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  1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    A dozen tropes and still a best seller?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by GingerCoffee, Sep 27, 2015.

    I tried reading City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, Book 1). I didn't get past the first few pages because it was about demons and demon hunters (called shadow hunters) and right away it was just the same old story and it bored me.

    But it was a best seller and they made it into a movie so I got it from the library, figuring I was still curious about the story even if I couldn't stand reading it.

    Let's see how many tropes I can remember.

    Chosen one, the protagonist finds out as a teen she has special powers.
    Human male companion (best friend) loves her but she doesn't love him.
    The new love interest, a shadow hunter, which we later find out she is also, turns out to be her brother.
    The new love interest not yet known to be a brother has two close friends (a brother and sister). The brother is hostile. She confronts him and says she knows he's jealous because he's in love with the new love interest not yet known to be her brother.
    I kid you not, the brother has a sword fight with the father who is evil. The swords glow bright blue with each clang.
    There are vampires, aligned with the evil demons.
    A pack of werewolves show up to fight the vampires, the werewolves are aligned with the angels.
    The mother who left the evil father is hinted to be angelic.
    There's a chalice that the girl has a suppressed memory of that she finds, everyone is after the chalice.
    When she uncovers the chalice her father tries to force her to drink his blood out of it because it will make her more powerful (and of course, also evil).
    There are assorted demons and witches.
    And in the last scene the brother tells her "all the stories are true".
    Apparently you can steal from every Star Wars/Harry Potter/Twilight story out there and people will still buy the book.

     
  2. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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  3. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    Tropes aren't really tools. A better analogy would be "tropes are building materials."
    And while it's true that tropes aren't inherently bad, tropes that get used too often become cliche, and packing a story with cliches makes the entire experience feel like you're simply re-reading the same old story.
     
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  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I don't have an issue using one or even a couple tropes. I have the two guys love one girl trope in my book. But that's as far as it goes. She doesn't decide between them, she always only loves one. And in the second book the other guy finds a woman he finds mutual love with.

    I'm pretty sure most novels have at least an element or two that were done before. But that many? How is that book not just a rehash of other people's stuff?
     
  5. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you know just how many tropes there are? Take any two novel-length narratives and you can find dozens of tropes they share in common. Hundreds if you look hard enough.
     
  6. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    Just because something has been done before, doesn't mean it's been done with the same frequency. It doesn't need to be original, it just needs to be reasonably fresh.
     
  7. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Void

    You are right; my link to the "tropes are tools" page was my knee-jerk reaction to the OP counting the pre-existing tropes in a story as a metric of its originality.

    In reality, the issue is not that a cliché story contains old tropes, but that it offers so little interesting material of its own in addition to the old tropes that the audience notices the old tropes more.
     
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  8. Kingtype
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    Kingtype Always writing or thinking things XD Staff Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    I must not read enough normal fantasy.

    Well I do love fantasy and scifi don't get a brotha wrong ;) but I don't think I've ever really read a book without that stuff in it at once well aside from the classic stuff maybe but yeah a lot of the same tropes show up sometime.

    But I'm cool with it if I really see as the author's own work. Of course it always ALWAYS best to be as original as you and push your imagination but if I feel that the author is doing something interesting and or creative with old tropes then I dig it.

    Now when it comes to the writing stand point, I'm someone personally who when it comes to fantastical works really loves originality and I'm always trying to do something never before done or rarely done. But on the flipside.

    The project that's really in my head right now and I'm getting passionate about at the moment is just an urban fantasy .....lol with all the demons, vampires, werewolves etc (I think will be in it). It just sort of happened.

    So its certainly an interesting question.

    While I think every writer wants to be original and have like a work that is truly their own by the same token besides that, I really do think a lot of us want to write at least one thing or one series that's like our big homage/spiritual successor/influences that really really got us into reading and more importantly the ones that made us say "Hey I can do this!" or a combination of both sometimes.....a lot of variables XD

    Not sure if that's a good theory or not or really how people it applies to.

    Not sure if that really answered anything or helped but it was a thought I had. Also like the others noted, tropes are tools and we should not hesitate to exploit, deconstruct, reconstruct, shape, break and do whatever with them to craft a good story. :)

    Be wild with em and do your best to make new ones!
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This ^, but make that, "so little interesting material of its own in addition to the old tropes that" is all the audience notices.
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Those things areally popular for a reason - a lot of people like them. You're not likely to hurt yourself by recycling a stack of popular tropes in a work. Television and movies count on that.
     
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  11. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    It's one thing to use the trope and tweak them to make it an interesting, fun little ride. It's another to take them and just follow the well-worn ruts set by dozens of authors before you. Let me look at this and add a little spin on the tropes Ginger laid out:


    OK, what do you think of this, GingerCoffee?​
     
  12. Kingtype
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    Kingtype Always writing or thinking things XD Staff Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    So wait the vampires are the true creators of the universe or the demons are?
     
  13. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    I completely agree that the book is full of tropes, but some of your points bother me 'cause they're inaccurate.

    1) The brother of the main love interest is in love with him. Since when does that ever happen? Dude has a gay crush on his brother?
    2) The vampires weren't aligned with the demons in that way
    3) It's basic that werewolves and vampires are natural enemies - also a trope - but the werewolves aren't that favored by the shadowhunters. Shadowhunters hate werewolves/vampires almost equally, but get along with the werewolves more 'cause technically they're not "damned" like vampires are. It's a major theme that the "Bad guy" (the father) is trying to make ALL of the downworlders enemies/extinct (faeries, werewolves, vampires)
    4) Where are all the witches? I missed the witches.

    I won't spoil the brother-sister love interest for other people who wish to read the books, but that's not 100% true either.
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Keep in mind I couldn't get into the book, I only saw the movie.

    1) I'm sure I wasn't clear but what I was saying was, of the three friends, there was the brother (Alec) and sister (Isabelle) and the protagonist's love interest (Jace). The protagonist (Clary) confronts Alec who has been hostile toward her and says something to the effect, "you don't like me because you are in love with Jace.
    2) However the vamps were aligned, they attacked the shadowhunters and the werewolves came to their rescue. That's why I put them on the demon side.
    3) Whether the werewolves are aligned with the shadowhunters or not, Luke was an ally with Clary's mother so in the movie they were on the shadowhunter's side.
    4) The woman downstairs in the apartment building who had the Taro cards was a witch. And wasn't that guy who was keeping Clary's memory suppressed also a witch?

    So what you are saying is, all the stories are true means the subsequent books will have faeries as well? :p

    Re the Jace/Clary love thing, I assumed they weren't going to end up being real brother and sister at some point. Unlike Luke and Princess Leia whose kiss was brief and the movie never built up sexual tension between them. It seemed to me, being as so much in the movie was predictable, that all that sexual tension between them is headed for conflict as they are attracted to each other and now think it's forbidden love. Personally I find the angle very creepy.
    I take it you found the book interesting. I'm not trying to diss the writers here who write and love to read this kind of fantasy. I'm sorry if it came across that way. It's just my personal reading preferences. I don't claim to have a monopoly on what's good.

    I did however, think this particular story recycled everything and had very little of its own to offer.

    Perhaps book two is an improvement?
     
  15. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I also though the book was pretty bad. But I've read other similar stuff that was more fun and really wasn't bringing a whole lot new to the table. The fact that these works sell so well despite being variations on a lot of really common tropes goes to show that at least from a commercial standpoint, originality isn't really a requirement of success.
     
  16. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I see there is a TV series in the works.
     
  17. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    In this case, no training, her powers are by birthright. All she has to do is shine the magic wand on her skin someplace and a tattoo with new magic power appears.

    Which reminds me, the tattoo on the palm that subdues the demons is straight out of Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
     
  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'm pleased to report I do not have a television.
     
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  19. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I think there's security in tropes it's like being on a roller coaster you've been on a hundred times - you're still thrilled even though you know every twist and turn.

    Does anyone kind of back away slowly when they hear some of these tropes? I remember being a child who couldn't wait for the next Sweet Valley High rip off - all you had to do was mention a girly trope - this book is about a group of girls and - I'll take it.

    Now I just hear some of these tropes/clichés/ whatchayacallits and I just want to run screaming. Not another chosen character!!! - and why are they all hot teens?
     
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  20. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I think that's my problem. I read demon hunters, vampires, werewolves, and teen romance and I'm instantly bored. But give me something new, Chimera, Angels (not the god kind), moving between universes and teen (or young adult) romance and I can't get enough.
     
  21. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    ...

    Then...what's your furniture pointed at?

    I haven't read MI, but I have read some of the prequel series, The Infernal Devices, and they're actually pretty good. They have a much darker tone, and avoid the romantic wangsting. of course, the steampunk setting was a plus, too.
     
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  22. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My problem isn't always necessarily with the tropes, but the often inevitable predictability that come with them. They only work for me when an author throws in what I think is going to be cliched but then inverts it, turns it upside down, in other words, makes me expect the obvious outcome and then actually doesn't go down that road.

    The tropes you listed, Ginger, did make never want to read these books, to be honest. I guess there are certain tropes that just piss me off, no matter what, like the chosen one (I liked it as a kid) and the two boys in love with the same she-doesn't-know-she's-hot girl, one of them a nerd, one of them a hottie, and yet, somehow, the girl picks the nerd, which really isn't my experience in the real world, and then I want to wall-bang the shit out of the book. I freely admit it, I'm not in the audience for that type of stories, although I can understand why they're popular -- I guess it's a titillating fantasy to lots of girls and women as long as it doesn't come with the real world drama and collateral damage of two guys fighting over you 'cause instead of flattering, it's just exhausting.

    But I digress. The formula this author is using sells like hot cakes, it seems, so I'm not surprised an agent sniffed a money-maker in it. After its target audience has devoured this series, The Divergent, Hunger Games, Twilight etc. they will want more and luckily there doesn't seem to be any shortage of such books.
     
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  23. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    The demons are the true creators of the universe and the vampires are the soldiers and protectors of the universe. And, um, the girl's not a girl. The main character is a grungy old guy with a missing eye and warts. And he has to basically... Oh god.

    I dunno, man, I'm just trying to make the tropes of this odd novel less cliched. :p

    @GingerCoffee - Oh God, that's just horrid. Really? It's almost as bad as sparkly vampires.

    @peachalulu - You're correct. I suppose some people are just comfortable with what they read, even if it's the same exact story told millions of times just with different characters and settings. :/ Eh, whatever floats their boats I guess. Those books don't really appeal to me, though.
     
  24. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I hate hate the she-doesn't-know-she's-hot girl! I have no idea where this idea came from ... I have never met a good looking girl that didn't know she was hot. Now, I've met girls that didn't care whether they were hot and I've met some that were suspicious of compliments because they went through awkward stages or dropped a lot of weight but a true beauty who doesn't know it - pul-lease. For some reason it always feels like false humility. See how non-arrogant my character is. It's a teenager... she's supposed to be a tad arrogant.

    I'm slightly more tolerant of tropes in romance - it's kinda like reading a fairytale. Man meets woman - disaster keeps them apart - they overcome it. Princess gets her Prince - sigh. Alls right with the world.
     
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  25. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    I think the reason cliche stories like this sell so well are that the average reading doesn't care about tropes. The more discerning ones do, of course, but your average Joe that picks up the book because a friend said it was so good or there is a summer blockbuster adaptation coming out doesn't mind, and maybe doesn't even notice, if everything feels familiar and tired. To him, it's a new story. Maybe that's a sad statement to make, but maybe it's not. I think we try really hard as writers to come up with something mind-blowingly original and avoid using too many tropes, but in the end the middle-of-the-road, I-hated-english-class consumer devours fast food as easily as gourmet.
     
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