1. Sean Payne

    Sean Payne New Member

    Jun 8, 2016
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    How do I avoid tropes in this plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Sean Payne, Jun 8, 2016.

    I've had this idea for a story, but as I began writing out the plot and thinking about it, I keep realizing how heavily it relies on tropes and cliches. This is intended to be something like a dark fantasy/horror story, but I feel even in this genre it still relies to heavily on cliches from other genres, and that may not be enough to create a solid, memorable story. Unless I'm just overthinking it and don't realize it, but I'm trying to improve.

    In short, the plot is based on a man who falls into depression and begins drinking after his wife dies of a sickness in the 1700s. Becoming an alcoholic, he starts becoming angry and making bad decisions, eventually inadvertently killing their only son in a drunken rage. He flees the law and drifts at sea until finding a group of islands, then ends up needing to face symbolic versions of his inner conflicts on each island, eventually leading to him coming to terms with the terrible person he's become and wanting to seek forgiveness from his son's and wife's spirits by facing his fate and turning himself in. After going through all the trials of the islands and creating real change in himself through his experiences, the environment fades out and a new one fades in. He is now standing in front of a crowd with a noose around his neck with a priest reading him his last rites. He realizes all the events that happened on the islands were all in his mind, his moral subconscious attempting to resolve his deepest inner conflicts and lead him down the right path. Physically, nothing has happened, he has been in a state of shock, and "checked out" up until now, right before he is about to be hanged for the killing of his son. But the change came from within himself. Even though he has no other choice, interanally, he accepts and embraces his coming death, hoping it's enough to recieve forgiveness from the ones he's done wrong.

    As you can tell, this is probably loaded with cliches and tropes from beginning to end. I've only written a few other stories, so I don't have much experience yet but I'm striving to be better.

    Does anyone have any tips or ideas on how to replace the tropes? (Drunk farher, mental illness, dead wife, "twist" ending, "all in his mind", etc.)

    Any insight, critiques, or ideas on this would be incredibly helpful!

    Thank you!
  2. izzybot

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

    Jun 3, 2015
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    SC, USA
    Well, tropes are not bad. Something can be tropey but still well-written and enjoyable. The only thing in your brief synopsis that I'd take issue with is the twist itself. "It was all in their mind" twists pretty much always come across as cheap to me - you're selling me on this whole plot and then telling me nope, none of it happened, none of it was really important. At this point that kind of twist doesn't blow anyone's mind (unless you can find ways to play with it), it just makes them go "oh, it's one of those kinds of things," you know?

    I'd be much more interested in a guy who goes on the run after accidentally killing his kid and ending up on an island. I'd commit to that plot. Of course, that's a pretty big change from what you've got, but it's the first thing I think of. Beyond that I'd say that complication is the enemy of tired tropes - don't think of them as tropes you're sort of fulfilling, think of them as individual cases / plot points and expand on each thing (dead wife, drunk father, etc) and try to make it as different and novel as you can. Play with the trope; don't play it straight.
    Sean Payne likes this.

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