Walking the Tigh-Trope

by Patrick LeClerc

Saw the new Deadpool movie recently. Loved it. Recently, I read a discussion about it, and one of the points brought up was the use of tropes and cliches, and was it enough to be self aware and hang a lampshade on the trope, or if it still counted as lazy writing. That got me thinking about tropes in general.

We’ve all heard that we should avoid cliches, and heard endless complaints about tired old tropes. And I’m sure we’ve all rolled our eyes when encountering the more worn out ones.

The thing is, they are almost impossible to avoid. Our storytelling tradition goes back a long way, and it’s hard to find something that hasn’t been used before. Whatever you’re thinking of doing, chances are Shakespeare already did it, and Homer probably did it before him.

I mean, what do Hercules, King Arthur, Frodo, Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter have in common? I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of the chosen one raised by a foster parent who has to go on the Hero’s Journey ™.

That doesn’t make it a bad thing. But we need to care about the Chosen One because he’s a compelling character. Write the character well, make us care. Don’t just assume we’ll take your word for it that this guy is kind of a big deal. I don’t care if he’s gonna be Darth Vader some day, when he whines about sand, I’m no longer impressed. Likewise, a hero can lose his family and move mountains to avenge them. But if I can see the expiration date on the wife in the first act, I’m rolling my eyes. Mentors can die, but, again, it has to make sense in the story.

Don’t use tropes like you’re following the assembly directions for Epic Fantasy by IKEA. Use them, but make us feel that it isn’t a trope. That it was the logical thing to happen.

So don’t worry about using an old, established theme. Worry about using it right.

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