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Transcript: Tropes and Story Planning Ideas

Hi, this is Deb with Writing Smarter Radio. And today we’re going to talk about tropes. And we’re going to get started getting your ideas down so you can start your story. When we talk about tropes, we’re talking about things that are recognizable elements that come up in stories over and over. Have you ever said, “I love stories with….” that generally leads to a trope.

So I’m going to give an example for multiple genres so that you can get an idea of what I’m talking about a little closer here. Maybe you if you read romance, you might be like, “Oh, I love a friends to lovers story, or I love an enemies to lovers story.”

They are tropes. In a mystery, you might be like, “I love a bumbling detective. Oh, I love a story with an amateur detective or sleuth.” Maybe an action might be like, “I need to see, I like that underdog, an unexpected hero, or an emotionally wounded tough guy hero.” Maybe in sci fi, you’re like, “Oh, I love to read books about parallel worlds, or AI uprisings.” Thrillers could be, “I love a book that has an unreliable narrator.” Or maybe horror, maybe you like reading about abandoned amusement parks and empty buildings and places like that.

Tropes are recognized elements that you’ll see in multiple stories. And they’re things that people look for. They’re a certain type of book. So there are elements that are actually good to have. People worry if they follow tropes that they’re going to be formulaic. But it’s really not like that. It’s just telling the audience what type of book it is, what type of characters they are, or what to expect. So it registers something within them that says, “Oh, I love these kind of books, and they want to pick it up and read it.”

Now, when you think about different shows, think about how many TV shows have had stories or outlines based on a bunch or a group of friends. Okay, so Friends, obviously, but look at Seinfeld, completely different feel than Friends, it doesn’t really matter. If you have the same thing. If you go back 30 years, you got 90210, or Beverly Hills 9021, a group of friends and totally different show because the characters and situations are unique, along with the way they interact with each other. Each show is unique.

Think about William Shakespeare, what if, because he wrote star-crossed lovers first, there was never a book about that ever again. It wouldn’t make sense. So it’s just an idea. But just because it’s been written doesn’t mean it can’t be written in different ways. Here’s another example of groups of friends completely different shows. Look at the comparison of Big Bang Theory vs. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, completely different shows. And yet, it’s groups of friends that hang out together, and you follow their interactions. So how you create this will be unique to your story and your characters. But those recognizable elements will tell readers, this is a book you’ll be interested in because it’s about this.

Another way to change up tropes is to twist them around a little bit, give somebody what they’re expecting in an unexpected way. Maybe people think of the bumbling detective like the detective on Death in Paradise or Colombo. Instead make it a female detective that’s a bumbling detective, and messy or has issues. Look at the story, Monk, if you ever watched that show, they took a character and made him very unique based on specific ideas. So you can take these tropes and you can use the general idea. But twist it a little bit. Make it your own.

When it comes to writing tropes, there’s no good or there’s no bad, there’s no rules. You don’t have to follow anything. They’re just ideas just like everything in your writing. Do what feels right for you and for your story. Try it out, get ideas, a good resource to look at some of the different tropes to get ideas is at TV Tropes.org. And I’ll put it in the show notes for you. But it’s a great resource for inspiration. When you’re not really sure what you want to wire right. You have a general idea, and you’re trying to get a feel for different areas that trigger and go oh, yeah, you know what, that would be great. I have this awesome idea. Get inspiration from multiple places, and then take them and make those your own by making them unique in your characters and twisting things up. That’s about what we’re going to cover on tropes today. I just wanted to get you an idea about that because you’re probably starting to hear that word a little more often. And it’s not really a phrase that’s used in general speaks so much. It’s more when you get talking with writers or people very involved in entertainment, who use those terms. So hopefully, if you hadn’t heard of it before, you now know what it is and understand a little better. And if you had and weren’t sure exactly what it meant, hopefully the examples gave you a better outline or picture.

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The next thing I want to talk about is writing from A to Z. And I have a really simple way to expand on ideas when you’re confused about how to get from the beginning to the end of your story, what has to happen.

So, grab a piece of paper and a pen or open up a document, and I want you to number it one through three, and we’re going to look at this sort of like a map a road map. So number one, you’re going to put the very beginning of your story, something happens. So you’ve got to figure out what happens to start your story off, then you’re going to leave number two blank. I want you to then go to number three, and write how you want your story to end. What do you want to happen at the end? Once you have that information written? Look at number two, what needs to happen in the story for your character to get from number one to number three, take a few moments and think about that. And then fill it in.

For example, if you have a mystery, something happens in the beginning, a crime scene they find a dead body. Skip number two. Number three is how’s it going to end? they solve the mystery and get justice and catch the person who did the crime. So if you go back to number two, what has to happen? Okay, well, we’ll say number two is they have to interview suspects, the only way they’re going to know is if they talk to the suspects, right and gather clues. Okay, so now we have one, two, and three. Now, below that, I want you to number one through five. And I want you to put number one down in your slot of number one, I want you to put number two, into the slot of number three. And I want you to put number three into the slot of number five. Now, number two, and number four are blank, what has to happen in that blank number two spot between them finding the body. And then then interviewing suspects, were going to fill that slot in number two. So maybe they found a clue or somebody comes to them with information. And just like the blind spot, that’s number four, what has to happen between interviewing suspects, and number three, and number five, solving the crime while they have to eliminate people. So eliminating people would be number four, and you keep repeating this process. So then you would drop down again and leave spaces between each of those things until you roll out your storyline.

This is a quick, easy way to take you from the beginning to end when you’re not really sure how to get there. So it’s just a quick little exercise, you can make it as simple or complicated as you need. But if you were stuck on how to get from the beginning to the end, you can keep expanding it as much as you’d like. Do it 20 times, do it twice, do it enough times that you know where you’re headed with your story and what has to happen to get you to the next scene in your story.

When it comes to writing stories, there’s a lot of different tools and tricks you can use. The best way to go about it is finding what works for you because what works for me might not work for you. And I might not be the person to guide you. You may be listening to this and go you know, this just doesn’t click for me. Or you might be like, wow, finally somebody is putting in a way that is making it click for me. Finding what works for you is really a priority. And again, there are no rules. It’s just general ideas or helpful tips and resources or patterns that work for some people. Figuring out how to make it work for you, is most important.

Some people will sit down and write for an hour straight. For me that doesn’t work. I need to write in smaller spurts. But it took trial and error it took taking the time to try different ways and seeing what felt right. So try out some of these things that I’m offering. See if they work for you. Keep the things that work, ignore or throw away the things Sit down. But the more information you absorb, eventually something’s going to speak to you. And if it gets you motivated to write your story, all the better.

Next week, we’re going to talk about writing books and some of my favorites, and what stood out to me with these different books. So a lot of resources that should be fun. This is Deb with Writing Smarter Radio. I appreciate you joining me. If you enjoyed the show today, can you please consider leaving a review that would help us out greatly and thank you for your time. I appreciate you joining me. Have a great day. Bye bye

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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