After my first “tropes I hate” post, I took some time to look over those tropes and see how they could be fixed – and I found it to be a very refreshing exercise. As authors, we spend so much time second guessing ourselves, asking if what we’re planning or what we’ve written is ‘good enough’. I’m here to say that even if it isn’t good enough, it can be.
Don’t take the easy way out of the love triangle.
I could simply say “don’t write a love triangle”, and I was tempted to do just that, but I don’t think a love triangle by nature is bad, but it’s just often resolved and handled so poorly. Still, a love triangle is going to be very difficult to keep from feeling cheap or melodramatic, but one great way to fix it is have the main character make that hard choice. Make them anguish and make them choose.
Allow female characters to be realistically flawed.
Being complacent in a flaw is a weakness, but simply having a flaw isn’t one. In fact, so many truly strong people are strong because they fought their flaws and overcame them. Strong women can do that, too.
Make fathers actual people with dreams and goals.
Father characters can be flawed, there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s about time for the default of the ‘dumb father’ to be over and done with.
Study real animals – other than dogs and cats – to know how to better write them in fiction.
In my book I have a whole culture of sentient, talking animals called nostkynna. When developing this culture, I had to essentially ‘think like an animal’ to properly understand the nostkynna characters’ motivations. All animals are not the same. Wolves are brave and go-getters, large cats are collected and prefer the sidelines, horses can be flighty and stubborn. There is a whole world of complexity and nuance in nature, and exploring that will only enrich our storytelling.
Don’t justify stupidity.
I know, that’s super easy to say and very, very hard to do. When you’ve got a plot point you’ve been working SO HARD to try and finagle into the story, sometimes having someone do something stupid seems to be the only way to do it. Other times, maybe we just need to take a second look or get a second opinion to see that stupid thing we missed. It is so temping to skip this step, or to simply try and justify the plot point in the narrative. Just don’t do it. It will be painful to fix, but the finished product will be so, SO worth it.
I started writing my manuscript when I was 16 years old. I always believed in this story, I was always set on getting it published. But, you know what? That first draft sucked. And so did the second, and so many after that. I had to learn to distinguish the good from the bad, and I had to learn to suffer through the cutting and the re-writing as I pursued a better product. And there was A LOT of bad – I mean, I made the skeleton for this plot when I was 16, of course there was a lot of bad. But you know what? I have in my hands now a manuscript that is a few chapter edits away from being what I always wanted it to be all along. Why am I telling this story? Because I want you to know that anything can be fixed. ANYTHING, even the worst tropes imaginable. You just have to be willing to make the cuts and put in the work.
So, those are my thoughts on fixing these terrible tropes. How would you fix the tropes you hate? Join the conversation below!