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The Sheet of Glass and Other Tropes

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, June 8, 2018

Tropes aren’t bad. In fact, they are a useful and, at times, necessary shorthand that creators, particularly in the webcomic field, can wield to enhance their work. J Hillis Miller posited a trope as, “… the use of figurative language, via word, phrase or an image, for artistic effect.”

Every genre and sub-genre has their conventions or set of tropes that go on to define a work as belonging to that category. For instance, a science fiction story is expected to have a focus on technology, space exploration often set in the distant future where society has evolved be it for good or bad. The tropes for that genre might include the use of advanced technology (usually video phones), intergalactic governments, elaborate post-apocalyptic gangs, all the control rooms or even futuristic slang or colloquialisms. These tropes act as a shorthand, indicating to the audience a set of expectations.

You can even use tropes as a way to establish the groundwork for you to later subvert. For instance, say you are writing a comedy comic and you want to use the trope of two workmen walking across the road with a pane of glass that a car almost hits for comedic effect. You’ve set your audience up. They know what the gag is and how it plays out. TV tropes offers an entire list of way to subvert the trope, my favourite being, “If the car drives through the pane of glass, but it's the car that shatters (instead of the glass), it's inverted (and a very shoddily-built car at that).”

(Awesome example of subverting a classic superhero trope)

Once you know what genre and sub-genre you’re writing for, have a look at what tropes you can include and maybe even subvert. It can keep your work fresh whilst also providing a neat little shorthand to help your readers.

Don’t forget, we’ll be chatting about tropes on the Quackchat this coming Sunday evening at 5.30pm EST. Come join us on Twitter for the hour and let us know about your experiences with tropes. In the meantime, let us know what tropes you’ve included and possibly subverted in your webcomic in the comments below!

Till next time lovelies!



KimLuster at 10:50AM, June 8, 2018

Without Tropes, you wouldn't have Genres! Without Genres, you have everybody having to dig way too deep to discover if a Work is to their likes and tastes. Wanna appeal to fans of Westerns? Your covers and advertisements probably should avoid certain colors (nix the green countrysides) and include things like 6-guns and sunsets. Tropes can be overused, but also underused. The good works find that balance! And TV Tropes...! So many hours of my life lost on that site!!

bravo1102 at 8:26AM, June 8, 2018

Remember many tropes were heavily influenced by the medium they originated in. So many are based on the physical limitations of the stage or movie making. Some are based on formula storytelling forced by magazine serialization and page length and layout. That's why knowing origins can be so valuable. With a steadicam you can do right control rooms. :)

bravo1102 at 8:06AM, June 8, 2018

You forgot submarines. That's really the best example of what a spaceship bridge would be like. It's kind of what they did in Star Trek. All the departments are there like a sub but stretched out so you can get a camera in there.

Ozoneocean at 7:54AM, June 8, 2018

Love this topic! I find that you really HAVE to know where tropes come from and the real reasons why they're used before you can properly use them yourself if you're doing something serious. If it's comedy and you're parodying the trope then it doesn't matter, go wild! Control rooms in SciFi are a good example, they come from a few sources depending on the context: typically they're based on NASA mission control, American military general staff HQ, or the bridge of a battleship- you shouldn't really base your control room on that used by another SciFi source because they used their's for a certain reason and your needs might not be the same... Maybe you need to base yours on a modern civilian ship (oil tanker, oceanliner etc, they're all the same), maybe it needs to be like that in a mining operation, or a power station, or even a TV production control room?

bravo1102 at 4:11AM, June 8, 2018

I'm a subversive kind of guy. I've actually chased down certain gags to see where they came from so I can see what it was like as a fresh new idea.

MOrgan at 1:01AM, June 8, 2018

I've done the People Sit In Chairs trope, but I haven't Raped The Dog. ;-) (Aren't in-jokes fun?) I did do the pane of glass one not too long ago

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