I promise, I meant to post yesterday. But then I blinked and yesterday turned into today and I’m still not sure how that happened. *sigh*
Have you ever been talking to someone about the book he’s writing and heard something like this?
“Okay, so there’s this goatherd, and he’s out in the pasture one day when he finds a sparkly green rock. When he shines the rock on his shirt, a white-bearded magician appears and tells him he’s the reincarnation of the greatest warrior the land ever had. He’s a born swordsman! He has magical powers! And he has to accompany the magician on a quest to find an object of power that can save the kingdom from the evil Flogmuddles who are threatening to take over.”
The peasant-boy-with-a-mighty-destiny is a fantasy trope, a common theme that’s become a cliche. As writers, we do our best to avoid tropes, to create a story that’s fresh and different. There are a few writers who’ve made a career out of writing tropes in a funny way (Diana Wynn Jones is a master!), but most of the time, they feel like the same-old-same-old. I was talking to Faith the other day, and I mentioned that a book had disappointed me because it used my least favorite trope, the Magic Baby.
You know the Magic Baby, don’t you? It’s when the heroine or main female love interest suddenly turns up pregnant (usually at a very inconvenient time, say while the world is ending or there’s a battle being waged) but instead of the usual span of several months, she gestates in a couple of weeks, giving birth to a child with “eyes as old as time” or something equally hokey. The Magic Baby is talking intelligently at three hours, walking at one day, grows up within a week, and either becomes an evil, omnipotent monster or else saves the world, dying tragically in the attempt. It’s been a common trope in fantasy literature, movies and television for a long time now, and it’s pretty much a deal-breaker for me. It weakens the female heroine, since she can’t very well battle her own body. Then there’s that mother instinct that forces the heroine to defend the baby even while it’s melting the countryside with its laser vision. I adore my offspring, but if he started consuming the neighbors’ life forces I’d march that young’un out behind the woodshed and put a stop to that nonsense. I’ve stopped reading books that are otherwise excellent once the Magic Baby came into play. It just doesn’t make any sense in my world.
So tell me…what literary trope pushes your buttons?