inkRipples Tropes

#InkRipples is a themed meme hosted by Mary WaibelKatie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand. We post on the first Monday of every month. If you would like to participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, include any of the images displayed on this page, and link back to their three blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation.



“The certainty that everything has already been written annuls us, or renders us phantasmal.”

  • Jorge Luis Borges


I often feel phantasmal (in Borges’s sense) when writing. What can I write that hasn’t yet been written? Not much, it turns out. Fiction is full of tropes, it consists of tropes. Just look at any genre you like to read – aren’t the books just endless variations on a theme or several themes at best? Happily ever afters in romance, the fight of good versus evil in fantasy and sci-fi, the whodunit in mysteries, enemies to lovers in YA etc.

Every now and again there comes a book so radically different from everything I’ve read so far that it will stun me. Harry Potter, anyone? Or the Illuminae series? They blew me away. Like, waaay away! But if you analyze them, after your heartbeat gets back to normal and your initial head-over-heels feelings pass, you realize they use the same tropes as any other book in their genre. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t make them any less good, in fact, it makes them even greater.

When tropes abound, what starts to really matter is the voice. The VOICE. That is why when you ask any agent or editor what they’re looking for in their future clients, they will without a doubt mention the voice, regardless of whether they’re looking for any other specific premises and stories, the voice will be on their list, and probably very high on their list. It’s the voice, the writing style, the way you make a story individual that sets it apart from the other stories even when using the same tropes.

In Illuminae we see teenage romance gone awry, rogue AI, plague, hacking, escape on improvised evacuation ships, the fight to survive and save others etc. We’ve all seen it before. Just not in the form of reports, emails, doodles, illustrations, commentary of video footage, graphics, transcripts, censored words (I found this hilarious). And not told from the perspective of the super smart, pink-haired Kady and Ezra. Illuminae is the story of an apocalypse, yet it is very personal and intimate. It makes you forget about tropes and focus on that which differs from anything else you’ve ever read.