Follow TV Tropes


Fanfic / Like a Gentle Refrain

Go To

So Miguel manages to spark Mamá Coco's memories of Héctor with a song and she reveals that she kept his old letters and the torn fragment of his picture. Everyone is happy. Then we skip ahead to a year later.

Like a Gentle Refrain (alternate link) by Bookworm Gal is about what happened during that Time Skip. Just because he was remembered at the very last moment doesn't mean Héctor pops back up instantly, as good as new. And it doesn't mean that Imelda doesn't have to deal with 96 years of misunderstandings, heartache, regrets, and trying to sort out how this new information changes things. And it doesn't mean that Miguel can instantly tell everyone that Ernesto de la Cruz stole Héctor's songs and murdered him. A lot has to happen in that Time Skip. And it isn't going to be easy for anyone.


Tropes found in Like a Gentle Refrain include:

  • Arc Words: "Like a gentle refrain"
    • Variations of the phrase "I want you, I miss you, I love you, please don't go"
  • Ascended Extra: The Departures agent from the Marigold Grand Central Station, the mariachi from the beginning of the film, and several of the skeletons from Shantytown get more attention.
  • Beta Couple: Victoria and Carlos
  • Call-Back: The mariachi is still nervous about encountering Elena after their first meeting in the film.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: Most of the Rivera family end up talking to Héctor while he's unconscious.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Miguel spends his savings on photocopying Héctor's only known photograph, then stashes the copies in multiple places to make it harder for him to be permanently Removed from the Picture.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Imelda hates being on the receiving end of any type of pity, such as the Condescending Compassion directed towards her in life due to her parents disowning her for choosing to marry Héctor and then him leaving.
  • Advertisement:
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Just like in the film.
  • Everyone Can See It: It is pretty obvious to her entire family that Imelda still has some kind of feelings for Héctor.
  • Family of Choice: Everyone in Shantytown.
  • Finishing Each Other's Sentences: Oscar and Felipe.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Once Héctor is no longer on the verge of being forgotten, literally cleans up with a bath, combs his hair, and is wearing clothes that aren't tattered rags, Imelda is forcibly reminded how attractive her husband is to her, even as a skeleton.
  • It's All About Me: Ernesto de la Cruz.
  • It's All My Fault: Both Imelda and Héctor have a tendency to blames themselves for certain things: she blames herself for Héctor's near encounter with the Final Death and he blames himself for all the hardships his family endured and how much he hurt them by leaving with Ernesto in the first place.
  • Advertisement:
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Ernesto is saying it to be cruel, but he is right that while he might have murdered Héctor and stole his songs, Imelda is the one that ended up erasing all memory or mention of the man until he was on the brink of the Final Death.
  • Kick the Dog: Since Ernesto believes that Héctor has suffered the Final Death, his last words to Imelda were intended to be especially cruel.
    Ernesto: "If anyone had ever recognized him, I intended to say that he left for a night out on the town and never came back. I would be as shocked as anyone over finding out that he died. Regrettable, but unsurprising for a musician visiting a strange city so far from home. But whoever found and dealt with him did not recognize him from any of our performances. Nor did anyone ask what became of my partner. But that should not surprise you, Imelda. We both know that Héctor is quite… forgettable."
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Ernesto tells Imelda that in retrospect he wishes he hadn't killed Hector and instead had killed Imelda and Coco in a fake accident, as without his family there Hector would have gone back to being his songwriter.
  • Mama Bear: Mama Coco is willing to have an interview on Ernesto to protect Miguel from the wrath of the man's loyal fans. As it stated, Miguel is just a young boy, while she is an old woman who doesn't have much time left if any of Ernesto's fans get upset with her.
  • The Matchmaker: Rosita
  • Musical Theme Naming: Every chapter is named for some type of music terminology.
  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: Héctor experiences something similar to this after his close brush with the Final Death.
  • Named by the Adaptation: The Departures agent that Héctor tries to sneak past (Helena López) and the mariachi from the beginning of the film (Eduardo Vegaz).
  • Nice Hat: Both Julio and Héctor tend to wear hats, tugging on them or holding them at different points.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever the twins made at thirteen that involved pulleys, wire, and fireworks and Héctor suspects is still talked about in Santa Cecilia about a century later.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The biggest issue between Imelda and Héctor is a lack of proper communication.
  • Power Glows: The Final Death involves flashes of golden light across the skeleton until it becomes nearly constant and the victim disappears. One of the more concerning symptoms of Héctor only being saved at the last moment is that it takes a while for the light to fade.
  • Secret Keeper: Miguel tells Mamá Coco everything about his adventure in the Land of the Dead.
  • Serenade Your Lover: Apparently when they were alive and younger, Héctor tried to play his guitar outside Imelda's window in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, he had some real issues locating her window in the dark. His first attempt ended up outside her brothers' window. And after they told him where to find her room, he still ends up at the wrong spot and has to make a run for it after waking up her parents instead.
  • Shoe Slap: Imelda gets another shot at whacking Ernesto with her boot.
  • Skeletal Musician: In addition to Héctor from film, Carlos plays a (makeshift) violin.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: There are some protests when Victoria falls in love with one of the forgotten, given how he might suffer the final death long before her.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: According to Victoria, Elena looked a lot like Coco when she was younger.
  • Stupid Evil:
    • If putting his act of murder in one of his films wasn't bad enough, Imelda was able to provoke Ernesto into describing exactly what happened to Héctor. While in front of witnesses. One of which was a police officer.
    • Later, in court, Julio "innocently" incites a Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! rant which completely fails to impress judge or jury.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: After his very public attempt to murder Miguel, Ernesto is facing criminal charges.
  • Title Drop: Happens multiple times throughout the story.
    "There were no understandable words, but the feeling of I want you, I miss you, I love you, please come home wove through it like a gentle refrain in a song that he knew by heart."
  • Worldbuilding: More aspects of the Land of the Dead are explored, such as medicine and laws.
  • Xeno Fiction: One part is told from Dante's point of view.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: