I just finished writing the final major plotty scene in the OF THE ARBOUR rewrite last night, and have only a few loose threads to wrap up before it’s finished and it can go out to beta readers for editing. While this is always an exciting occasion, I’ve been considering fantasy tropes a lot lately, and how they tie into my stories.
Unlike other novels, I went into OF THE ARBOUR, and especially the rewrite, purposefully using typical fantasy tropes. But in order to make it more fun for me and for the reader, I spun them on their heads. Under normal circumstances, these are all things that I detest reading about, but by (in my opinion) warping them and making them more relatable, they no longer remain those hated tropes we see entirely too often.
TROPES USED IN THE ARBOUR:
- The farmboy: Sage is everything the farmboy trope demands: he is thrust into a scenario he didn’t ask for, and bumbles along like a ball in a pinball machine. He’s a nobody who ends up the hero, but by no choice of his own. Now, I don’t actually dislike the farmboy trope because it’s a relatable character, unlike heroes who just somehow know what to do. I find that readers can get more attached to a character who is just as confused as they are. While Sage is good at fighting and often wins his battles, he does so out of skill and not luck, and when he loses, he loses hard. He hates doing anything noteworthy and tries to shy away from others as often as possible, making him a less than ideal hero. In fact, he’s straight up terrible at being the hero.
- The prophet/prophecy: Prophecy is one of my most hated aspects of fantasy, followed very closely by the love triangle. It seems like such a cop out to me to have everything prophesied to win or lose, regardless of a character’s choices or skills. So, in this instance, a prophecy is foreseen at the beginning of the novel, when the aforementioned prophet is 20 and doesn’t even know they’re a prophet. Fast-forward 5 years, and a friend who studies prophets is starting to see connections, and yet the “prophet” bungles things so spectacularly that having foreseen this part of the plot doesn’t actually change anything: they’re so thick about it all, so in denial, that even having foreseen a problem and having someone realize it, it doesn’t make a difference in the end. Everything they tried to prevent turns out exactly how it was foreseen, and what work they did was for naught.
- The love triangle: Love triangles are a thing I detest nearly as much as prophecy. When I think of a series that has both of these heinous crimes, I think of Wheel of Time, though I love the series despite this. With the Arbour, there is technically a love triangle, but it gets turned on its head: while someone is pursuing Sage, he’s pining after a lost loved one who died a year previous. By the time his emotions are sorted out for the one who died, the pursuer has admitted feelings and they’re both able to move forward. So it’s still technically a triangle, just one of the participants is dead.
- The dashing hero: Sage is not your typical fantasy hero. He is riddled with anxieties and issues, and while I imagine he’s handsome and others in the story say as much, he’s got severe body image problems that stem from a bad childhood and adolescence, as well as disfiguring scars and a limp. He’s a cranky, sarcastic, cynical, and oftentimes cruel insomniac that masks his insecurities with teasing and ill humour. But when he’s happy, he’s a delight. He just has to work for it.
- The villain: One thing I always try to steer away from is the typical villain who is evil for the sake of being evil. With this rewrite especially, I tried to make it so the antagonist was the antagonist purely because he was not the protagonist. I am a firm believer in the anti-hero concept, because it’s very rare than a person is truly evil. Unless somebody is personifying Hitler, I’m just not into it.
Fantasy tropes are there for a reason – they were tried and true in the past, though more and more people veer away from them. With this rewrite, I dove in feet first, but I’m having a lot of fun turning them around and twisting them so they aren’t your typical overused ideas.
This is the most fun I’ve had with a rewrite. I can’t wait to be finished and send it off to beta readers, so I can get more feedback.
Soon soon soon 😀