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On Tropes

So the editors and I, while in a design meeting for the upcoming fall journal, got to talking about Hunger Games. I have read only two of the three books because, to me, they were a dry and slow read. Except for when the author would speed up during the beginning and ending, the prose was slow, and used a lot of tropes. Our talk about books didn’t stop there, as the Twilight series, the Mortal Instruments series, the Throne of Glass series, and so many more rely on the “love triangle” trope. I didn’t really care for the love triangle in Hunger Games, but when I went to finally watch the movies just few a weeks ago, I watched the trope play out on screen. I’m still struggling to figure out if I like the book or the movie better, but that is for another discussion. Addey, Amber, and I agree that some tropes right now are overdone in both books and movies/television.

Tropes, as we writers and readers know, are common underlying subplots to a story–building blocks to the main thread that help develop characters. If you look up writing tropes that are over done, “love triangle” is usually always the first one listed. Why? What makes people like reading about love triangles, and why do writers feel they have to write tropes?

I went to a workshop about putting clever twists on common tropes and here is what I learned: tropes are proven concepts that readers will read, but nevertheless they are common and overused. It really is a shortcut a writer can use to describe the subplot. But, tropes can also be a sort of useful tool. Tropes are a way to express an idea to an audience, and every genre can have tropes that fit just within that particular genre.

What tropes really do as building blocks is set up internal conflict and tie the theme to the story. It can help the log line, pitch, hook, and blurb because these tropes can be used as phrases or keywords for easier searches for readers which might sell more books.

Now here is the kicker–the twisted part to make a common trope yours. Play with “what if;” what aspects can be changed. I think this is why Hunger Games did so well–because the idea, the story, the conflict, was so original and different, it intrigued other readers and writers. And now, like Addey said in our conversation, the idea of Hunger Games is no longer original as other writers have used the idea for inspiration.

So, what about the setting can be unique to your world, the occupation of the hero, the time period the action takes place in, give the readers an unusual focus, or use all of these things. Try to take a trope in the genre you usually write, and then twist it with “what if” and see what you come up with. Try mixing tropes together, torture the hero or heroine with the trope, interplay with an archetype, look at tropes while watching TV or watching a movie, and see what you would do differently with the tropes used.

For some more information and a bunch of links for other help on tropes, visit the following sites:

Really Useful Links for Writers: Tropes and Clichés

14 Popular Fantasy Tropes — And How to Make Them Feel New Again

Romance Tropes

Genre Tropes

Happy troping!

Episode 4: Resources

In episode four of borrowed solace: the podcast, we heard Kelly A. Dorgan’s nonfiction piece, “Taking Care” read aloud on the show.

“Taking Care” was published in borrowed solace issue 1.1, Hinterlands.

If you liked today’s story, you can find out more about Kelly A. Dorgan and her work below:

Kelly A. Dorgan’s nonfiction work has appeared in books like Performing Motherhood, research journals like Women and Health, as well as online publications like Not Your Mother’s Breast Milk, borrowed solace, Nasiona, and Motherwell Magazine. A Pushcart Nominee who calls Southern Appalachia home, she’s a writer, researcher, and professor, specializing in the study of culture, gender, and illness. 

 To connect with Kelly, visit her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

“Taking Care” was read by Candy Bryant. Find out more about her below:

Candy Bryant is a veteran radio personality who lived up and down the dial and across the country. Before accepting a position, teaching and managing the student radio station, at East Tennessee State, Candy worked in television news, wrote and produced documentaries, and performed voice talent for many commercial and educational programs.

And, as always, we want to hear from you!

Imagine we’re savoring the last few nights of summer by gathering around a campfire. Amidst the scent of wood smoke and taste of burnt marshmallow, conversation turns to the latest episode of the podcast. Please comment below and join the discussion!

Episode 4: Taking Care

It’s storytime this week on the podcast. Take a moment out of your day to hear the written word brought to life in a whole new way! Plug in your headphones and crank up the volume to listen to Kelly A. Dorgan’s nonfiction piece, “Taking Care” read by Candy Bryant.

Just Breathe

Sorry I have no inspirational insight for this week. Or funny tidbits to help you all on your literary journeys.

This week has been too long and yet a whirlwind that I’m still trying to catch up to. Right now I’m just trying to remind myself to breathe. Breathe, because it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Breathe, because it’s okay to feel anxious. Breathe, because it’s okay to breakdown a little. Your emotions are not a burden, they are not for anyone to judge.

Just breathe…because you can only go up from here.

Because not all who wander are lost. Sometimes that is where the best inspiration can come from.

So if you are feeling overwhelmed, remember to simply breathe. You are not alone. Take this post as a gentle reminder that you are fine wherever you are at, and everything will fall in place soon.

Riding the Creative Wave

Like most things in my life, I find that creativity comes in waves.  Perhaps it is the human part of me, or just part of my personality in general, but I find that I go through spurts where I am into crocheting, or waves of interest in scrapbooking (I now have more hard copies of pictures than I care to count), or weeks where I workout every single day (those are too far and between for my liking, if I’m being honest).  Creativity certainly works that way for me, too.  I would like to say that I have a fabulously in depth reason for why this is the case, but, alas, I do not.  I’m not always sure where inspiration to be creative even comes from–sometimes I feel like creating something—anything—is crucial to having a good day or week, and other times I can’t bring myself to even open my lap top and edit an old piece of writing.

I’m starting to learn, though, that this is perfectly normal and perfectly okay.  We can’t all be turned on all the time.  Both literally (we need sleep) and when it comes to creativity.  I like to think of my creative side as a faucet—some days that faucet is turned on full force, and other times it is turned off.  If it were turned on all the time, that would be a big waste of water and a drain on resources.   See, that’s the thing—there’s always only so much of a resource to go around.  I think that even includes creative power!

As I’m learning about these waves and coming to accept the ebbs and flows of creativity, I’m learning how to ride the creativity wave.  When I’m feeling creative, I go for it!  Sometimes that means writing a dozen poems in a week (you’ll hear more about that in an upcoming episode of the podcast) and sometimes that means scrap booking every free evening I have for a week or two.  There’s no one way that the creativity wave comes, but when it arrives I grab by surfboard and head to the beach.

I think that many of us, as writers and creatives, expect our brains to be turned on to creativity all the time.  That’s simply not plausible!  If you’re anything like me, you have a lot going on in life that isn’t particularly creative.  There’s work, said (nonexistent) workout routine, pets, kids, family, taxes, laundry, and lots of other things that take time away from creative pursuits.  Sometimes that means that you don’t get to be creative everyday—and that’s okay.  I’ve slowly comes to terms with the fact that the waves sometimes come crashing in when I’m unprepared, and when I would like to be in a more creative mindset, the waters are calm.  Because of this, I’ve slowly started to just accept that fact and move with the water.  It’s much easier that way—trust me!

So whether you are riding the crest of a massive wave of inspiration or currently just getting through the day to day, roll with it!  It may not be what you were planning on, but that’s okay.  Learning to float in the shallows is just as important as cresting a massive swell, so get ready.

Are you currently riding high on a creativity wave or biding your time on your pool floatie until inspiration strikes?

Episode 3: Resources

In episode 3 of borrowed solace: the podcast, Addey and Amber discussed all things horror and suspense.

If you are interested in learning more about utilizing suspense and horror in your own writing, check out some of the resources listed below:

Suspense | Literary Devices

How to Create Suspense in Writing

9 Tricks to Writing Suspense Fiction

The Horror Genre: On Writing Horror and Avoiding Clichés

Horror Writers Association

And, as always, we want to hear from you!

Pretend we’re at a summer barbecue together, melting in the heat while in need of some good writerly discussion to pass the afternoon, and leave your comments below! Discussions only work if there’s input from all sides, and we can’t wait to hear what you think.

Episode 3: Oh, the Horror!

This episode of the podcast, join Addey and fiction editor, Amber Porter, as they discuss utilizing horror and suspense in writing–what makes a reader’s skin crawl? What keeps horror and suspense from being cringe-worthy? Tune in to fine out!

Six Word Prompt: A Girl and A Lion

Write a story or poem and tell a tale but in six words–of where this little girl came from; where she is going; if the lion she is dragging is really a stuffed animal or if it protects the little girl from monsters at night; or if the lion teaches the girl to be a little princess warrior by day and night. What adventures has that road carried them on? Whatever sparks the ignition, use it to write about this girl and her lion. 

Please comment below with your six word story or poem.

Episode 2: Resources

In episode 2 of borrowed solace: the podcast, Addey and Nicole discussed pen names and all the good, the bad, and the ugly that comes with choosing to use your real name, or opting to use a nom de plume.

If you are interested in learning more about pen names and exploring some of the resources we mentioned, visit the links below:

BehindTheName.com (a great resource for picking your pen name!)

How to Choose the Perfect Pen Name

How to Choose a Pen Name (and examples of some famous pen names to get you thinking!)

Author Pen Names: 5 Reasons they’re a Bad Idea in the Digital Age

The Purpose of Pen Names

Why Nonfiction Writers Shouldn’t Use a Pen Name

And, as always, we want to hear from you!

Pretend we’re sitting in your living room drinking some tea (Addey’s beverage of choice) or a cappuccino (Nicole’s potable pick-me-up) and leave your comments below! Discussions only work if there’s input from all sides, and we can’t wait to hear what you think.

Episode 2: Double Agents

This week on the podcast, hear from Addey and Nicole as they discuss all things pen-name related: To pen name, or not to pen name? How do you pick a pen name? Who uses a pen name? Should pen names be used in nonfiction? …and more. Take a moment of borrowed solace to listen and dive into another writerly topic with us!

This episode will be live wherever you listen to podcasts shortly. Thanks for listening!