Friday, October 14, 2016

Tropes I Like: The Break from Everyday Life

One thing I like about the premise of someone going on an adventure after suffering or causing some sort of disruption--plane crash, shipwreck, etc.--is that it so clearly delineates a break from the Ordinary World and entrance into the World of Adventure. Even the relatively tame E.R. Burroughs used to set up A Princess of Mars (which you really should read if you haven't), where John Carter goes into a cave and projects himself to Mars, works well enough to serve this function. (If there's a defined term for this trope, I don't recall it.)

The ambiguous use of this trope, as I note immediately above, is great for when you want to set up either an unreliable narrator or an unreliable narrative. I'm using something like this for another future project, a fragment of which I posted here weeks ago, so that both the reader and the protagonist get that clarity of separation. It allows you to introduce the unreality of the Adventure slowly, which is really important in properly presenting the reader that unreality without snapping suspension of disbelief.

But I prefer to be as obvious as the device itself. Even if the protagonist is someone's whose Ordinary World IS about adventure, making this trope be the "Cut off from his support, can he get back to basics and overcome?" premise we see in some series at some point during their run, it works. As tropes for structuring a narrative go, there are few more reliable than the Clean Break trope in terms of establishing when the fun starts.

It works regardless of genre. Superheroes? Check. Fantasy? Check. Science Fiction? Check. Romance? Check. Historical Fiction? Check. "Literary"? Check. Comedy? Check. Horror? Check. Triggering SJW cocksuckers as if firing a minigun? Check, check, and check. It works regardless of medium also. Film? Check. Television? Check. Radio? Check. Print, in all its diversity? All the checks. Song? More checks.

And it is reversible, as a way of closing the narrative. Leaving and returning to said Ordinary World, sometimes an outright and literal goal, is so basic a device that Joseph Campbell builds his Monomyth model around it. You wreck on an island, have a fantastic adventure, and return to your ordinary life by getting off the island somehow. Change the trappings, but keep the structure, and you can write adventure stories until your hands fall off and your voice fails.

The basics are basic for a reason. Respect that, adhere to the KISS Maxim, and you too can become a Dragon Award winner or enjoy success sufficient to own a mountain, or even have a private island, or whatever you want out of your writing.

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