A trope addiction

It looks simple and harmless, but little did I know that clicking a link as inconspicuous as thousands of other links I encounter online a few months ago would change the way I see fiction forever. And the scary thing is that it really did.

Tropes are, simply put, elements authors add to their works of fiction to spice things up. We all have different perceptions of what makes something interesting, but tropes are exactly that—so ingrained in our minds that when we see tropes in action in a show, book, or a game, we perceive them as something as natural as breathing. A show is not a show without tropes. How exactly do they work?

Have you ever found yourself questioning why, out of thousands of Imperial Stormtroopers in Star Wars, not a single one could land a single hit on The Hero? That’s because our Stormtrooper friends are prime examples of graduates of the “Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy” trope, where they are trained to shoot anywhere as long as The Hero is not there. Ever wondered how, for dear life, Tekken characters keep perfectly normal faces even after exchanging numerous outrageously strong blows that would put demolition machinery to shame? That is “Beauty is Never Tarnished” in full action here for you. Gamers among us most probably do not care how the Dragon born in Skyrim could carry tonnes of armor, helmets, swords, battle axes, staves, potions, food, books, gems, bones, scales, and just about everything else and still manage to run full speed in the virtual world for as long as we enjoy the game, thanks to the almighty “Hammerspace Arsenal.”

Nobody really cares why they happen, yet we have come to accept them for what they are, simply because they work and nobody is complaining. Those are tropes for you. Tropes are what are left when you break apart a work of fiction piece by piece. Taken together, they create a hot pot of various plot elements that tell a story, indicate a scenario, or whatever it is the author wants. They are simple, yet are the heart of narrative fiction.

But what really made me see tropes as amazing and scary at the same time is that they hooked me from the moment I got to know them. Stopping by TV Tropes for me is an easy a four hour session of tabbed browsing and trope-esque revelation.

“Tropes are Not Bad,” of course. Knowing more about tropes has made me a critical consumer of fiction, in as much as this publication aims to make any reader a critical thinker.

Moreover, tropes have made me realize the value and sense of accomplishment in doing something yourself, kind of like that feeling when using a really long formula instead of using a shortcut. By knowing and identifying the tropes associated with a certain work, I would get a clearer idea of how events are going to work out. As a show plays out, I start analyzing every scene and every quote in an attempt to guess how it might end, instead of just taking everything in. To know your tropes is to know how they work within the show, given a fictional setting. After all, anything can happen in fiction.

I still find myself at pains to explain how the tropes I come across fit in with the books, movies and games I have read, watched or played.

But after hours (months) of troping around, maybe “Tropes are Not Good” for me after all. The power of the Trope comes at the risk of spoiling entire shows especially when you know who killed who even before the first episode of a series ends. In addition, I have found myself hard pressed to find new ways of enjoying fiction without becoming some kind of obsessive literary know-it-all all the time. But at the same time, tropes have allowed me to identify novels, games or movies that stand out from the rest.

Now that I have reached this far and told you the best I can what nifty little things tropes are, it is your turn. Try looking the site up when you have the time (plenty of time, I mean).

Disclaimer: I will not be held liable for spoiling all the movies you will ever watch for the rest of your life. You have been warned.

By the way, this article took me five hours to write, thanks to an opened Opera tab linked to TV Tropes just an Alt+Tab away. Just saying.

Ronnel Tumangday

By Ronnel Tumangday

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