Of Tropes and… well, tropes.

While this is a well-worn subject (ba-da-boomph), I’m going to talk about it anyway. Because it matters, and it can feel like a moving target for folks who have decades of experience on this silly planet of ours.

This also isn’t a post with definitive answers; this is a post that meanders a bit and then asks you to tell me your thoughts. Just so you’re aware of that, up front.

There are tropes that have been around since, it sometimes seems, the Stone Age: women as helpless victims, men as rescuing heroes, dogs as a faithful man’s best friend. I think everyone knows about those by this point in time. Unfortunately that doesn’t always equal not using those tropes, because one of the quirks of human nature is that we gravitate, on the whole, towards what’s comfortable and known… and tropes are most definitely stars in that category.

But tropes are also chameleonic. They adapt themselves to new circumstances and camouflage themselves behind shiny modern concepts. Let’s take cell phones. Who doesn’t have a cell phone these days? Well … some people don’t, and the reasons why are a complicated stew of technophobia, regulatory industries, cell tower availability–and stability!–international politics, and devastating poverty. But it’s now absolutely expected that everyone in a modern story will have a cell phone. The reality is a lot more complicated. Still, having a cell phone is arguably becoming a trope: a hinge point that helps readers feel more comfortable within the structure of the story. And how many stories treat cell phones as neutral objects, just simple tools, without touching on the wildness of apps recording your data, location, and even your voice conversations without your permission?

On the other hand, does having a cell phone in a modern story setting actually count as a trope? I’m not entirely certain myself, but I’d love to talk about it. Post your thoughts below! Remember I run a moderated blog, so if you’ve never commented before I’ll have to approve your comment, but I’ll try to do that as quickly as possible.