On Tropes

“I reject your reality and substitute my own.” – Intro line by one host on Mythbusters

I am a fantasy geek. I love quotes and all manner of strange geek inside jokes. And while the world of fantasy games and books doesn’t always match that of the reality we inhabit there is a lot of internal consistency and themes that connect the works. To that I really love the site TV Tropes. If you are a writer and don’t know the site, definitely check it out beyond my links. It is awesome.

What is a Trope? You ask.

They define tropes as “devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.” And make a point that they are different than cliches, which are boring.

When I was designing the Crossing the Dropline series in my head I went to TV Tropes a number of times to understand what was out there and which parts of the fantasy landscape I wanted to explore. If you are one to say, “but to be recognized you need to break out of the stuff that has already been done,” then I say you need to be very familiar with what has been done, and we are back to Tropes.

World Building

Crossing the Dropline is a world of my own imagining, but it is of course influenced by lots of other things. Perhaps most heavily is the increasing popularity of Steampunk. I love the ideas of the higher technology in a pre-modern setting. I am just tired of the Victorians and clockwork. So I have pushed the series more into Dieselpunk, technology echoes more of a 1920’s-1930’s era with combustion engines. And yet there is a lot of magic around, just not necessarily wielded by the people.

Thematically the stories of the series are full of action. Pretty much I want them to be reminiscent of Anime series or of RPG campaigns. Characters getting into fights, villains lording it over them and all of that. And this brought me to the Trope called “Two Fisted Tales.” Add a fantasy world, so the concept of actual Nazis makes no sense, and that along with Dieselpunk is what I keep in mind when writing the world.

These aren’t perfect matches to what I want to do with the series, but there are definitely some inspiration.

Weapons and Fighting Styles

When one of the core aspects of the series is Anime inspired battles, weaponry is something to consider. Each character has his own preferred weapon and there is discussion amongst the characters about why they pick one over the other.

I knew I wanted to have both swords and pistols. Seriously, if Star Wars can manage this in a sci-fi context, I certainly can do it in my fantasy. By our 1920’s the use of swords was pretty much defunct, but I knew I wanted them around. I also like the high flying action of Wuxia that is seen in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Kung Fu Panda. Though because I want to keep things at least somewhat realistic, this fighting style is relegated to the magically imbued villains.

Villain Design

Queen of the Cloud Pirates is the first book of the series and the title refers to the main villain, Oorn, rather than the protagonist. She has the magical ability to control the wind and this control lends her insane agility, which she uses in her fighting and her villain-ness.

I built her based on a lot of inspiration from Anime again, so it makes sense that certain tropes would run around her character as well. To show you how awesome TV Tropes can be, I just found a pair that fit the queen well. I didn’t see their entries before I wrote her.

I have the high ground refers to the villains habit of standing above a situation often perched on a spire. Oorn does this, commonly. In fact it is one of things I really like about her, and I get to explain the ability within the world by her control of air. It makes her special.

The second one that ties in is called dramatic wind. In the second novella (due out in summer), during a scene of emotional importance Arnhelm, one of the heroes, notices how the wind around them changes based on Oorn’s mood. Again I get to have both the dramatic effect and to show her powers.  Again, I didn’t see these tropes beforehand, but they match perfectly.

Rule of Cool

If you spend enough time wandering (in normal Wiki style) from entry to entry deep into the night you will begin to see that the Rule of Cool is referenced over and over. The essence of this most central trope is that if it is cool in the story it is ok. This doesn’t fit in every genre, but the Anime influence that I am leaning on allows and almost requires it to be used.

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Cover3_100This is not an exhaustive list of the Tropes that fit some aspect of Crossing the Dropline. Though if any of this appeals I would definitely like to encourage you to check out the first book Queen of the Cloud Pirates.

Expressions of Exploration

I am an explorer. I really like to see what is beyond that hill and how one thing affects another. I like to push buttons and see things react. This affects a lot of how I see the world and interact with it. It gets expressed in a couple of my favorite hobbies.


This is where I first ran across the idea of “explorer” as a classification rather than just a trait. The Bartle Test theorizes classifications around how people enjoy a game world. I tend to be an explorer, though I definitely have some of the other qualities.

I love video games. The rich worlds of plenty of things to push and interact with.


If gaming is an artificial world to play in, then travel is the act of playing in the real world. Predictably perhaps, I love travel. The same urge to see things and what is over that hill or around that corner leads me to be a wanderer when I travel. I look for the details and the small things when we travel. (Check out my travel blog all about the details if you want to see what I mean.)

To see crazy white cliffs in Turkey and wander in exotic cities just lights up my mind. It is awesome to explore and see what things are like.White Cliffs in Turkey


And so this leads me back to writing. (This is my author site after all.) I am beginning to see my writing urges as an expression of this desire to explore as well. To explore the world that I have created in my mind. It gets inspired by the world that I have traveled in and filtered through a wild imagination.

The world exploration is my favorite aspect of fantasy writing. I have had locales and maps in my head for many years. What I have struggled with is the story and character aspects of writing. I am getting better. (Sign #1 is that I have stories finished.) It helped to think of characters themselves as a landscape to explore. To explore not just the world they live in, but to explore the insides of the character as well. Then the story becomes the movement of one within the other.

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I like to search and poke and prod. To see how things react. To experience new and different places. In gaming and in travel, and now in writing.