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Subverting Fantasy Tropes

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Someone brought up the fact that discussing the subversion of fantasy tropes would be a good question of the day, but I think I'm making it a non-question of the day. ūüėõ

So, let's talk about the subversion of fantasy tropes. Do you specifically try to make an effort to do this on a conscious level, or do you do it more on a sub-conscious level? Or do you just not really give a crap because you believe that it doesn't matter if it's a trope as long as you give it your own twist that makes it unique to you? What are some examples of tropes that you've subverted or are currently trying to subvert?

I am...totally guilty of not even trying to subvert tropes. ūüėõ I mean, at least not really on a conscious level. I'm drawn to the things that are trope-y/cliche in my writing and in what I love to read, and even if they've been used 1,000 times in probably close to the same way I try to use them in, I enjoy writing them so I go with it. I suppose I could make more of an effort to try and subvert certain ones, though.

What about you guys?

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Well, the one that springs immediately to mind is the subversion of the Death God/Goddess trope of being a dark, pale, spooky, grim/glum person.  Instead she's a brash, emotional person with red hair, green eyes, and a full figure.  I didn't do this because I thought the trope was bad.  I liked the dark/grim/mysterious deities of Death.  But I just wanted to see what a world would be like without one.

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One trope I've subvert many times in the past is the damsel-in-distress one. Or rather, I invert it by having the girl rescue the guy rather than the other way around. My female characters are commonly warriors, and it seems pointless to have a warrior heroine if she doesn't get to save the day.

Other than that, my favorite tropes to subvert are the ones I see as problematic to begin with, such as offensive stereotypes. For example, I'm really not a fan of the big hyper-masculine African stud, the wimpy little Asian nerd, or any portrayal of African women as romantically or sexually unattractive.

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53 minutes ago, Tyrannohotep said:

One trope I've subvert many times in the past is the damsel-in-distress one. Or rather, I invert it by having the girl rescue the guy rather than the other way around. My female characters are commonly warriors, and it seems pointless to have a warrior heroine if she doesn't get to save the day.

Other than that, my favorite tropes to subvert are the ones I see as problematic to begin with, such as offensive stereotypes. For example, I'm really not a fan of the big hyper-masculine African stud, the wimpy little Asian nerd, or any portrayal of African women as romantically or sexually unattractive.

I've noticed that in your writing! I like the way your male and female characters are multi-faceted and the women are often very strong, but not in that went-too-far sort of way that has become common where you're trying so hard to make a Strong Female Character (tm) that she's not allowed to be feminine, or alternatively she's still hyper-sexualized and her strength is surface level only.

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1 hour ago, Tyrannohotep said:

One trope I've subvert many times in the past is the damsel-in-distress one. Or rather, I invert it by having the girl rescue the guy rather than the other way around. My female characters are commonly warriors, and it seems pointless to have a warrior heroine if she doesn't get to save the day.

Other than that, my favorite tropes to subvert are the ones I see as problematic to begin with, such as offensive stereotypes. For example, I'm really not a fan of the big hyper-masculine African stud, the wimpy little Asian nerd, or any portrayal of African women as romantically or sexually unattractive.

I must be out of touch.  I didn't realize African women were often depicted as romantically/sexually unattractive. 

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5 hours ago, Mynoris said:

I must be out of touch.  I didn't realize African women were often depicted as romantically/sexually unattractive. 

It's a common stereotype that goes hand in hand with Eurocentric beauty standards. I've heard it endorsed by racist assholes way too many times in my life. But that may be a discussion for another thread.

Edited by Tyrannohotep
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6 minutes ago, Tyrannohotep said:

It's a common stereotype that goes hand in hand with Eurocentric beauty standards. I've heard it endorsed by racist assholes way too many times in my life. But that may be a discussion for another thread.

You're very wise then.

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I try not to have too many ridiculously attractive characters in my novels.  It's a trope I've come to loathe.  I make many of my characters have scars and other imperfections.  I also like to include different body shapes.  Not everyone is slim and graceful.

One novel that's not yet written and only in the planning stages will feature the farmboy trope with a twist.  A young trainee sorcerer will run away from a sorcerers' enclave and for a while, he will work as a farmboy under a false identity and hide his abilities.

Some of my families are actually happy, for the most part.

My young characters aren't all orphans.  In fact I've only used the orphan trope a couple of times, that I can recall.

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I quite enjoy conventional fantasy tropes but with a little twist; eg I have an asthmatic knight who doesn’t like to ride horses but who slays a dragon using explosives.

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Twisting tropes makes me chuckle a lot, so I do it consciously. It's a fun game of what-ifs. What if the princesses ditched the castle (and the arranged marriages) and went out to turn their passions into professions? What if the mentor really is a charlatan who knows absolutely nothing, and are just playing the long con? What if the big strong man has arthritis, hiding that fact, and if anyone dares challenge him he has to find other ways to solve the conflict? What if the time traveller made an enemy at the Time Travelling Council and is sent to the most boring places in history? There are just so many tropes to play around with, on so many different levels, in big ways, small ways... The subversion can be a great source of conflict in the story, so I really like them. I do enjoy the traditional tropes too and making them special in other ways.

 

I have a "subverting fantasy tropes"-list of ideas/prompts that I add to now and then. Just reading it kickstart ideas for me when I'm feeling less creative, so it's useful. My current WIP deals with witches who are not all that dark or free-spirited, more like a group of harsh school-teachers. Their coven is like the old 1940's WI (women's institute)- kind of organisation (they play bingo, want their tea served on time, make jam, play golf) but with less interest in helping the less fortunate. Their magic is mostly used for financial gain and protecting assets.   

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4 hours ago, Pinchofmagic said:

I have a¬†"subverting fantasy tropes"-list of ideas/prompts that I add to now and then. Just reading it¬†kickstart ideas¬†for me when I'm feeling less creative, so it's useful. My current WIP¬†deals with¬†witches who are not all that dark¬†or¬†free-spirited, more like a¬†group¬†of¬†harsh school-teachers. Their coven is¬†like¬†the old 1940's WI (women's institute)- kind of organisation (they¬†play bingo, want their tea served on time,¬†make jam,¬†play golf)¬†but with less interest in helping¬†the less fortunate.¬†Their magic is mostly used for financial gaiÔĽŅn and protecting assets.¬†ÔĽŅ¬†¬†

I like the sound of that, witches in general are just fantastic and fun to play with, there are so many tropes for them, both with them being good and bad.

Rereading old notebooks, I found a short story subverting the 'prince rescuing a princess from a dragon trope', where two princes go to rescue the same princess, who is actually quite happy where she is, and the princes end up teaming up to figure things out. In hindsight this story is REALLY influences by the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede, and it actually quite derivative, but to be fair, I did write it when I was like 16 so... Its still a fun idea to play with. If I ever rewrote it I would probably make it a M/M romance but that's pretty low on the backburner as far as ideas go. 

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My biggest subversion I can think of atm is that my Mentor trope character is the young one, and the one she is mentoring is actually centuries old ūüėõ

I like subverting tropes but I dont think I specifically choose to so often, it just happens.

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39 minutes ago, Penguinball said:

Rereading old notebooks, I found a short story subverting the 'prince rescuing a princess from a dragon trope', where two princes go to rescue the same princess, who is actually quite happy where she is, and the princes end up teaming up to figure things out.

O, that sounds like a great twist. I definitely feel the being influenced-part, I think my first witch story was based too much on Eva Ibbotson's Which Witch? But hey, that's how we learn. :) I reckon the M/M romance in that plot has some brilliant potential though. I really hope you get to the point where you can't resist it any longer. I'd love to read that. 

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On 1/4/2019 at 4:01 PM, Sheepy-Pie said:

My biggest subversion I can think of atm is that my Mentor trope character is the young one, and the one she is mentoring is actually centuries old ūüėõ

I like subverting tropes but I dont think I specifically choose to so often, it just happens.

What an awesome idea!  That would make an intriguing twist to any story.  Definitely worth exploring.

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14 hours ago, Xanxa said:

What an awesome idea!  That would make an intriguing twist to any story.  Definitely worth exploring.

Thanks ūüôā I really wanted to see what would happen if the young person was to mentor for a change, and what they'd know that the older wouldn't etc.

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