I’ve been thinking about how much I want to research and reference tropes, as listed on TV Tropes, before I begin writing this novel – a thirty-day period at Eville Medical in the Sammohini Arc of “The Story” – until my thoughts surrounding putting these characters or story beats into convenient storytelling devices devolves into questions about whether such patterns actually happen in real life, then I just change the mental channel. It’s good to be aware…
It’s just, no matter what, there are going to be clichés.
My lifestyle and my writing style are more concerned with steamrolling through clichés than being concerned about them. I don’t watch The Holy Mountain while reviewing TV Tropes. It might be fun to casually glance through the list of tropes that the movie follows or doesn’t. That just doesn’t really do much for me in terms of building out worlds or characters.
The Five Man Band was the idea that made me consider this notion.
Some teams have commonalities with them. We tend to like to group traits together and appreciate pattern recognition, so if a team has a hero, an anti-hero, a big guy, a smart guy, and a love interest character, well! Doesn’t that enable a wide variety of character dynamics to explore a wide variety of plot scenarios? Sure, but it’s also devoid of creativity, and not just because it’s played out.
Writing to tropes is manufactured.
I’d rather write the characters as I see them in my imagination than how they could fit into some invisibly manufactured way of operating through storytelling ideas that have become generic over the past 50 years. Why would I want my characters or my world to become generic? I want my stories to be widely accessible and relatable. I don’t think I’ll accomplish that just by having them include things that have bored enough people to look for trends throughout many different entertainment mediums.
Let’s explore this through an example.
These thirty short stories will center around Sammohini. I could give you a list of character traits that could describe her personality. What more is needed than two positives and a negative? When you meet with your friends, do you consider what tropes or personality traits they neatly fit within? It might be helpful to consider how one of your friends is overly-sensitive to any sort of criticism in the slightest, however, that does mean that friend of yours needs to get over their massive ego and will never act differently in your mind. They will always be the ego-egg that can be shattered just by looking at them funny, never having the opportunity to grow, learn, fail, and develop into a dragon.
I’ve explored Sammohini’s psyche enough already.
She represents a part of myself, as many of these characters I’ve written about and will write about, and is also not myself. I can empathize with parts of her personality but here’s the thing: traits are surface-level. What are the underlying causes of those traits? If someone is overly-sensitive, it’s easy to say that they just need to become more self-confident. How does one learn self-confidence? Especially if they lack the self-awareness to consider that they might lack self-confidence.
I find those sorts of thoughts to be much more interesting and realistic.
Sammohini has traits representing a weak sense of self-confidence that differ than my own, so if I were just to address it from that angle, I might accidentally apply my own insecurities onto her insecurities, leading either to a character that is more me than her or a character that lacks any sort of unique flair.
We read stories for three reasons, after all.
We want stories to show us interesting characters and interesting locations, sure, but more than both, we want stories that enrich our lives. There are stories I have read that have made my life objectively better by having encountered them, which is why I never understood the notion of “experiencing them again, for the first time.” I would rather be in the state of having experienced them, having their characters and settings and themes inject themselves into my lifestream. EarthBound is a game that has had such a fundamentally positive impact on my life that experiencing life without having those characters, settings, and themes in my imagination would be a lesser experience.
When we try to hit the storytelling metrics, we fail.
Let’s instead tell the stories as they want to be told. Don’t fit them into boxes. Do your research as much as you can so your stories can have a level of believability in them, based around real-life locations or events you experienced, but ultimately you’ll want to let the scenarios unfurl by themselves. I had been trying to figure out the fifth character to bring into Sammohini’s team, thus the whole trope that instigated this essay’s theme, and on the drive home from work, as I focused on my surroundings in the foreground, my backburner cooked up a character: Chris Wręća.
Chris appeared as a surface-level character.
She has some immediately recognizable traits that superficially stand out. The problem would have been, if I had just let that be it, I would have fallen into the tropes trap of letting a character be defined by rigid storytelling standards. She doesn’t really fit into this category or that, so why should I try to force her into that sort of box? We can do much better in our lives if we are aware of the boxes we put others in, put ourselves in, and learn to parse out when those boxes are OK and when they’re harmful. After exploring those thoughts, I realized the only way to write Chris well would be to research her backstory myself. She can, similarly, have two positives and one negative influence parts of her personality, but the rest should bake in “The Story’s” Imaginarium until she becomes a fully-realized character.
Until then, a name alone is good enough of a placeholder.
|Sources: My personal experiences.|
|Inspirations: Besides the aforementioned? Being around enough people that are uniquely themselves and appreciate you for who you are, rather than putting you into boxes, helps develop the sense of empathy required to consider characters like Sammohini and Chris as their own characters, rather than the X meets Y that is common in fiction. This isn’t a takedown thing against TV Tropes. It’s more about how two-dimensional characters happen because we tend to prefer X meets Y characters or scenarios or even better Z characters, to then make more formulaic characters from…|
|Related: Other 2019 Novel writings.|
|Picture: All that said, though, sometimes it’s OK to have some generic elements.|
|Written On: October 24th, 2019 [42 minutes, from 9:28am to 10:10am, WordPress]|
|Last Edited: October 24th, 2019 [First draft; final draft for the Internet]|