Sunday, June 10, 2012

Specific Trope That Annoys Me

I'm working on a short story for my page of fiction a day. As I write it, I'm trying to stay away from certain tropes that annoy me. One trope that annoys me in particular is one that is almost everywhere, relating to party balance. Fiction tends toward a well balanced group of people, a complementary team, even if the situation is such that this should not happen organically.

I'll believe if a military team puts together a well-balanced team with specialists and experts in particularly useful fields. This doesn't apply when you are trying to pull a caper and specifically pull together a ventriloquist, a demolitions expert, an animal tamer and a man who owns a helicopter to make your plan work. But, when you happen to have a gymnast who can help you kill a raptor, I start having questions.

Almost every zombie survivor team has a doctor and a police officer or ex-military "good with guns" person. Disaster scenarios are filled with completely random, yet oddly balanced parties. Almost like a group of people got together to roll up characters and someone asked: "Hey, who is putting points into rifle? I'm going to cover Drive (Auto)."

I also will not believe that an airplane that travels through a wormhole will just happen to have a doctor, a spare pilot, a mechanic, a scientist, a special agent, a mystery writer and a psychic. Does American Airlines have a quota system or something?

"I'm sorry sir; this flight already has its antiquated weapons expert. You'll have to reschedule. Oh, miss, would you be able to leave a bit earlier? The 9:03 is lacking a language expert."

Sometimes, a random group of people are just random. They don't have a crucial skill and have to improvise . While writing this current piece, I have done my best to make sure that people interacting in this situation seem relatively appropriate for the area. There is not going to be a doctor staying at the shady motel. I think it is more interesting to lack key skills we want people to have available.

Of course, getting the skills you need can also be a plot point. That's why Dana is looking for Rennard, after all. The whole point is to equip her with the skills she needs to grow up in her sci-fantasy world. It might be sci-fi, solely because there is no magic; but it is such... soft sci-fi, that I think we can call it sci-fantasy safely.

Now though, when I look through some of the fantasy stories I've written (or read!) building the team of skills is either part of the plot or it happens in an organic way that we've seen forever. Maybe in fantasy I'm just more forgiving of this trope then when we have a more modern, "realistic" setting. I don't know.

I guess part of it is how you introduce the characters. For example, console RPGs tend to be one of the biggest offenders. "We need an airship!" ... "Well, it just so happens there's a guy." Since we're playing them though, we tend to overlook them since we want to have the skills and tools needed to progress. It's like finding the hookshot in the hookshot dungeon; of course it is there. You didn't need it before. Now you do, ipso facto, this is where you should get it.

In non-game fiction, that is not how characters should work. Which is my new goal for the next time I write a purely sword and sorcery fantasy story. We will have organically introduced characters who exist for reasons other than unlocking plot doors for the hero. Or, perhaps, have a hero who never has that happen and has to make do without the special key at just the right moment. I don't know; either way, this is a trope that needs to be subverted more frequently.



If I ever design a dungeon. The hookshot? I will put it right on the other side of a pit with a hookshot pole next to it. That way, if you can get to it, it is a treasure you do not need. Take that, intrepid adventurer.

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