the 'Wheel of Time' series does this, but I've only read the first book.

Offline Skip

Re: New Tropes and Cliches
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2019, 07:03:27 PM »
Another one. It's not new new, but it's newish new: fantasy played for laughs, often but not always by using orcs or goblins or such.

Note that when I say something has become a new trope I'm not saying that it's bad. Anything can be written well or poorly. But if you roll back to, say, the 1970s, you see very few examples of fantasy-as-satire. Silverlock comes to mind. Not much else. SF has a longer tradition of this.
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Offline tebakutis

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Re: New Tropes and Cliches
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2019, 08:57:19 PM »
I have felt recently that the anti-hero, the grimdark MC, the jaded-bitter-warrior-who's-all-shades-of-grey is the new cliche/trope. I'm enjoying a bit of a swing away from that in stuff I'm reading recently, some books that are subverting that by having characters who are genuinely and earnestly trying to do good and the right thing, though that is sometimes a very complicated thing.

So maybe Skip's right, and the subversion is swinging back to the "hero genuinely does the right thing". :)

I second this perception (moving back to heroes who genuinely do the right thing) and I believe the kids are calling it "hopepunk" (Joseph Brassey's Skyfarer is a great example).

Re: New Tropes and Cliches
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2019, 08:29:24 AM »
The whole 'subverting tropes' thing has been done many times now. People have been doing it for decades.

What we think of as our favourite modern fantasy tends to be exactly that. Joe Abercrombie's First Law is a total send up/subversion of classic tropes (heroic barbarian from the north, wise old wizard, quest to find magic artefact etc.). Look around the genre and you'll see that much of what we love to read today is subversion, but done cleverly and subtly.

The one trope that gets used over and over without any real subversion is the magic school trope. Potter, Nevernight, Red Sister, the list goes on and on. It seems that 'learn magic, child' has staying power.
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Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: New Tropes and Cliches
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2019, 08:26:21 PM »
Maybe it would be someone not completely subverting the tropes, just twisting them in a different way. But even that isn't really new. That's pretty much what Sanderson does in most of his books. Similarly, I think John Gwynne's Faithful and the Fallen series is a nice twist on the Chosen One trope (and a great read in general).

Offline Neveesandeh

Re: New Tropes and Cliches
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2019, 09:01:22 AM »
One idea I've been thinking about lately is that fantasy is not so much a genre as a setting or an aesthetic. If a genre is thought of as a story that will include a number of particular beats (eg. a heist story will include a heist, a love story will be about two people forming a relationship etc.) So a subversive attitude to a particular story would include not only twisting the tropes of fantasy, but also those of the genre it falls into.

My first book, which I'm currently rewriting was essentially an action adventure story, and those tend to follow the hero's journey template to some extent. With that in mind, I've attempted to use the story to mock this template and criticise it. Three characters start off on their own versions of a hero's journey. One fails and dies. Another returns home but is completely unchanged and the third reaches their destination but refuses to return to the so called 'ordinary world'.

Offline Skip

Re: New Tropes and Cliches
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2019, 04:32:11 PM »
Silverlock is the earliest example of this I can recall. Leaving aside Bored of the Rings, which was more satire than subversion.
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Offline Elfy

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Re: New Tropes and Cliches
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2019, 01:23:25 AM »
Silverlock is the earliest example of this I can recall. Leaving aside Bored of the Rings, which was more satire than subversion.
Bored of the Rings was great fun, but it was really a parody of the original.
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