Writing Styles, Literary Tropes & Reviewers

Writerly Rant #74

Image by Alan Cleaver (creative commons license)

Image by Alan Cleaver (creative commons license)

by M.J. Moores, OCT. Author. Editor.

Okay, time to hold your face (or chest) – until recently I was unaware of the term “literary trope”… it’s true! Me, who studied English and creative writing. And I find it interesting how often reference to this term has come up in the past 3 months. This just goes to show how some terms shift in and out of use over time and while the concept may have been learned one way it is now considered passe – but I digress.

I thought nothing of it at first… then I read a book that used one – and it really stood out! That shouldn’t happen…

First off – a literary trope is a commonly used stylistic device.

In the case of this book, the instant the author framed the scope of the novel with time-travel to “teach” the protagonist a lesson I immediately thought of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens… you know – the story where Scrooge time-travels to 3 locations (past/present/future) in order to learn what a dick he’s being?

It’s such a highly recognizable trope that writers who use it risk falling into a stylistic cliche which simply equates to unoriginality… and my mind immediately went there with this book.

The set up:

A strange old man seems to be following around this stubborn and ignorant girl (who really cares about her friends so she’s not a bad person). He offers her a chance to learn more about what she’s already made up her mind on (the real problem of the story) – and she eventually accepts. She’s pulled back into time…

My radar beeped wildly at this point. Had this not been an author I was familiar with (and whose work I know I enjoy) I wouldn’t have finished the book… and if I hadn’t finished the book I would’ve missed out on a fantastic story!

Yes, the trope was similar to Scrooge: time travel/supernatural source taking on human image/3 key moments in time to visit/will learn a lesson. However, the girl is a teen (not a crotchety old man), the book takes place in an alternate/dystopian reality, it all takes place in the past (not past/present/future) and the girl can interact/alter the past (but not to such a degree as to cause a Butterfly Effect)…

And it’s those differences that really set this story apart.

Had I not already been familiar with this author’s writings I might have made a mistake by discrediting the work.

It’s interesting how some tropes are more widely recognized than others and how our prior reading/movie experiences can strongly influence our reactions to new material.

I had to chastise myself for jumping to conclusions. And doing so made me wonder just how often this happens with other readers… particularly the more high-falootin’ literary-type reviewers who’ve grown complacent and skeptical of the abilities of new and/or Indie Authors…

Needless to say, this mental smack will set me straight for some time… it’s just too bad that other reader/reviewers are too dense to realize these things as well.

Categories: Rants, Writerly Rants

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. I am not an English major and I make many mistakes writing. I have learned as I go.


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