Monday, August 15, 2022

Who Loves a Trope?

 Q: Clichés in our fiction. Are they universalities worth exploring or simply lazy shortcuts?

- from Susan


Trope: a very predictable or unoriginal thing or person.


Cliché: a statement that is obviously true and says nothing new or interesting.

Well, what writer would cop to either of those? Of course everything we write is original, unique, surprising! 

Let me offer an alternative perspective. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Uh oh – a cliché, gasp! Also the opening and theme of one of the most loved novels of all time, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Austen takes that cliché and runs with it, giving millions of readers some unpredictable and thoroughly entertaining examples of what could go so very wrong within that truism of the early 19th century. She – and she’s not alone, of course – took a cliché and said something new (for her times) and interesting (for all times). 

 We live in a human environment that has created just about everything in the way of truisms. I would suggest that our place in the creative cohort is not to come up with never-seen before responses to never-seen before circumstances unless we are among the brave writers who build new worlds in the science fiction and dystopian/utopian landscapes of their minds. Left Hand of Darkness comes to mind because I just read Ursula LeGuin’s amazing novel.Our role in becoming serious writers is to surprise readers by seeming to embrace something commonplace and then upending it somehow, based on the universal truth that no two people see the world outside of themselves in exactly the same way. 


Aside: I’m happy to report my new French village novel, set in a chateau being renovated in Burgundy, is right on schedule to be published in March 2023. Title and cover maybe soon, but so far it's been a great process. 





James W. Ziskin said...

Well put, Susan! Food for thought (cliché, I know).


Josh Stallings said...

Spot on. "embrace something commonplace and then upending it" YES!
If screwing and skewing tropes is good enough for Jane Austen, its good enough for us all. What does that make "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"? Tropes twice skewered?