As an author within the fantasy and sci-fi genres, one of the questions I often see posed in writing groups is how to avoid tropes. Most commonly, this in an attempt to ensure their work is original and therefore presenting a unique experience to the reader, which is a highly admirable goal. I applaud all those who manage to achieve this and publish an original masterpiece. Although, a fantasy or sci-fi novel without at least one trope, I would argue, is rare. So how do we avoid tropes? In my opinion, this is the wrong question to ask. The question we need to ask is how do I make this trope unique? The answer to this question is a matter of context. You must first have a extremely deep knowledge of the world in which your story occurs, know your characters better than you know your friends, and have a complete understanding of the mechanics of your world; be they magic in a fantasy setting or science in a sci-fi one. It is by understanding this context in which you find the opportunity to use a trope, but to make it unique. You are probably thinking ’this makes no sense’ at this point, so I will use an example to paint a picture of my words.
Tropes in fantasy and scifi
I believe it is fair to say that most people reading this would be familiar with the sci-fi trope of a artificial intelligence (AI) becoming sentient and using robots to attempt to exterminate the human race. I would place money on you picturing one of many Terminator movies right now, which is exactly what I want. So how do you make this trope unique noting the pop culture phenomena of the Terminator movies? To this, I would direct you to the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. In this, we follow the protagonist who is a sentient android designed to act as a security unit to protect humans but has a shady past in which he turned on the humans he was designated to protect and murdered them. Despite this, we follow Murderbot as he learns to operate without the artificial constraints that had originally placed on him. Although he does murder some other humans in the course of his adventures, he does not go on a rampage which is often depicted in the shows he so loves to watch. So, here we have a unique take on the sentient AI trope. One embedded in a unique world, and one with a unique character. Keep this in mind the next time you want to use a trope, or are trying to avoid them. Tropes are not necessarily a bad thing, but you have to bend them to the context of your story to make them unique. #fantasy #scifi #tropes #writing #tropesinwriting #writingadvice #writerlife #murderbotdiaries #AI #howto