Courtney and the Violin of Despair (commonly abbreviated to the acronym "CatVoD") is a short story by Gideoncrawle, set in the Total Drama universe. The story consists of a loosely connected series of vignettes and is mainly a prequel to the events of the first season (Total Drama Island), although it does expand on a couple of incidents from the early episodes of the show itself.
To make a short story shorter, Courtney's parents give her a violin of exceptional quality for her 11th birthday. Unbenownst to them, the violin is the infamous "Violin of Despair", which bears an ancient curse. Courtney suffers a series of humiliating misfortunes as a result, with all of the prequel incidents being music-related. All the incidents, whether prequel or expansion, were canon-compliant when the story was written.
The author describes the story as "a kinder, gentler Courtney-bashing story". The author relates that he became disgusted with the generally execrable story quality of the Courtney-bashing subgenre, which tends to wallow in viciousness at the expense of little things like story development, so he set out to demonstrate that a bash fic writer doesn't have to be mean or sacrifice story quality to give their favorite punching bag a lot of grief.
Other troped works by this author include:
This story contains examples of the following tropes:
- All There in the Manual: Not only does the story have a substantial Notes section, but the narrative and notes also include hyperlinks to supplemental information on ancillary topics and embedded music videos for some of the compositions mentioned.
- Antiquated Linguistics: Most notably, dates rendered as "The Year of Our Lord". More generally, a mild form of this is part of the author’s natural style.
- Artifact of Death: The titular violin carries a curse that tends to bring its owners to untimely ends.
- Author Catchphrase: Beginning narrative sentences with "So it was that X".
- Bait-and-Switch: A meta example. The story is billed as a "kinder, gentler 'Courtney bashing' story", but it doesn't take long for perceptive readers to discover that the "bashing" target is actually being treated like a woobie.
- Book Ends: The first and last chapters of the story proper (i.e. excluding the prologue) are very similar. Both chapters end with Courtney receiving a cursed violin (the Violin of Despair in the first chapter, and the Violin of Doom in the last) as a birthday gift from her parents, and the spirit inhabiting the violin contemplating Courtney’s fate.
- Break the Cutie: The Violin spirit is initially content to repeatedly humiliate Courtney because it deems killing a little girl to be not worth the effort, but decides that humiliation is no longer enough when Courtney becomes a public figure.
- Bring My Brown Pants: Courtney's premonition of death on the diving cliff leaves her in danger of soiling herself.
- Butt-Monkey: Courtney becomes the Violin spirit's butt monkey under the influence of the curse.
- Character Name and the Noun Phrase: The noun phrase is the name of the story's Artifact of Death. In addition, the story ends with a sequel hook for a story that (if it ever gets written) would obviously be called, "Courtney and the Violin of Doom".
- Creator Thumbprint: The epigraph at the beginning of Chapter 1 is the obligatory Gilbert and Sullivan reference.
- Curse: The curse on her violin is the underlying cause of Courtney's string of misfortunes.
- Distant Prologue: The prologue is set roughly 230 years before the beginning of the main story.
- Dramatization: The story’s core consists of three incidents based on real life incidents that the author either witnessed or heard about from the person who endured it.
- The End... Or Is It?: The story's closing note of uncertainty is a nod to the sci-fi classics of the 1950s, which tended to leave an opening for a sequel when there were, in fact, no plans for a sequel.
- Epigraph: Chapter 1 begins with a morality ballad from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, Patience, emphasizing Courtney’s good nature and the fact that she totally does not deserve what’s about to happen to her.
- Evil Is Petty: When the Violin Spirit decides that Courtney isn't worth killing, it contents itself with inflicting petty humiliations on her.
- Here We Go Again!: Courtney acquires the similarly cursed Violin of Doom at the end of the story.
- Historical Domain Character: Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy (1714 – 90) and composer Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809) appear in the prologue.
- Informed Conversation: Most of the story's conversations are of this type. There is very little actual dialogue.
- It Was a Gift: Courtney receives the titular violin as a birthday gift from her parents.
- Kill the Cutie: Originally content merely to humiliate Courtney, the Violin spirit starts trying to do her in after she becomes a public figure. It appears to succeed, but that success (and perforce the trope) is subverted with an "or so it would have been" disclaimer.
- MacGuffin Title: The titular violin is the macguffin that drives the story.
- Once Done, Never Forgotten: Brittany Reid’s refusal to let Courtney forget an embarrassing miscue at their school’s orchestra concert destroys any chance the former friends had of reconciling from an earlier falling out. As a result, they become bitter rivals and remain so for the rest of their high school careers.
- Pragmatic Villainy: When the 11-year-old Courtney acquires the titular Violin, the spirit inhabiting it decides not to kill her because it deems a little girl to be not worth the effort. For a time, the Violin Spirit is inclined to merely erode her spirit instead.
- Prepositional Phrase Equals Coolness: The title throws in The X of Y for good measure and adds coolness by giving billing to the story's Artifact of Death.
- Prequel: The story is mostly set at earlier dates than its parent work.
- Pseudo-Canonical Fic: The story's events were fully canon-compliant when written.
- Revenge Fic: Subverting this trope, by depicting Courtney sympathetically, is the whole point of the story.
- Sequel Hook: Courtney acquires the similarly cursed Violin of Doom at the end of the story. Subverted in that the story's closing note of uncertainty is actually a nod to the sci-fi classics of the 1950s, which tended to leave room for a sequel despite there being no plans for a sequel. So far as is known, the author has no plans to actually write a sequel (which would obviously be titled Courtney and the Violin of Doom); but he has stated that if he ever does, it might be something like The Perils of Pauline and would probably be openly pro-Courtney as opposed to the Revenge Fic subversion of the original.
- Signature Style: Description-rich and dialogue-light, with a flavor that readers have described as “19th Century”, “elegant”, “nearly poetic”, and so on. The author is also inclined to explain things in detail, whether in the story or in notes, and to use "death and renewal" themes.
- Sophisticated as Hell: The description of the school orchestra performing Tchaikovsky's fourth symphony includes the phrases "pretty much" and "work their butts off", in marked contrast to the story's usually florid narrative style.
- Soul Jar: The titular violin houses the embittered spirit of a former owner. Although that former owner's body is long since dust, the spirit lives on and enforces the curse on the violin.
- Think in Text: Courtney does this when she realizes that a stroke of bad luck is about to causer her public humiliation. Italicized text.
- Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Initially played straight, but eventually double-subverted.
- When Courtney acquires the violin, the spirit enforcing the curse decides not to try to kill her because it regards an 11-year-old girl as not worth the effort. Instead, the Violin Spirit contents itself with inflicting petty humiliations on her.
- When the 16-year-old Courtney appears on Total Drama Island and thereby becomes a public figure, the Violin Spirit decides that she's now worth the effort, and starts trying to do her in.
- The strong-willed Courtney eventually develops a degree of resistance to the curse unbeknownst. This resistance, however slight, plays a pivotal role in her eventual deliverance from the curse.
- Trauma Conga Line: This trope is the core of the story. Courtney continues to behave normally for the most part, but begins to lose her love of music. She just as gradually begins to rediscover it after she is freed of the curse.
- Tuckerization: The orchestra conductors at Courtney's school and the All Province Orchestra are named after nationally acclaimed band directors whom the author played under in high school and college, respectively.
- Webcomic Time: Inverted. The story consists of a series of loosely-connected vignettes that cover ten years (200+ years if you count the prologue), but the entire story was posted in a couple of months.
- The Woobie: Invoked to depict Courtney in a sympathetic light, thereby subverting the “bashing fic” setup.
- Xanatos Gambit: In the cliff diving challenge, the only two possible outcomes are for Courtney to (a) jump and die, or (b) not jump, and be publicly humiliated. Both outcomes serve the interests of the Violin spirit.