Magically Transforming Five Tropes

Magically Transforming Five Tropes

Tropes are often used, not because authors are lazy, or unoriginal, but because they just work. They can explain things that are complicated topics encountered often either in reality or in fictional words. A quick example that comes to mind is the main character is an outsider just looking to be one of the cool kids.

If you're worried that your plot is too tropey or cliché, you can fix it! It's not too hard, it just takes a little imagination. It's a lot like making sure your characters are three-dimensional and not flat stereotypes.

In no particular order, here's 5 common tropes, and creative ways to make them your own. Well, I've kind of spoiled these ones since I just gave you the answer, but take this as a thought experiment meant to expand your horizons.

1. An antagonist and a protagonist have something important in common.

Sure, the antagonist has that attribute or desire for lawful evil reasons, and the protagonist for lawful good reasons, but can we find more depth in that? Asking questions about it, what is the reason behind why they have things in common? 

An evil tyrant and the hero can be at odds, but both have the desire to control the destiny of the kingdom. The tyrant wants to rule with an iron fist and the hero wants democracy. What if that hero fights for democracy, but ultimately turns to commanding his men with an iron fist to achieve that goal? What if the tyrant rules with an iron fist because he is insane? I'm not saying your characters have to be morally gray, but they don't have to always make easy decisions or even ones that you "expect" from them.

2. Knowledge comes at a price.

This trope is everywhere throughout classic and contemporary literature. In The Matrix, once Neo learns the truth of the world he can no longer go back to his ignorant, blissful life. Even the bible talks about it: eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge is forbidden. Let's come up with a situation where we can make this trope something unique.

Using the biblical example above, what if instead of simply being banished from paradise and thrust into mortality, the tree of knowledge contains hundreds of different colored apples. Each apple contains one large piece of knowledge and if Adam had eaten all of them, he'd be equal to a god. So, each apple he eats causes him to become susceptible to a new mode of death. But he's addicted to them, so he keeps eating. He eats hundreds of apples over several months and the very last apple on the tree is filled with a poison which ultimately kills him, taking all of that knowledge with him to the grave.

3. The [magical species] live in magical cities.

Everything is magical in these cities. You don't have to worry about chores, or work, or anything you don't want to do. Everyone can just enjoy their lives in a beautiful environment with endless power at their disposal. 

This one I didn't have too much of a hard time coming up with a way to make this more unique. So the magic in this magic-powered city comes from harvesting the soul-energy of young children they kidnap from towns around the world. Okay, yeah it's kind of close to The Matrix, except these are just kids and they don't get to live in a fake world, instead they're confined to their dreams.

4. A hero gets captured while saving a damsel in distress.

Oh no! What's he going to do? Well, yeah he's going to escape. But how can we make this a little less flat?

What if the hero wanted to be captured, so he could knock out a soldier in the dungeons with a judo chop, put on his jailer's clothes, wander up to the kitchens, take a vial of poison that he had smuggled in his boot and dump it into a soup that the evil tyrant is going to be eating? Sure there's some serious plot holes there, but that's your job to solve.

5. A protagonist trained under the most revered master.

Luke Skywalker from Star Wars, Beatrix Kiddo from Kill Bill, Harry Potter from Harry Potter (several masters, but notably Dumbledore). They all became superheroes in their own right, doing the impossible, challenging the antagonist (who also is well trained), and ultimately fulfilling their mission.

So let's take this trope and spin it into something cooler. What if Yoda was just a hallucination from some 'shrooms he ate, and he learned all his Jedi powers on his own? What if Pai Mei was actually a fraud? What if Dumbledore was on Tom Riddle's side and he was trying to groom Harry into becoming an evil sidekick to work with Voldemort?

A Final Word

Okay, a lot of these are kind of ridiculous, but they change the story, and that's what's important. Just because you can change it doesn't mean that you should. But you should aim for originality and creativity as much as possible to tell your story in a whole new light that's unexpected and out of the norm. Readers want to read YOUR work because you have this world full of characters that are three dimensional and don't just act like every other character that already exists in other authors' worlds. Make the tropes you use the strength of the story!