Troping Along

5 Jul

I firmly believe is evil. But, as I tend to be more impressed than annoyed by classier forms of evil, I can’t help loving it. You should probably love it too, if you’re not already hating it for eating you life. It says TV right in the title but that doesn’t mean that terrible, wonderful website can’t be useful or relevant when dealing with other mediums, fiction writing included.

For those who have somehow navigated around the internet without encountering it, here’s a quick explanation. The site calls itself “a catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction;” the tricks being the tropes. It defines trope as “a conceptual figure of speech, a storytelling shorthand for a concept that the audience will recognize and understand instantly.” In short, storytelling conventions that we can recognize without noticing and inversions of the standard conventions we expect.

I love this site in part because you can look up almost anything you’ve watched or read and see not only things you might expect, like the Light Side of the Force in Star Wars being an example of Light is Good. But also Galadriel’s little crazy fit when offered the One Ring being some pretty clear Light is Not Good. “All shall love me and despair” indeed. Sometimes, the tropes aren’t widely recognized when present, like in Avatar and sometimes they’re Older Than Dirt and really hard to miss, like a Trojan Horse.

I TV troped my own work; it’s probably a no-no in some etiquette somewhere, but it was fun as anything and a nice break from doing something actually productive.

Evil is Cool is Priscilla’s whole motivation, and she is a Villain Protagonist which leads to all kinds of Grey and Gray Morality. Being a Villain Protagonist puts her in the same grouping as Dexter, Dr. Horrible, Elphaba, and the guys in The Producers. Weird grouping, huh? But those are all variations on the same theme and you can see the different ways in which tropes are used and abused. It’s also a good way to see, for yourself, that yes, everything has already been done. And not only has it been done, it’s been pulled apart and neatly categorized for faster digestion. At least you can make sure that you’re giving things your own spin and not trying to do something too close to what’s been done before.

So go ahead and do some research, get lost in the links, and maybe you’ll waste as much time as I did.


Jennifer Fitzgerald is the author of Priscilla the Evil along with several short stories and another novel on Fictionpress. She is starting grad school in the fall and until then is spending her time revising before continuing querying, and doing some archaeology. You can visit her blog here.

23 Responses to “Troping Along”

  1. Susan July 5, 2010 at 2:46 AM #

    Great post! I’d never heard of prior to this post, but now I’m addicted. Thanks for sharing. I must now depart and try to isolate my own WIP’s tropes…

    • jenn fitzgerald July 5, 2010 at 10:28 AM #

      Thanks Susan! I love the site, it’s soo much fun. Just remember to come out for food 🙂

  2. Kat Zhang July 5, 2010 at 3:17 AM #

    Ohmygosh, Jenn, you post-stealer–I was totally going to write about this! 😀 Just kidding, just kidding. Well, I mean, I WAS going to, but I’m not mad because this post is rocking. I love how you did a trope page for Priscilla. Am I being too nerdy by admitting that I will seriously cry if one day one of my stories has a page on tvtropes? Yes? …okay, moving on then 😛

    But seriously, I don’t even want to think about the number of hours I’ve spent looking through this site. You know it’s bad when you can start predicting what page a link will take you to just by reading the context around it…

    Ah,–stealer of studying time…

    • jenn fitzgerald July 5, 2010 at 10:32 AM #

      Muwahaha! (I’ve been practicing the laugh)

      Actually, I didn’t create a page for Priscilla because I’m not that crazy, but I found a decent number of the tropes that it fits and was debating whether of not to do a blogpost on them.

      I spent so much time on there senior year when I was avoiding my thesis that it’s kind of embarrassing but there’s still stuff I’ve never even heard of before.

  3. Myra July 5, 2010 at 3:47 AM #

    I love TV tropes, but absolutely, it is evil, lol. I’ve spent countless hours reading tropes on that site. It’s addicting. One page lead to anothe leads to another and on and on and on.

    And Kat, if I ever found something I published wound up on TV tropes, I would simultaneously be amused and terrified and unable to resist the pull of the page. XD

    • jenn fitzgerald July 5, 2010 at 10:55 AM #

      I know, once you get in it’s so hard to escape!

      I would totally not be above reading and adding to a page about my work if I get published.

  4. Royce Anne July 5, 2010 at 8:04 AM #

    Tvtropes is awesome! I love love love that site! :3 makes me laugh all the time…

    • jenn fitzgerald July 5, 2010 at 11:07 AM #

      I’m obsessed with it 🙂 I love the snarky style the entries are written in too.

  5. Vanessa July 5, 2010 at 9:18 AM #

    I have never used Tvtropes before…. but now I definitely will!

    • jenn fitzgerald July 5, 2010 at 11:21 AM #

      How have you avoided it? lol

      • Vanessa July 6, 2010 at 1:58 PM #

        I’ve never even HEARD of it before! (I know… I KNOW! Have I been living under a rock?!)

  6. Julie Eshbaugh July 5, 2010 at 10:56 AM #

    Hey Jenn! Great post! 🙂
    Never heard of before… sounds kinda interesting… maybe I’ll check it out one of these days… *dashes over to website faster than her typing fingers can carry her*

    • jenn fitzgerald July 5, 2010 at 11:22 AM #

      Thanks! Just remember, Julie, you’ll click on a couple links saying ‘just one more’ and then look up and realize that hours have gone by. 🙂

      • Julie Eshbaugh July 5, 2010 at 6:30 PM #

        OMGosh I did exactly that! It was fun to look up a series I’d really liked and thought I knew inside and out, and see how many tropes I had been oblivious to. Great GREAT post!

  7. kate July 5, 2010 at 12:24 PM #

    tvtropes is awesome. and i love the high snark factor! but it’s SUCH a time drain…i can never stop clicking on links!

    • jenn fitzgerald July 5, 2010 at 1:26 PM #

      I know! I have to drag myself away from it and it’s hard to do

  8. ralfast July 5, 2010 at 9:38 PM #

    I’m a TV Tropes addict (have 7 tabs open on it) but I never thought about troping my own work. I’ll have to give it a try!


    • jenn fitzgerald July 5, 2010 at 11:11 PM #

      It’s really fun but even more time consuming than regular surfing!

  9. Rowenna July 6, 2010 at 11:00 AM #

    I had never heard of this site before–and now I just spent way too much time reading it, laughing to myself!

    • jenn fitzgerald July 6, 2010 at 10:21 PM #

      Another convert 😀 I’m starting to think i frequent geekier sites than everyone else


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