Just For Fun / The Tropeless Tale

"One of the things we tried to do with [Monty Python's Flying Circus] was to try and do something that was so unpredictable that it had no shape and you could never say what the kind of humor was. And I think that the fact that 'Pythonesque' is now a word in the Oxford English Dictionary shows the extent to which we failed."
Terry Jones at the US Comedy Arts Festival, 1998

You're sick of all of those Trope Overdosed stories. It's getting on your nerves. Why doesn't anybody do anything original? You know! You're going to write one yourself! So now you compose a list of tropes, and cross out what you can't have in your story. Work something out afterwards.

  1. You can't have a hero or a villain. That's okay, there have been works that did that.
  2. You can't have an Action Guy or a Non-Action Guy - nor can you have only women.
  3. You can't like anything you write about. That's okay, you will write about what you hate— No, wait! You can't do that, either.
  4. You will not go overboard with your descriptions, but you can't limit those descriptions either.
  5. You will not have a narrative in your story. That means no Dialogue, no Conflict, no Characters, no Plot. Your story will be about the purely abstract, maybe even nothingness. Just a page or two describing the non-existent scenery that is utropeia. Or maybe just describing nothingness. Aww, nuts, that won't work either...
  6. You should avert all tropes, but you cannot use Averted Trope either. Sound like some sort of Logic Bomb? Well, you have to avert that now too.note 
  7. Finally, let's say that you actually do it, somehow, despite all the other issues we've mentioned. You manage to create a story that is well and truly tropeless. Now let's say that other people like your ideas enough to copy them many, many times. Now your tale is no longer tropeless, but the Trope Maker for an entirely new set of tropes, because that's what a trope is — a pattern of elements meant to convey meaning.

Due to the impossibility of writing a story without tropes, it is generally not to be undertaken except as an artistic challenge, and attempting to not use tropes is not necessarily intelligent writing; instead, an easier end toward intelligent writing is to take old tropes and use them in a new way. Watchmen is considered a masterpiece, even though nothing in it was new. It just used the old in a fascinating way. William Shakespeare lifted all of his plots from other works (except one). The Belgariad is one of the most critically acclaimed fantasy series in modern fiction, and was deliberately filled with every trope, convention and cliche that the writer could think of. Also, let's not forget that the three highest grossing movies of all time, The Force Awakens, Titanic (1997) and Avatar are riddled with tried and true formulas, familiar story structure and arc characterisations.

It's important to note that this page is not meant as a smug, pop-psychology attack on the stupidity and unoriginality of the human brain, but rather a testament to how many tropes authors and artists have created, including some pairs of tropes that are exact opposites and even some that necessarily occur whenever others don't. In contrast, the message here is that writing a tropeless tale is impossible because writers long ago have thought of so much, often in deliberate attempts to avoid using tropes. So don't take it personally. Heck, even stories purposefully written with as few words as possible can unintentionally spawn a myriad of tropes, such as Hemingway's Six Word Story and The Ugly Barnacle.

The closest thing to a Tropeless Tale is TV static from a channel you can tune to, but don't get — Snowy Screen of Death! Curses! You Are Too Late!

Some works have come close to reaching this nebulous quality such as Allegreto, After Last Season, Koyaanisqatsi, My Dinner with Andre, The Man with the Movie Camera, Russian Ark, Decasia and quite a few True Art Is Incomprehensible works, although all of these are arguable and subjective, and well... they tend to come up with tropes anyway. Also, Finnegans Wake. No, wait, that's a Mind Screw... Arguably, the closest thing to it is the film Roundhay Garden Scene which is 2 seconds long and depicts no real action, but it's questionable if it can even be considered a "work". note 

To put it another way, The Tropeless Tale is this. note 

Or this: ∞

Look, even this page uses tropes:

  • An Aesop: You can't write a story without tropes and that's OK.
  • Awful Truth: You will never be 100 percent original. Yes, it's sad but you have to accept it and move on.
  • Beige Prose: The only words in the Tropeless Tale are in the title.
  • Break Them by Talking: That's right, go ahead. Try and make a tropeless tale. It is impossible.
  • Conflict: Averted, as the story has no conflict (unless you count the writer trying to make a Tropeless Tale as the conflict).
  • Empty Room Psych: The lack of tropes is going to make people want to find meaning and content in the story anyway, even if there wasn't any content intended in the first place.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's a story without tropes (or at least, it's ideal is to be one).
  • Flash Fiction: Taken Up to Eleven. The Tropeless Tale is as short as you can possibly make a story, as it has no words at all (not counting the title).
  • Law of Conservation of Detail: Ideally, the aim of the Tropeless Tale is to have absolutely no content in it at all. But as the other tropes prove, even having the story be completely absent of even the most basic things a story needs, to the point where it has absolutely no words beyond the title, will spawn a myriad of tropes by itself.
  • Mind Screw: A story with no tropes spawns a list of tropes anyway. Try to wrap your head around that.
  • Minimalism: Trying to make a story that uses absolutely no tropes at all is similar to the mindset of this, albeit taken to an insane and impossible extreme.
  • Mohs Scale of Violence Hardness: A straight 0 on the scale.
  • Nameless Narrative: The Tropeless Tale has absolutely no characters in it.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Despite being a story that attempts to use no tropes, it's attempt to completely avoid using them ends up spawning a list of tropes for it anyway.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: The Tropeless Tale has no plot or narrative to speak of, but it does exist to make a point, ironically due to its utter lack of content.
  • Poe's Law: Is this serious, or is it a challenge to all you writers out there with a bit of guts?
  • Reality Ensues: Writers attempting to create a tropeless tale, even one where absolutely nothing exists or happens, will discover that even that kind of thinking spawns a type of context due to the thought process behind it and the real life audiences reaction to it, as well as other stories and tropes and the thought process behind them contrasting the utter lack of content in the attempt at a tropeless story. Art and creativity does not exist in a vacuum, and for a tropeless tale to even remotely be possible, there would have to be absolutely no existence at all—and even that could probably spawn tropes by itself.
  • Second-Person Narration: The Tropeless Tale narrating itself without the use of "I" or "me".
  • Self-Referential Humor: This is TV Tropes making fun of its troping ability.
  • Schmuck Bait: Both the link to the Self Demonstrating page and the challenge to write something tropeless seem appealing.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: In the end you couldn't create a tropeless tale.
  • Show, Don't Tell: The story proves the folly of trying a write a story with no tropes by showing that a story with no tropes has nothing in it at all, and yet still manages to spawn content and a reaction to it anyway.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Can go either way, depending on whether you interpret the impossibility of making a Tropeless Tale as a good thing or a bad thing.
  • Unpleasable Fanbase: Even if you manage to create a tropeless tale, someone will still find something in your work to bash and/or criticize.
  • We Do the Impossible: This is the aim of anyone trying to write a Tropeless Tale, as it absolutely is impossible.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Even if it would be possible to succeed any work created that way would act as a trope maker for new tropes. If you found a way around that, "tropeless tale" itself would become a trope. Worse yet, since you're reading this it already is.

...and that, folks, is the reason why we say Tropes Are Not Bad around here. Even the mere concept of a Tropeless Tale has tropes.