Today’s meeting was a treasure trove of good advice, so I’m spoiled for choice in choosing the biggest take away for the day, but one thing that really struck me was a fine line point.
Tropes can give your reader a feeling of familiarity, bring them into the story more quickly, resonate more readily. When a horror story starts with a family moving house you have the wonderful (?) situation of they are somewhere new and strange, and even home – where you should feel safe and comfortable – is not yet familiar. A perfect setting for an unsettling read.
Making your story resonate with popular stories (written or performed) can make your reader feel at home, but make sure you’re writing your own story, not retelling your inspiration.
A word of caution on using tropes: tropes can become cliches quite easily. And some readers may view one thing as a trope while others see the same detail as a cliche. It’s a fine line to tread and definitely a moment when it’s handy to have a critique group or at least some trusted readers to help you see which side of the line you’ve fallen on.
This is where reading lots in your own genre can help you. You know what’s familiar and what’s been done to death; what’s trope and what’s cliche.
Let’s all try to find the line and walk it.