Tag Archives: genres

Authors Answer 145 – Tropes and Cliches

What’s the difference between a trope and a cliche? In literature, a trope is the use of figures of speech, basically. But it can also refer to common themes to various genres (for example, dark lords and the chosen one type of hero in fantasy). But that sounds like a cliche, doesn’t it? However, a cliche is something that is overused so that it loses its original meaning. This week, we’re talking about that, and the question comes from Gregory S. Close.

Question 145 – Do you avoid tropes and/or cliche in your writing? Why or why not?

Cyrus Keith

Tropes and cliches are WAY too much fun to totally leave behind. Overuse can make a story boring and pat. But if your can combine tropes into something totally new, you can do magic with it. Just learn that fine line on which to balance.

D. T. Nova

I avoid specific tropes that I don’t like.

But there are others that I consciously use, and almost certainly some that slipped in unnoticed.

It’s not possible to avoid all popular tropes, and not productive to try.

I avoid cliches like the plague. Wait a minute.

Paul B. Spence

I’m glad you make a distinction here. A trope is part of what defines a genre. A cliché is a tired, over-used idea that probably needs to go away, at least most of the time. I write science fiction. Tropes of this genre that I use include starships, intelligent machines, aliens, and ancient technologies. The trick to keeping a trope from becoming a cliché is to try to think of new and interesting ways to describe your tropes and don’t get lazy. I try to avoid clichés, although I should point out that I said “probably should go away.” Using a good cliché in a new way makes it interesting.

Jean Davis

It really depends on the story. There are times when relying on tropes can make introducing ideas, characters, or world elements easier for both the reader and writer, allowing them to put more focus on making the original parts of the story shine. Relying too much on clichés and tropes may be seen as lazy writing. However, if you’re writing satire or humor, there is certainly a time and place for both of those things.

Gregory S. Close

A trope is a shortcut. Anytime you use a shortcut, it lets you get where you need to go quickly, but often at the expense of admiring the scenery along the way. Using the shortcut isn’t bad in and of itself, sometimes we really don’t have time to tell every bit of every journey for every character, and a little bit of shorthand can go a long way to keep the story moving. I try to be careful about tropes and cliches, using them to paint broad strokes while taking the time to surprise a little with the fine, detailed, brushes.

Eric Wood

I try to avoid cliches like the plague. I don’t think they add any sustenance to the meat of the story. I lose interest when I read other writers using it. However, a good metaphor will last longer than the leftovers growing in the back of the fridge.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I think I probably avoid a fair number of tropes and cliches, just because I want my stories to be different, you know? For instance, with my zombie novel, Nowhere to Hide, I avoided a lot of the common explanations for the apocalypse, like military testing, nuclear waste, and so on, because I wanted people to get something a bit unusual out of my story instead. That said, I also embraced several common zombie cliches in the writing of the story because sometimes the cliches are what make something fun. I think the key is to look at the tropes and try to decide which are ones that people will be disappointed to not see, and which will make them roll their eyes and groan. It’s not always easy, because peoples’ moods can change like the wind, but if you’re a great lover of the genre you’re writing in, it shouldn’t be too difficult to put yourself in the place of the reader and figure out which cliches they’d like or not like.

H. Anthe Davis

This is a tricky question. First off, not all tropes are bad; they’re just noticeable patterns in the character arcs and stories of several thousand years’ worth of human literature. The idea of a Hero’s Journey isn’t devalued because it’s a recognizable pattern; what may devalue it is in how the trope-y aspects of said Journey are handled. Do you play it straight, in an obvious and hackneyed way? Do you change things up, or start something that seems like a Hero’s Journey but turns into a very different kind of tale? Humans are pattern-makers, and we often enjoy recognizing the bones of a story — no matter if the meat grown on those bones is familiar or strange. I personally can identify certain tropes in my writing and characters, but I make damn sure that the tropes aren’t ALL that defines them — that the characters are people in their own right, breaking out of their constraints wherever they can, and that the story goes in an organic direction defined by those characters. Whether this follows, or twists, or averts other tropes doesn’t matter to me, as long as it feels right.

C E Aylett

Depends on the trope or cliché’s purpose. If it has no purpose and is used out of casual habit, then I would look to eliminate it in edits, but if it has deliberate intention, then yes, I would use it.

Jay Dee Archer

It really depends. I mostly avoid using cliches. If it has a place in something I’m writing, I’ll use it. But mostly, no. As for tropes, I do use them, but I don’t want to use them in the typical way. In some genres, especially fantasy, tropes are extremely common. Quite often, they’re expected. A lot of readers want to see some tropes. I’d rather give them a twist on the tropes, something fresh. But I wouldn’t abandon them. Used correctly, they can work very well.

How about you?

Do you like to see cliches or tropes in the novels you read? If you’re an author, do you use them or avoid them? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Authors Answer 129 – Genres Helping Other Genres

People usually read multiple genres, authors included. Authors usually write only one or two genres, though. But can they hone their writing skills in one genre by reading other genres?

Note: This is the first time Authors Answer has been late in 129 posts. I wrote a post about this. A lot of things were going on. #130 should be on time.

Question 129 – Do you think reading different genres can help you with writing in your chosen genre(s)?

Cyrus Keith

Of course. I write science fiction. But I taught myself how to write action sequences by reading Louis L’Amour’s westerns. I taught myself tension from Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy. I learned revelation from Andre Norton, JRR Tolkein, and Robert Heinlein. The wider your experience, the more tools you get for your tool box.

Elizabeth Rhodes

I think it’s possible. Other genres can introduce you to new tropes and concepts that aren’t necessarily common in your chosen genre. I took some cues from thrillers when writing my science fiction novel Jasper, for example. There’s also something to be said for reading outside of your comfort zone. Who knows? Maybe you’ll pick up some a new genre-blending story idea.

Beth Aman

YES.  YES.  It allows you to experience a much wider scope of voices, and lets you see the strengths of each genre and learn how to adopt them into your own novel.  Who cares if I’m writing a High Fantasy novel?  I want to have characters as good as John Green’s or Rainbow Rowell’s.  Who cares if I’m writing a Contemporary novel?  I want to have a plot as complex as Throne of Glass or City of Bones.  Read wide, read deep, don’t limit yourself.  (But also read stuff in the genre you’re writing – it’s invaluable as well.)

H. Anthe Davis

I certainly don’t think reading other genres can hurt your writing.  It’s good to have a broad mind and an awareness of tropes and techniques throughout fiction (and/or nonfiction).  And there are plenty of novels that class in more than one genre, or subgenres that pull from several parents, so why restrict yourself?

C E Aylett

Well, storytelling is storytelling, no matter the genre, so I expect all reading will teach you something. I can’t read other people’s books when I’m writing my own as I become too distracted by the novel that’s been completed, edited, published and practically perfect compared to my lump of mess. I find I’m thinking about their characters instead of my own and I don’t want to unintentionally apply their story to mine, so I avoid reading novels when I’m working on one.

Paul B. Spence

Certainly. I think a good writer reads just about everything well-written they can get their hands on. I read fantasy, science fiction, horror, thrillers, mysteries, and lots of non-fiction. Many authors have great skills at writing, even if it isn’t in your chosen genre. Anyone can learn a lot from the good writers.

Eric Wood

Most definitely. I think the biggest difference between genres is the setting. Otherwise, the main story elements are closely related. There is still conflict and rising action and climax and a solution across all genres. Therefore, reading any genre will provide an opportunity to brainstorm new conflicts or perhaps an old conflict with a new solution.

Jean Davis

Yes, definitely. Reading other genres helps us pick up ideas and techniques different from our standard genre tools. There are always other angles that can be incorporated into a story to spice it up or help it appeal to a wider audience.

Gregory S. Close

I think reading in different genres is a great way to build your narrative vocabulary.  Genre is a pretty fluid concept as is, but obviously having great skill writing a mystery could prove beneficial if you’re writing a sci fi epic with a mystery at its heart.  Conversely, having a good handle on writing science can help add authenticity to a mystery set in a research laboratory.  Good writing and good technique is always worth reading.

D. T. Nova

Probably. Especially in areas where there’s any overlap.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Absolutely, yes. It might not seem like it if you’re, for instance, reading romance when you’re writing horror, but every genre has something different to teach you. You never know what kind of literary tricks you might pick up by broadening your horizons and taking a look at what else is out there.

Jay Dee Archer

Definitely. I write mainly science fiction, though I want to write fantasy. I don’t just read those two genres, though. I also read some classics, especially Shakespeare. And I enjoy a lot of science and history. Non-fiction has helped me a lot with my sci-fi writing. I use a lot of science, and my interest in history and cultures helps me with the development of cultures and change of cultures. In my case, the different genres help me with factual information. I think that reading things like historical fiction or war novels can help with writing combat or fighting. Reading fantasy could help with writing different cultures and worldbuilding. There are so many things you can learn by reading other genres.

How about you?

If you’re an author, do you benefit from reading other genres? Let us know in the comments section below.

What Genres Would I Write?

I write science fiction and fantasy. I love those two genres. But would I write a different genre than that? In Authors Answer 11, I answered that question. The original question was this:

If you were going to write in a genre other than what you normally write, what would you like to try?

I know what I wouldn’t write. Romance, western, sparkly vampire, etc. I couldn’t write in a genre I have little interest in reading. I write what I like. However, there are some genres I would consider reading. I answered in this quick video.

Sure, there may be others I’d like to attempt in the future. But I think I’ll stick with science fiction and fantasy for now.

What are you interested in writing?

Genres I Won’t Read

As I continue to look back at Authors Answer, I notice some changes in my answers. However, for some questions, my answers don’t change. That’s the case for Authors Answer #10. The question was:

What are your least favourite genres to read?

My tastes haven’t really changed over the past two years. I’m more likely to consider a lot of young adult fiction, but my dislikes are unchanged. I talk about them in this video:

Which genres do you dislike? Let me know in the comments below.

What’s Your Favourite Genre?

It’s been nearly two years since I’ve asked this question. My readership changes over time, so I think it’s a good time to ask this. It was also the Authors Answer question I answered on video this weekend. I reached back to Authors Answer #9: What are your favourite genres to read?

Here is my answer:

Although my answer can be pretty simple, I should add that I don’t just enjoy reading my favourite genres. I also like historic fiction, mythology, Shakespeare, and am interested in some classic literature. In addition, I like Sherlock Holmes.

So, what genres do you like to read? Let me know in the comments below.

Crazy Cross-Genre Fiction

There are so many different genres in fiction, and so many mixed genre books, as well.  But has it all been done? What are some crazy cross-genre ideas that you have?

Here are some of my ideas

Inspirational zombie cowboy – An uplifting tale of a cowboy and his cows surviving the wild west zombie apocalypse.

Children’s steampunk thriller – Scare the crap out of kids with this nineteenth century sci-fi tale.

Romantic dinosaur space opera – Dinosaurs in space! Dinosaurs falling in love in space! What could be better?

Okay, it’s your turn. Give me some of the craziest ideas you have about mixing two or more genres, and give a brief description of it.

Authors Answer 65 – Convince Me to Read Your Genre

You know the kind of person who says they don’t like your favourite genre, even though they’ve never read it before? The kind of person who says, “Oh, that’s stupid. Why would anyone read it?” I’m sure you’ve met a few. I know I have. If you are one of those people, these answers are for you!

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 65 – What would you say to someone to convince them to read the genre you write in?

S. R. Carrillo

“Gay angel.” No, seriously. You’d be surprised what an uncommon word combination can do to intrigue someone. And it sums up my genre pretty well, I’d say – queer fantasy. One and done.

Gregory S. Close

If someone is convinced that they don’t like genre x,y or z then it’s hard to convince them to try it.  I’ve found the better approach is to find out what kind of stories a person enjoys (character driven, drama, romance, adventure, etc) without the label of genre attached, and then recommend a specific work that matches up nicely with that preference.  Some people think that they don’t like “fantasy” but they absolutely love Greek mythology, for example.  So I might recommend a sand & sandal epic that would appeal to them.  Someone might say that they don’t like lots of magical “nonsense,” so I could recommend something that lowers the reader gently into magical elements, like A Song of Ice and Fire.  Ultimately, I don’t worry about trying to be a fantasy/sci-fi evangelist.  Not everyone is going to like it, even the really good stuff, because it’s just not their cup of hot steaming steeped leaves in water.

Jean Davis

Do you find people interesting? I write about people. Sometimes those people are dealing with things in a science fiction environment, and sometimes as more of a fantasy world, but it all pretty much boils down to people making choices and interacting with one another.

Elizabeth Rhodes

This one’s difficult.  Usually if someone tells me they don’t like sci fi or fantasy I let it be.  There is an exception where I convinced my boyfriend to give Game of Thrones (the TV show, not the books) a chance based on the quality of the story alone.  So I guess that’s my method.  If I’m in love with the story, I’ll sell someone on that above its genre.  (And despite not liking fantasy stories, he’s just as addicted to the show now as I am.)

Eric Wood

I would tell them that there is more to children’s story than the simple plot. Often, there many underlying messages, lessons to be learned, and hidden meanings. The stories can often be interpreted so many different ways. The stories are short, but they can be full of intricacies.

H. Anthe Davis

Fantasy: Not Just An Escape!  Read fantasy novels to see a reflection of our world, stripped of many of the divisive labels and visuals in order to present real conflicts and concerns from a fresh perspective!  Like science fiction, fantasy can expound upon modern issues, taking them to a variety of logical or illogical conclusions — but unlike (most) science fiction, fantasy has dragons!  Though much fantasy of the past has been regressive, in that it focused strongly upon European medieval themes, it has become far more expansive and inclusive in recent years, embracing all manner of settings and time periods as the basis for its flights of fancy.  The time to start is now!

Paul B. Spence

I would hope they wouldn’t need convincing. Science fiction is the history of the future. All of our hopes and dreams, and sometimes nightmares, reside there. The best of science fiction has subtle social commentary that transcends the ages. I recently reread Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel, and was surprised at how current some of the social commentary is.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I don’t specifically stick to one genre, but I’ll answer for the two genres that I write in the most often.

For horror, I’d explain that there is something very thrilling in writing about ghosts and ghouls and nightmare creatures. I’d describe how it’s both challenging and very fun to try to establish how each particular character reacts to different situations; for instance, one of my favorite scenes from “Nowhere to Hide” to write is the one in which Nancy is first actually faced with zombies. I loved describing the strange way her brain almost short-circuited – how she’d be freaking out one second and considering completely random, unimportant information the next.

For fantasy, I’d say that it’s all about good, old fashioned imagination. In a fantasy world you can do practically anything and everything. You don’t have to worry about being able to explain something scientifically, or describing real-life places accurately, or any of that nonsense. You can start completely from scratch and throw in whatever you damn-well please, and while you still have to consider whether what you’re doing is good for the story or not, that huge, blank pallet is something that is wonderful to be able to work with.

D. T. Nova

The only thing I can really think of is to point out something else that they like which does fall into the genre that they say they don’t read. However, this doesn’t actually convince people very often.

Allen Tiffany

Oh, not sure I’d ever try this. And I write in two genres: Historical military fiction, and Sci Fi. If pressed, though, I’d speak to Sci Fi and I’d argue that Sci Fi will show you universes that you would never see otherwise.

Linda G. Hill

At the moment I’m writing paranormal romance. I would say, perhaps, that romance is something almost anyone can relate to. The paranormal part of the genre I write in, however, might be impossible to convince someone who reads only practical text to enjoy. And what’s the use in reading something you don’t enjoy?

Jay Dee Archer

Fantasy and science fiction can offer readers many things. Of course, they can offer entertainment and escape to another world. But I think that’s what many critics of the genres think is what’s wrong with them. Well, they are actually quite intelligent genres. Science fiction usually deals with contemporary issues, such as racism, terrorism, war, climate change, and disease. It can show a possible consequence of our actions, and maybe offer a way to avoid it.

Fantasy, on the other hand, is an examination of the human condition. Much of the genre looks at human behaviour, especially when confronted by immense pressures. It looks at the dark side of humanity, and what we are capable of. It may provide a look into your own mind.

How about you?

What would you say to someone to convince them to read your genre? Let us know in the comments below.