Archive | March, 2021

Tropes, Archetypes, and Stereotypes

27 Mar

So in addition to banging off a bunch of stuff from my To Read List, I started listening to the Wheel of Time Audio books as well as The Witcher series from the Library – ebooks or audio, I’ve barely been inside a bookstore in a year. Both titles were published in the early 90’s, and the topics that will come up in the following weeks is isn’t so much reviews but just talking about themes. The Eye of the World was first published in 1990, with The Blood of the Elves in 1994. A Game of Thrones was 1996, and it struck me how these series all started out with established convention, and became their own thing. WoT has an upcoming series, with the other two titles being in production or concluded, with a potential Spin-Off for GoT. It got me thinking not only about adaptation, but tropes that rise in and out of popularity.

That is to say nothing of how long these authors spent writing their books. I assume if your book was published in 1990, it was probably accepted no later than 1988, so Jordan was probably started working on it no later than 1986. I’m amused, because I keep imaging these characters with 80’s hair. Yes, I was around in the 80’s, but I don’t remember much about it other than the campy stuff.

I also started watching Legend of the Seeker, more tv watching lately due to a back spasm, but I haven’t read the series yet and will talk about it once I can do memes again. Mostly, because I want to talk about the costumes.

When I was in High School, when I said I like to write, “Science fiction and fantasy.” And another guy in my class scoffed, asking if it was all elves and goblins and such. I said no, but it wasn’t because I didn’t like Tolkien, but my exposure was more old Edgar Rice Burroughs novels and Conan the Barbarian that my grandparents got for my dad when he was a kid. I devoured his old sword and sorcery comic books, although I’ll admit that I’m starting to give them away to my nephew who’s about the right age. We won’t talk too much about academia and how they treat my chosen genre, but a few years later, while I was still in University, in one of my creative writing classes I asked how contemporary fiction tries to retain a timeless feel, and I was advised by another student that science fiction and fantasy also can feel dated.

I agree with him to a point. People often ask me if I like the way Burroughs portrayed women (or at least the love interest) and I’ve had more than one writing teacher look at me and apologize for not having read The Lord of the Rings once, to which, I really didn’t care.

But once the technology and special effects caught up with what could only be done in comics, and the success of franchises multi-filmed movies like Harry Potter and Star Wars, our expectations as audiences grew. To me, there’s nothing about films like Gladiator that make it especially late 90’s in film format. My niece and cousin have finally gotten around to seeing the first few films of The Pirates of the Carribbean, although they grew up with movies like The Princess Bride, a film that it seems will be met with constant criticism at the mere mention of a reboot.

A trope, for our purposes, is basically a literary device we recognize. There are tropes common to certain genres, and they seem to  go beyond their genres. How it related to an archetype, is an archetype tends to be the more pure form of an idea that we might even recognize in our subconscious. I could write multiple posts on Archetypes, I would recommend reading books by either Joseph Campbell or Jung to start. A stereotype, tends to be something we’ve seen ad nauseum and it feels lazy. I don’t feel qualified to write about archetype, so let’s just go with a simpler term ‘trope’ and ‘stereotype’.

How it tends to work is something like this:

Legolas from The Lord of the Rings is the Archer Archetype. He’s not the lead, he’s more of a lancer. The stereotype that follows? Take your pick, but one of them is that all elves are fantastic archers and haughty.

Gimli son of Gloin is a classic bearded, axe-wielding dwarf. Once again, he’s not the lead, a lancer. The stereotype? Countless dwarf-like characters who are gruff and more than a bit snarky. They like mining and are more down-to-earth than the elves.

And from these two, we see an absolute ton of media that follows withdwarves and elves having animosity towards each other, which was common in Tolkien’s world, although the books themselves was about them becoming friends, to the point where Legolas brought Gimli with him to the undying lands.

To me, there’s nothing about The Lord of the Rings that suggests that it had to be written by a World War I veteran or was published in 1954. It’s obvious that Tolkien was a scholar and his attention to detail was amazing, and the more I read supplementation to his work, the more impressed I am. However, because of the success of Middle-Earth, it opened up the publishing world to more detailed and developed fantasy worlds, and not only for extreme fans. I took my niece to the bookstore two days ago for book 7 in a saga, which weighed in around 750 pages. It’s not the last book, nor is it the only series she’s read at that length. The series is designed for readers 12-14, and I’ve noticed that more contemporary books are getting thicker, especially for fantasy.

The problem I see is that the financial backing for some of these projects gets so heavy, that’s why we keep seeing reboots as opposed to original works. It works because the big names will bring in casuals, and then the folk who will spend the money, whereas the fans will want more, and go to other media as well. We want more but the producers take a financial risk with each product.

I think the universal feel though, is that despite the fashion choices of the time, or the actors chosen, is because they say something real and raw. Perhaps we’ve seen it, or something like it before, but we’re left unsatisfied, or at least want to relive the memories.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t choices taken. Compare these book covers:

That is to say nothing of when the WoT books were split in two for a YA audiences. Over time, the more detailed art lost favor for a more stylized, simple cover. Odds are, with the tv series, we’ll see brand new covers with the actors on them.

How about the casting of these actresses? The top is Liv Tyler as Arwen, the first LotR movie came out in 2001. The other actress is Brigette Regan, she played Kahlan in The Legend of the Seeker series which debuted in 2008.

               I think this blog post has gone on long enough for an in general talk about tropes. II’ll talk about some of my thoughts about these series and in general in the coming days, so long as my back spasm continues to improve and I can sit up for more than half an hour without getting whiny.


Keeping Stuff Organized 101

17 Mar

This isn’t about how to keep notes for your future self when you’re planning an epic, multi-length saga or an ever-expanding universe, so much acknowledging there’s multiple ways to organize your projects, and I like to make life for future me as easy as possible. I tend to know the status of everything in terms of, “Drafted, Revision, Published” but I can’t remember if I asked this blogger for a review or what day exactly I sent something for submission. This is about what works for me, but there’s always more than one way to organize. I used to be a zipline instructor, and I made up a spreadsheet for our daily equipment check logs, and the others preferred a different format, so I revised until we were more or less satisfied. You may even start out one way and decide another format will work better based on what you do. My preferred format is novels, but if you’re submitting a lot more, say poetry and shorts, you might want to use a very different format because you’ll have a lot more information. I’m going to talk about submission logs specifically using MS Excel, and how they’re useful for both long term and short term projects.

Why do you ask do you need to keep notes, if the important stuff, like the product, I can generally keep track of? If you only have one series or project it’s relatively easy, but you still don’t want to be emailing the same people over and over again for a review, or maybe if you write a sequel, you want to send a copy to the reviewers who liked the earlier book in the series.

First off, divide your work into different categories. Let’s pretend I am promoting a book that’s already out, writing a short story for a contest, and getting ready to promote something coming out in two months.

So these categories may include:

Book Promotion


Future Promotion

For the promotion, I might have already signed up for a book tour, and the tour might require different articles on your part. I made this basic template to tell me the status of each article and when it’s due. Normally, instead of the blog name I would put a link to the blog or site, but I made these up.

Depending on what you’re doing at that time, you might be only focusing on submitting one product at a time. I write shorts as well as novels, so I go based on the year. Going by the name of the novel works too, but I can look at a glance how I worked in 2020 vs 2019. The best part, is if some houses only have a limited submission window, say, February 1-28 every year for that genre, I can make a note at the beginning of the log to remind future me to have the product ready as per the submission guidelines.

For me, finding a publishing house can take some time, so I like to know who publishes what and, if it’s for an anthology or a contest, what the submission time frame is.

As with the above example, these are all made up. Tower of Obsidian was published February 2013, and Chimera is still waiting for me to fix it.

As you can see, the above is only meant for me, so I’m not worried too much about consistency in the dates.

Future Promotion is a little different, especially if your product is in the hands in the publisher. I have watched expected publication dates fly by with no control on my part, but let’s assume that I have complete control of the work. I might decide to ask the Book Promotion Company to do a cover launch, or a preview of a chapter, or something. Basically, this would be drafting a game plan.

You can make up an excel spreadsheet if you’re needing to take your time to come back to a project, but it’s essentially leaving yourself a note. If, however, I were to stumble across someone else’s unfinished project, I might divide their work into categories.

Oh Yeah? What about keeping your work organized in Portfolios?

I’ll be the first one to admit that I have several projects in hard copy, beta-read, that really should be revised and submitted. I’m incredibly guilty of philandering with a new idea and saying, “Oh, I’ll edit it after I’m done this draft”. So how do you keep track of projects?

The nice thing about MS Word is that it doesn’t care, and you can abandon a project for years and come back to it. MS Word also dates the last time you revised it, but it can be problematic if you open something and save an earlier copy, and you don’t know which is the most current file. I don’t think a screenshot is super important here, so basically how I organize my writing is as follows:

Main Drive: WRITING

First Set of Sub Categories:





R.J. Hore is my beta reader, and my niece has joined me in making stories. If someone sends me a lot, they have a chance of getting their own subfolder. Ron’s stuff is mostly me asking questions back for his revision, but if he needs me to look over something quick (or vice versa) we’ll send each other emails. In general, we print out and swap manuscripts in person. Yes, COVID has made it tricky but we manage.

In Mine, I then have:

Short Stories



Blog Posts

Within Novels, there’s further subcategories because I put entire series together and just have subfolders within. I tend to keep series together, and each novel, novella or short would have its own folder within that. If it was something that stood on its own, like Dreams of Mariposa, inside I would have the main novel files, but then I would have further subcategories:




Unused would be scenes I cut entirely or rewrote, when I select all and cut.  I tend to just leave them, but I like having the ideas handy if I want to use them in a different project. They’re messy and raw, but let’s just say that a scene that took too long in another book got shortened, and I used a scene in Titan’s Ascent that I really wanted to use in a different novel, but acknowledge that the beast was long enough without it.

Legal is my query, synopsis, even copies of the contract would be here.

Extra would be notes for myself. This would be like, what color Aaron’s horse is and if the name has any significance. In particular with Tower of Obsidian, I wrote down pronunciation and notes Ron would send me. For instance, Kale and Aaron were knights in the first draft, but Ron pointed out that knights didn’t technically exist in Ireland until centuries after the end of the Viking age. They had men-at-arms and warriors, but let’s pretend the publishing process didn’t go nearly as quickly as I assumed. If I found a publisher later and an editor asked, “Why aren’t these guys knights?” I could easily turn around and reference my notes, then find supplementation to explain to them.

When I start editing with someone else, I learned the hard way that editors are human and make mistakes. Make a subcategory with the date. “Feb 2018 Edits” or “March 2018 edits” might be fine in the title of the file, but I want to be certain I’m not redoing work.

And to clarify, here’s what a series like Rogue healer would look like:

Writing – Mine – Novels – Rogue Healer :Witchslayer’s’ Scion

                                                                           :Magus’ Gambit

                                                                           :Titan’s Ascent


Clear as mud? Obviously this isn’t the only way to do things, and you can make spreadsheets for your stock, keeping track of expenses and however you find them to be a useful tool. Just keep your receipts if you’re going to write off anything; last thing you need is to be audited over parking.