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 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.
  • Break Them by Talking: That's right, go ahead. Try and make a tropeless tale. It is impossible.
  • 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.
  • 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, as well 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 in the first place.
  • 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.
  • Unpleasable Fanbase: Even if you manage to create a tropeless tale, someone will still find something in your work to bash and/or criticize.
  • 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.