Avoid Those Tired Tropes

Some old adages merit our attention as writers, particularly those of us who write speculative fiction. In the most recent post, Scott Seldon discussed the breadth of science fiction sub-types. Within speculative fiction, a broad genre indeed, there are so many more sub-genres, branches, and tributaries to explore.

Why, then, do we see so many repetitions of the most currently popular niches?

Here’s one such adage: if you’ve seen it/read it/heard it before, it’s been done.

It could well be argued that there is little truly original under the sun, but as I go through my email notices of new queries on AQC, I find so many young writers jumping on certain bandwagons, I’m surprised those wagons don’t tip over. Or have they?

Many years ago a man named Stoker terrified readers with an epistolary novel about a creature of the night who needed the blood of the living to survive in his Gothic realm. The undercurrents of the creature were erotic, but he, Dracula, remained a figure of horror, stalking prey in the shadows of night.

Then came teen vampires, nasty bloodsuckers. And then new blood, as it were, gushed forth when a certain writer brought the eroticism out of the shadows, and the vampire’s seduction became a homo-erotic apotheosis.

New life, or un-death, was breathed into the vamp. He was dangerous, of course, but the danger became alluring.

Enter the Twilight saga. Full disclosure: I have not read any of the books, nor have I seen any of the movies, nor do I intend to. I want my vamps scary. And now, he’s been overdone. He needs some time in a coffin in a dank cellar.

My point? I see query after query for slightly modified versions of the same story. If that many writers are writing what they just (sigh) love, love, love, one can be pretty well assured that ship has sailed.

Be brave. Ask new questions. Invent new twists, new futures, new pasts. Create different worlds.

Build a new world. New creatures, new gods. Explore old ones in new ways. Spec Fic is wonderful for the latitude it allows, from science fiction to fantasy to Gothic horror and beyond. Go beyond.

Stay off that bandwagon. Do not follow the herd. Don’t chase trends. Boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before.

I had a teacher once, maybe the best writing teacher a young kid could have had, who laid down a rule that any story or paper turned in using the word “thing” would receive an automatic F. Not that it’s a bad word. But it’s a crutch. She insisted we be specific, that there was always a better word than “thing,” and to use it without thinking of the more specific choice was pure laziness.

I would use that concept as a challenge. Don’t write about vampires, or werewolves, or soul-stealers, demons, or fallen angels. Not there isn’t a place for all of them. Not that there can’t be wonderful re-castings of those tropes. But isn’t speculative fiction about speculating?

What if…?

Never stop wondering. Question everything. In those questions are worlds of stories.

What do you think? Agree or disagree?


2 thoughts on “Avoid Those Tired Tropes

  1. Debra says:

    My sister and I (after seeing the final Twilight for kicks and left angry at how bad it was) witnessed a preview of a Zombie love story movie. We’ve hit the all time low.

  2. I haven’t seen the trailer, but I know about the book and movie. I agree. Let’s hope it all wears itself out soon, and speculative fiction can begin to explore new avenues, hopefully not all of them YA as well.

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