Writer’s Toolbox – TV Tropes.org

Here’s a great website for aspiring authors to consult:
TV Tropes (http://tvtropes.org)
“This wiki is a catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction.”

What is a trope, anyway? A figure of speech, a convention, a concept.
“Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. We are here to recognize tropes and play with them, not to make fun of them.”

You don’t have to be a writer to appreciate (and have fun reading) TV Tropes, but for us, this website is a priceless reference tool. Going far beyond checking your characters for a “Mary Sue” , TV Tropes is a litmus test for your work as a whole. So you want to write a story? Start here.

I wish I had read “Write A Vampire Novel” before I started. 😉

My novel contains an in-universe satire of a popular paranormal romance series. What does TV Tropes have to say about this?

How does your Vampire feel about the depictions of other vampires in movies and literature? It’s usually easy to make an amusing scene where he lambastes them for being painfully inaccurate, but this has now become so common it might actually be a good idea to try subverting it, by having the Vampire be a fan of vampire literature, for all its inaccuracies.
I did make one of my characters (“Z”) a huge fan of my in-universe series, much to the amusement of the other Vampires who know her. I picked her because she would seem “unlikely” to read the paranormal romance genre, yet the books fill her longing for a romantic love her life is lacking.

If you really want to throw this trope out the window, have him be a writer of vampire fiction.
I have such a character in my novel’s universe, but he’s only appeared in short stories. His life’s events never meet up with the novel’s story.
The concept of Vampire as “vampire fiction writer” is excellent. The Vampire author would either want to “set the record straight”, or deliberately obfuscate the “truth” as much as possible. Or maybe do both of these at once. 😈

The merciless lens of TV Tropes will reveal all kinds of conventions in your story, even those you didn’t consciously intend. My chief enforcer “D” and his minions all wear black leather trench coats, the modern version of the Badass Longcoat. And they all drive Cool Cars. Fortunately, my Vampires Are Rich (from their gold mines, in my case), reducing the likelihood of their driving an Improbably Cool Car that’s out of their financial reach.

Quote from the “Improbably Cool Car” page (under Examples, Literature): Entertainingly averted in Twilight (though probably not intentionally). Bella’s impossibly gorgeous, Bad Ass brooding vampire love interest Edward Cullen drives… (drumroll, please) …a Volvo.
Page 454 of The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide reveals this particular Volvo is an S60 R, a 300-horsepower turbocharged sport sedan. A sedate-looking car capable of tremendous performance (a “sleeper” in gearhead speak), the car is an allegory for Edward’s desire to blend in with normal society while concealing his true strength.

A 1953 Chevrolet pickup truck is fairly high on the list of vehicles desired by hot-rodding gearheads, making Bella’s truck almost a case of “improbably cool.” However, it is believable that the Black family would own such a truck, and that mechanically-inclined Jacob would be happy to fix it up to give to Bella.

I’m sure I’m not the only gearhead who winced at the movie versions’ substitution of a later-model (1963) Chevy pickup for Bella. 😦
At least the good folks at the Forks Chamber of Commerce had the sense to feature a book-correct truck in front of their building. 🙂
Photo below taken by me on June 28, 2011

An issue TV Tropes has forced me to address is biological reproduction. Female vampires’ infertility is usually attributed to their “undead” status. But what if your vampires are living, breathing and even (slowly) aging? This easy and logical explanation goes right out the window. To answer the question, I have to specify that my vampires (both male and female) become sterile upon their transformation. Good thing, too, otherwise my female vampires would have to endure an average 7.5 year gestation period (assuming they and the fetus both aged at one-tenth the normal rate). Imagine a grumpy, moody vampire mother pregnant for ninety months. Now that would be a real horror story! 😈

The best news for me is that my novel’s universe handily transcends the Our Vampires Are Different trope. Even in this trope, the writers assume the vampire is (in general) undead and bulletproof. Living, breathing vampires who can subsist off normal food indefinitely and aren’t immune to bullets are more “different” than even this trope expects vampires to be. In this case, I’m glad to say I came up with a very different vampire concept on my own, more than standing up to their challenge of originality.

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3 Comments

  1. Dude! I love TV tropes. I went to them for a definition of the concept of “lampshading” that one of our critique members brought up. “Lampshade Hanging is the writers’ trick of dealing with any element of the story that threatens the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief — whether a very implausible plot development, or a particularly blatant use of a trope — by calling attention to it… and then moving on.” Also, about Our Vampires are Different…I thought that insistence on being different was one of the things that sucked about the ill-conceived “Moonlight.” Mick St. John was so different, he practically wasn’t a vampire.
    Great post, cheers!

    • Many of my characters’ names are lampshades.

      Three of the minor characters in Chapter Seven clearly chose their “Goth names” from classic vampire archetypes (Armand, Carmilla and Mercy). This becomes an intentional irony when the first actual Vampire they meet (Jack) has a very common, mundane first name.

      Also, two of my major characters: Damien’s last name is an anglicized version of Vlad The Impaler’s last name (implying British-born Damien is of Eastern European ancestry), and Carmilla asks Jack if the Vampires’ president Lilith is in fact “the ancient succubus”. (a bit of lampshading there!)

      It is possible for vampire characters to become too different, which is one possible reason why my in-universe parody of the “Twilight” saga is called “Vampire Moonlight” (two swipes in one!)

  2. I haven’t yet made my way over to check out TV tropes, but it seems like a very useful tool. I think I remember Chris Devlin mentioning it a few times in the past, so now I’ll definitely have to do some investigation.

    I really enjoy reading and hearing about all the world-building you’ve done for your vampire novel; all the thought that’s gone into the creation of your vampires, including how they may be similar, yet different from common conceptions. I especially enjoy when things are backed up with science and good hard facts. Keep up the excellent work.


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