My Week in Tropes | March 16

I’ve recently been told that I can be quite a frustrating person to take walks with. I will admit I’m easily distracted—after all, if you’re going to walk somewhere for fun, what’s the point in walking briskly, hands in pockets, eyes on the ground in front of you to make sure you don’t step in anything nasty? Especially when there are so many things you can see on walks: the engraved facades of old, crumbling buildings, the tiny yellow flowers just starting to bloom in the sidewalk planters, odd-shaped clouds and curious pigeons. In fact, just looking UP when you walk can be heavenly—so many people forget to look up these days, though that might have something to do with the fact that it tends to make you bump into things (other pedestrians, random trees, the person you’re accompanying, etc.).

Which brings me to this week’s trope:

Cloudcuckoolander

Though Luna Lovegood may perhaps be the most well-known (and best-loved) example of this trope, Cloudcuckoolanders can be found in every corner of literature, from the titular protagonist of Don Quixote, to Spinelli’s Stargirl, and in fact, the trope name comes from Aristophanes’ The Birds, where Cloud Cuckoo Land was an impossible perfect city in the clouds—and the Cloudcuckoolander has always embodied that wonderful, tragic mixture of idealism and impracticality.

That said, it’s all too easy to make the Cloudcuckoolander outright clueless or ignorant, rather than merely different. And at times, such as when such a character is shoe-horned into the role of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, they can suffer every character’s worst curse: flatness. There are too many instances where a Cloudcuckoolander’s oddness becomes their only dimension, the author sacrificing the character’s humanity in favor of an oddball characature or stereotype.

Still, there’s always been something inherently endearing about the free-spirited Cloudcuckoolander. After all, each and every one of us has a unique and entirely individual way of looking at and interacting with the world. The Cloudcuckoolander merely takes the most exaggerated combination of these differences, allowing us to examine how looking at the world differently can give us insights, or isolate us: how different ways of seeing the world lead to different ways of relating to the world, as well as our actions within it.

In terms of my writing this week, the Cloudcuckoolander trope has been a main focus. I’ve been working on the second draft of my NaNoNovel, and among all the major changes I’ve been implementing in order to strengthen the characters and better develop the plot, I’ve found that one of my minor characters is becoming more important to the narrative. And working with her character was proving extremely difficult until I realized that her Cloudcuckoolander nature had to be balanced by her less savory character traits (namely, her propensity for lying).

Because it doesn’t matter how distracted we get by the clouds or the flowers, whether we see the world in black or white or shades of grey or in a particularly vivid hue of violet: the key to characters, in both fiction and real life, will always be our conflicting depths.

My Week in Tropes | Feb 2nd

Nervous Wreck 

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I spent the past week or so waiting for a response to my current draft, and it pretty much drove me over the deep end, which made it very uncomfortable for the people who had to be subjected to my presence (family, friends, writing buddies, strangers sitting at the table next to us). So, yeah, slowly suffering a Heroic BSOD over the course of a week is one of those things I wish I could avoid doing ever again.

Or, you know, less than twice a month.

But that’s not going to happen.

Still, it did make ultimately receiving the response that much better! I might’ve actually ended up on the floor, unable to breathe for the hugs, laughter, and relief. And if you think there’s any possibility that “might’ve” means “might’ve not” you are very very wrong.

(The maniacal relief laughter lasted approximately a quarter of an hour.)

The Power of Friendship

So, maybe we’re not destroying evil or stopping the end of the world, but having friends to spend time with, even if we don’t always see eye-to-eye, is pretty much the only thing keeping any of us afloat.

And it’s an odd thing, how I see these tropes emerging, not only in my life, but also, ultimately, in my writing. At the same time that I’m thinking about what it actually means to be a friend—whether it’s more necessary to be nice or honest, how to show support even when you can’t agree—I see my characters playing out my struggles and realizations on the page.

In the end, I think, is the question of who you can rely on. Eventually my protagonist realizes that she can trust the friend she’s been fighting with throughout most of the manuscript—that they will be there when needed (even if, afterward, they have to lecture her on why she’s hopeless for putting herself into these situations in the first place).

Faux Affably Evil 

I’m pretty sure there are worse characters who can show up in your manuscript (unannounced and unexpected) than the Faux Affably Evil secondary antagonist.

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I just lied to you. I’m so sorry.

Anyway, spent the week working on a character who, yes, showed up in one of my newer manuscripts unannounced and unexpected. And yes, he did a lot of smiling and charming and being very affable, and really, I should’ve known all along that he was silently plotting the demise of pretty much everyone.

So that was fun.

Non-Indicative First Episode

Anyway, that’s been my week in tropes. Maybe you’ll get a second episode next week! Tune in to find out: same bat time, same bat channel. Maybe a completely different format. Who knows?