I firmly believe tvtropes.org 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.