So You Want To / Deconstruct a Trope

To command nature... one must first learn to obey it..

So you want to use a trope. But you don't want to use it the normal way. Well, you do want it to be used the normal way, but also in a less glorious way.

Understanding the Trope

To first learn how to deconstruct a trope, you must first learn to obey it. Tropes exist for reasons and only a fool disrespects the tropes. That being said, a wise author learns to go beyond the trope. The trope is like a compass telling you which way is north but if all you ever do is go north, (following the trope as if it were a law), you might never get where you're going. A wise person looks at the trope to get their bearing and then heads off in a new direction.

Let's use the trope of the hero since it is one of the oldest and arguably most powerful trope in existence. The antihero is a subversion of this trope but even the antihero is still a hero. Is there any story ever written that doesn't have some form of a hero? When people write stories that fly in the face of well established tropes, the stories always wind up chaotic and leave the reader confused or alienated. The only way to deconstruct a trope is to identify the essential elements of that trope and then change the non-essential elements.

The straight trope is designed to be enjoyed, but not necessarily to be realistic. A deconstruction is not only the trope played straight; it is the trope played straighter than normal. There is no glamour behind this trope. There are no Acceptable Breaks from Reality. This trope is in play, maybe even invoked, but it's not going the way it's thought it would. The trope ought to come with a warning label.

For example, The Hero is a trope about, well, a hero. That character who does the Heroic things, kills the dragon, defeats Emperor Evulz, saves the princess. Now, think of this trope, but deconstruct it. Make it fall apart. Would that Hero like his job? Would he be appreciated for his job? Would it affect his sanity? Yes, the good side is still there, but now there's a bad side you didn't notice before. There's a thousand things that can go wrong if you just take the time to list them.

Deconstructing the Trope

Now if you really want this to have an effect, there are two things you need to focus on; reality, and magnitude. The deconstructed trope is a mixture of reality and a straight trope, so the amount of reality in the mix is important. That is, increasing the level of deconstruction does not increase the level of reality. There's only so bad an effect reality can have on a trope. So what if the Hero hates his job, or can't confine to the laws of Herohood? If the world starts to fall to pieces just because the Hero is unhappy, then you haven't found the realistic balance, you've gotten to the other side of the scale. The reality part of the deconstruction ought to affect mostly the Hero, and most likely the people around him.

The magnitude part of the deconstruction can get a little unrealistic, as it partly relies on luck. A trope with a lot of magnitude is not an exaggerated trope. The magnitude part of this trope is the importance of the trope in the story. For example, how important is the Hero? We've established that the people he cares about are affected by his trope's deconstruction, but who are those people? Are they just minor characters, who may notice the deconstruction, but are barely noticed by us? Or are they part of something bigger, like an official, famous, government-supported crime stopping force?

The importance of the trope affects how powerful the deconstruction is, as the more lies at stake with this trope, the worse the outcome should the trope fall apart, but it can also affect how powerful the force towards the deconstruction is. If the Hero's job is super important, then it's so much more important that he does it right, and enjoys it, and is appreciated it. If he's not, it's a hell of a lot easier for him to start hating it.

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