Showing posts with label tropes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tropes. Show all posts

Saturday, January 21

The Tropes of Supernatural

The Tropes of Supernatural

I have a confession: I’m a super-fan of Supernatural. I’ve rewatched the entire series—twice! Each time something new would pop; I’d get a fresh insight into the rhythm, the patterns, the complex web of conflicting character desires.

For those who’ve never seen Supernatural, it’s ...

“an American fantasy horror television series created by Eric Kripke. It was first broadcast on September 13, 2005, on The WB .... Starring Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester and Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester, the series follows the two brothers as they hunt demons, ghosts, monsters, and other supernatural beings. (Supernatural, Wikipedia)”

I’ve watched Supernatural from the very first episode way back in 2005. So, in honor of supernatural's upcoming 13th season, I thought I'd take a look at the tropes used in the show.

About tropes: The way I see it, just because a show uses tropes doesn’t mean it’s bad. It all depends on how the tropes are written.

Knowledge Broker

A Knowledge Broker “is the person who always seems to have the dirt on everybody. The person who runs an information-gathering system, with a network of informers.” The Knowledge Broker may seem “nearly omniscient. He/she always seems to have just the right tidbit of information for whoever is willing to pay their price. For the most part, he remains impartial despite his vast influence, and most people know to stay on his good (or at least indifferent) side.” (TVTropes, Knowledge Broker)


- Ice Pick from Magnum, P.I.
- Sam Axe in Burn Notice.
- Mycroft on Sherlock.

Related tropes:

- The Barnum
- Freudian Excuse
- Default to Good

Monster of the Week

A Monster of the Week story is one in which “characters fight a villain and the whole story is wrapped up at the end, never to be dealt with again.”

Cool fact: Did you know that the phrase, “Monster of the Week” comes from the writing staff of the Outer Limits (1963)?


- The Twilight Zone
- The Outer Limits
- Marvel’s Agents of  S.H.I.E.L.D.

Related tropes:

- One-Shot Character
- Mystery of the Week
- Monster Munch

Walking the Earth

This is one of my favorite tropes! From TVTropes:

“Footloose and fancy-free, we set off among the Adventure Towns, seeking the next place, rather than our fortunes. / ... The character has no home (or he/she/it in progress of finding one), no job, no money, no identification, no friends, and no visible means of support, yet is always healthy, well-fed, clean, and welcome wherever he goes.”

“When one is forced to walk the earth against one's will, this trope becomes the much darker Flying Dutchman. / If a character walking the earth has a strict code of honor and spreads justice in his wake, he's a Knight Errant. Same code of honor (and wanderlust) usually results in passing the ‘Leave Your Quest’ Test.”


- Doctor Who 
- The Fugitive
- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

Related tropes:

- Adventure Towns
- In Harm's Way
- The Drifter

Myth Arc

A Myth Arc is basically a story arc—often a very LONG one. In the case of Supernatural the Myth Arc encompasses a soon-to-be 13 seasons of the show!

Cool fact: “Myth Arc” and “mythology episode” originated with the writers on the X-Files!


- Babylon 5
- X-Files
- Heroes

Related tropes:

- Continuity Lock-Out
- Story Arc
- Chris Carter Effect

Every post I pick a book or audiobook I love and recommend it. This serves two purposes. I want to share what I’ve loved with you, and, if you click the link and buy anything over at Amazon within the next 24 hours, Amazon puts a few cents in my tip jar at no cost to you. So, if you click the link, thank you! If not, that’s okay too. I’m thrilled and honored you’ve visited my blog and read my post.

Today I’m recommending Writing a Novel with Scrivener, by David Hewson. I use Scrivener to write everything, including these posts!

From the blurb: Bestselling “author David Hewson, creator of the successful Nic Costa series, offers a personal, highly-focussed guide to using this powerful application to create a novel. .... Hewson, a Scrivener user for years who's written five of his popular novels in the app, takes users through the basic processes of structuring a full-length novel, writing and developing the story, then delivering it either as a manuscript for an agent or publisher or as an ebook direct to Kindle or iBook.”

And that barely scratches the surface! If you want to look at more tropey goodness:

Character profiles from the Tabletop Game: Monster of the Week. Here’s another list. Lots of great character ideas!

That’s it! I’ll talk to you again on Monday. Till then, good writing.


Thursday, November 6

Reimagining Fairytales

Reimagining Fairytales

I’ve always been in love with the idea of re-imagining one of the fairytales I adored as a child, telling it again in a way that preserved what made me love it in the first place but bringing it into the present day. I think that might be why I took to urban fantasy like a fish to water.

Various Ways To Transform A Story

I mentioned, above, bringing a fairytale into the present—that is, changing the setting—but there are other ways to transform a story. A writing site I discovered recently ( published a terrific article: 6 Tips for Re-Imagining a Classic Story. What follows was inspired by that article.

Make a list of tropes used in the story.

If you’re not sure what tropes were used, or you’re not completely sure what a trope is, is your friend. It has every trope in existence and helpful souls have already broken many tales, both modern and classical, into their constituent tropes. (See, for example, their analysis of the tropes in Snow White—if you’re looking for the Disney version, go here.)

Now play with the story by adding new tropes or by removing existing ones.

Change one of the key elements of the story.

I’ve already mentioned changing the setting and reimagining the story in the modern era, but one could also change the plot. For example, we could re-visit the story of Little Red Riding Hood but at some time before or after her encounter with the wolf.

Or—something which would be all kinds of fun and so, as one would expect, has been done quite a bit—we could re-imagine the plot and, say, change the ending.

Another option still is to tinker with the characters themselves and make, for instance, Little Red the villain of the piece.

Examples of successful re-imaginings. 

You’re likely familiar with one amazingly successful attempt to reimagine a classic tale: BBC’s version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories (Sherlock). But there are many other shows in this vein, Sleepy Hollow for instance. There are others, many others, but these two I love and look forward to new episodes with an almost religious fervor.

By the way, I took a peek at a review of “Dust City” by Robert Paul Weston and came across this line: “When your dad is the wolf who killed Little Red Riding Hood, life is no fairytale.” That line makes me want to read the book.

Have you ever re-imagined a classic tale? How’d it go? If you’d like to share your experience, or if you have any tips to share, please leave a comment.

Photo credit: "Where's William Shatner? Star Wars VI" by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, January 6

409 Horror Tropes And Suptropes

409 Horror Tropes And Suptropes

I'm in the process of revising my post on How To Write A Horror Story and, as part of that, just came across a massive list of horror tropes over at

Below are 409 horror tropes. All of these--all of them--are from the article (just ONE article) I linked to in my last sentence. AND each one has a link to its own article, one that will tell you more than you'll likely ever need to know about the troupe.

Just for fun, why not pick a random number between 1 and 409 (if you like, you can do this by heading on over to and exploring the associated trope? Or how about picking two or three random tropes and using them to write a piece of flash fiction?

What twists could you add? Which non-standard characters could you use?

Click here for a list of character tropes: Characters.

409 Horror Tropes & Subtropes

Once again, these tropes are from: Horror Tropes.

1 Abandoned Area
2        Abandoned Hospital
3            Abandoned Hospital Awakening
4        Abandoned Playground
5        Abandoned Warehouse
6        Ghost City
7        Ghost Town
8        Ghost Planet
9        Haunted Castle
10        Haunted House
11    Absurdly Ineffective Barricade
12    The Adjectival Man
13    Afterlife Express
14    Alien Geometries
15    All Hallows' Eve
16    All in the Eyes
17    All Webbed Up
18    Alucard
19    Always Night
20    Anal Probing
21    Ancient Tomb
22    And I Must Scream
23    And Show It to You
24    Ankle Drag
25    Another Man's Terror
26    Apocalyptic Log
27    Artifact of Doom
28        Artifact of Death
29        Summoning Artifact
30        Tome of Eldritch Lore
31    Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever
32    Attack of the Killer Whatever
33    Attack of the Monster Appendage
34    Autocannibalism
35    Ax-Crazy
36    Backstory Horror
37    Bad Black Barf
38    Bad Humor Truck
39    Barred from the Afterlife
40    Barrier-Busting Blow
41    Bat out of Hell
42    Bat Scare
43    Bear Trap
44 "    Beat Still, My Heart"
45    Belly Mouth
46    Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts
47    The Blank
48    Blood Bath
49    Bloody Handprint
50    Blue-Collar Warlock
51    Body and Host
52    Body Horror
53    Body of Bodies
54    Brain Food
55    Broken Heel
56    Buried Alive
57    The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House
58    Campbell Country
59    Camp Unsafe Isn't Safe Anymore
60    Cannibal Clan
61    Cannibalism Superpower
62    Cat Scare
63    The Chain of Harm (especially #4 and #5)
64    Chest Burster
65        Spawn Broodling
66    Child by Rape
67    Chinese Vampire
68    Chupacabra
69    Circus of Fear
70    Clingy Costume
71    Cobweb Jungle
72    Complete Monster
73    Conjoined Twins
74    Connect the Deaths
75    Corpse Land
76    The Corruption
77    Cosmic Horror Story
78    Creepily Long Arms
79    Creepy Basement
80    Creepy Cemetery
81    Creepy Changing Painting
82    Creepy Child
83    Creepy Children Singing
84    Creepy Circus Music
85    Creepy Doll
86    Creepy Housekeeper
87    Creepy Long Fingers
88    Creepy Souvenir
89    Crop Circles
90    Cruel and Unusual Death
91    Crusty Caretaker
92    Curiosity Killed the Cast
93    Damsel in Distress
94    Dangerous Key Fumble
95    Dangerous Windows
96    Danger Takes a Backseat
97    Dark Lord on Life Support
98    Darkness Equals Death
99    The Darkness Gazes Back
100    Dark World
101    Daylight Horror
102    The Dead Can Dance
103        Vampire Dance
104    Deadly Bath
105    Deadly Prank
106    Deadly Road Trip
107    Death by Materialism
108    Death by Mocking
109    Death by Sex
110    Defanged Horrors
111    Demonic Dummy
112    Depraved Dentist
113    Developing Doomed Characters
114    Distress Call
115    The Doll Episode
116    Don't Go in the Woods
117        Stay on the Path
118    Drool Hello
119    Ear Ache
120    Eaten Alive
121    Electromagnetic Ghosts
122    The End of the World as We Know It
123    The End... Or Is It?
124    Enemy Rising Behind
125    Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette
126 "    Everybody's Dead, Dave"
127    Evil Elevator
128    Evil Hand
129    Evil Is Visceral
130    Evil Phone
131    Exorcist Head
132    Extremely Dusty Home
133    Eye Awaken
134    Eyeless Face
135    Eye Scream
136    Eyes Are Unbreakable
137    The Eyes Have It
138    Face Revealing Turn
139    Facial Horror
140        Tear Off Your Face
141    False Innocence Trick
142    The Family That Slays Together
143    Faux Horror Film
144    Faux Horrific: Pretending something is scary for laughs.
145    A Fête Worse than Death
146    Final Girl
147    Fingore
148    Flat Scare
149    Flaying Alive
150    Flies Equals Evil
151    Food Chain of Evil
152    Footprints Of Muck
153    For Doom the Bell Tolls
154    The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You
155    Freak Lab Accident
156    Gate of Truth
157    Ghostapo
158    Ghost Butler
159    Ghost Story
160    Ghostly Chill
161    Ghostly Goals
162    Ghostly Glide
163    Giant Eye Of Doom
164    Giant Spider
165    God and Satan Are Both Jerks
166    Gory Deadly Overkill Title of Fatal Death
167    Gory Discretion Shot
168        Sound-Only Death
169    Gross-Up Close-Up
170    Grotesque Gallery
171    Gutted Like a Fish
172    Gypsy Curse
173    Half the Man He Used to Be
174    Halloweentown
175    Hair-Raising Hare
176    Harbinger of Impending Doom
177    Haunted Fetter
178    Haunted Headquarters
179    Haunted Heroine
180    Haunted House Historian
181    Haunted Technology
182    Hazardous Water
183    Headless Horseman
184    Hell Hotel
185    Hell Is That Noise
186    Hockey Mask and Chainsaw
187    Hollywood Exorcism
188    Homicide Machines
189    Horny Devils
190    Horrifying the Horror
191    Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday
192    Horror Host
193    Horror Struck
194    A House Divided
195    Humanoid Abomination
196    Human Resources
197    Human To Werewolf Footprints
198    I Can See You
199 "    I Hate You, Vampire Dad"
200    I Love the Dead
201    Inescapable Horror
202    I'm a Humanitarian
203        Cannibal Clan
204        Cannibal Tribe
205        Horror Hunger
206        Invited As Dinner
207        No Party Like a Donner Party
208        Picky People Eater
209            Brain Food
210    I'm Cold... So Cold...
211    Impromptu Tracheotomy
212    Indian Burial Ground
213    Infernal Retaliation
214    Initiation Ceremony
215    Inn of No Return
216    Inscrutable Aliens
217    In That Order
218    Ironic Nursery Tune
219    It Can Think
220    It Won't Turn Off
221    The Jersey Devil
222    Jump Scare
223    Kaiju
224    Keeper of Forbidden Knowledge
225    Kensington Gore
226    Lamprey Mouth
227    Life or Limb Decision
228        Amputation Stops Spread
229    Light-Flicker Teleportation
230    Lightmare Fuel
231    The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday
232    Living Bodysuit
233    Living Shadow
234    Long Neck
235    Losing Your Head
236    Lost in the Maize
237    Made from Real Girl Scouts
238    Made of Plasticine
239    Madwoman in the Attic
240    Magnetic Medium
241    Malevolent Masked Men
242    Malevolent Mutilation
243    Man-Eating Plant
244    Marionette Motion
245    Meat Moss
246    Meaningful Background Event
247    Medical Horror
248    Menstrual Menace
249    Mirror Monster
250    Mirror Scare
251    Mobile Menace
252    Monster Clown
253    Monster Progenitor
254    Monsters Anonymous
255    Monstrous Humanoid
256    Mook Horror Show
257    The Most Dangerous Video Game
258    Mother of a Thousand Young
259    Mouth Stitched Shut
260    Mummy
261    Mummies at the Dinner Table
262    Mundanger
263    Murder by Cremation
264    Murder Water
265    Murderous Mannequin
266    Murderous Mask
267    Museum of the Strange and Unusual
268    Nested Mouths
269    Never Sleep Again
270    New House New Problems
271    Nightmare Face
272    Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book
273    Night Swim Equals Death
274    No Face Under The Mask
275    No Immortal Inertia
276    Not a Mask
277    Nothing but Skulls
278    Nothing Is Scarier
279    Not Using the Z Word
280    Occult Detective
281    Occult Law Firm
282    Offscreen Teleportation
283    Ominous Crack
284    Ominous Fog
285        Fog of Doom
286    Ominously Open Door
287    Ominous Music Box Tune
288    Once is Not Enough
289    Organ Theft
290    Orifice Invasion
291        Orifice Evacuation
292    Our Werewolves Are Different
293    Paint the Town Red
294    Peek-A-Boo Corpse
295    People Farms
296    Personal Horror
297    Perverse Puppet
298    Phlegmings
299    Picky People Eater
300    Pleasure Island
301    The Power of Blood
302    Prank Date
303    Pretend We're Dead
304    Protect This House
305    Psychological Horror
306    Psychological Torment Zone
307    Psycho Party Member
308    Puppeteer Parasite
309    Over The Shoulder Murder Shot
310    Rain of Blood
311    Raising the Steaks
312    Razor Apples
313    Regret Eating Me
314    Resist The Beast
315    Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain
316    Rise from Your Grave
317    Room 101
318    Room Full of Crazy
319    Room Full Of Zombies
320    Rule of Scary
321    Sadist
322    Safe Zone Hope Spot
323    The Savage South
324    Scare Chord
325    Scary Flashlight Face
326    Scary Jack In The Box
327    Scary Scarecrows
328    Scary Scorpions
329    Screamer Trailer
330    Screaming Woman
331    The Secret of Long Pork Pies
332    Security Cling
333    See-Thru Specs
334    Senseless Phagia
335    Sensor Suspense
336    Sensory Abuse
337    Serial Killer
338    The Seven Mysteries
339    Shadow Discretion Shot
340    Shaggy Search Technique
341    Silver Bullet
342    Sinister Scraping Sound
343    Skele Bot 9000
344    Skeleton Crew
345    Slashers Prefer Blondes
346    Slow Transformation
347    Sole Surviving Scientist
348    Sorting Algorithm of Mortality
349    Spiders Are Scary
350    Spooky Painting
351    Spooky Photographs
352    Spooky Seance
353    Spring Loaded Corpse
354    Stages of Monster Grief
355    Staking the Loved One
356    The Stars Are Going Out
357    Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome
358    Supernatural Proof Father
359    Surprisingly Sudden Death
360    Surreal Horror
361    Swarm of Rats
362    Taxidermy Is Creepy
363    Taxidermy Terror
364    Tentative Light
365    Television Portal
366    Terror At Make Out Point
367    Too Much For Man To Handle
368    These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know
369    Things That Go Bump in the Night
370    Through the Eyes of Madness
371    Too Many Mouths
372    Touch of the Monster
373    Tongue Trauma
374    Torso with a View
375    Torture Cellar
376    Town with a Dark Secret
377    Traumatic C-Section
378    Tulpa
379    Überwald
380    Ultimate Evil
381    Uncanny Valley
382        Uncanny Valley Makeup
383    Undead Author
384    Unexpectedly Abandoned
385    Unfinished Business
386    Urban Legends
387    Vampire Invitation
388    Vagina Dentata
389    Van Helsing Hate Crimes
390    Very Loosely Based on a True Story
391    Viral Transformation
392    The Virus
393        The Corruption
394    Virus Victim Symptoms
395    Walking Backwards
396    Wax Museum Morgue
397    We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties
398    Wendigo
399    What Happened To Mommy?
400    White Mask of Doom
401    Who You Gonna Call?
402    Wipe That Smile Off Your Face
403    With Great Power Comes Great Insanity
404    Word Salad Horror
405    The Worm That Walks
406    You Are Who You Eat
407    You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost
408    Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb
409    Zombie Apocalypse

Good writing!

Photo credit: "2014-005 pulvis et umbra" by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, September 17

Character Types And The Five-Bad Band

Character Types And The Five Bad Band

I've spent hundreds of hours over at pouring over their character descriptions. The Barnum, for instance, is a kind of trickster character who lives by exploiting greed. Equally interesting--especially to those watching Under The Dome--is the Honest John's Dealership trope.

As I was searching through the forest of descriptions I came upon something called The Five Bad Band that (suitably modified) I'm going to use in my next story. I was so excited to find it, I had to share it.

First, I'll talk about what the Five Bad Band is and then we'll go over a few ways it's been used.

The Five-Bad Band

1. The Big Bad

The first time I heard the term, "the Big Bad," was during an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The Big Bad is the ultimate villain, the mastermind, the strongest of the strong and the baddest of the bad. You do not want to meet this guy/gal after lights out.

The Big Bad has the role of leader.

The Big Bad might go head-to-head either with the Big Good (if there is one) or the hero.

Examples: Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars, Big Jim Rennie from Under The Dome.

2. The Dragon

This is the Big Bad's right hand man (or woman).

If the Big Bad is going head-to-head with the Big Good then The Dragon will be the hero's nemesis.

What's a nemesis? The way I think of it, the nemesis is a character a lot like the protagonist--in fact, under other circumstances, they might be great friends--but their goals place them in conflict.

Here's what Scott Myers writes of the nemesis:
"If the Protagonist is most often your story’s most important character, the Nemesis is not far behind. Indeed some of the greatest characters in film history have been Nemeses including Darth Vader (Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope), the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz), Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), and the shark (Jaws).

"If conflict is the stuff of great drama, there is perhaps no conflict more compelling than that of a Protagonist versus a Nemesis."
If The Dragon's boss, the Big Bad, is a psychopath then The Dragon will be the most rational of the five. If, however, The Dragon makes The Joker look sane, The Big Bad will be the rational one.

Often The Dragon can be persuaded to switch sides even though he is the member of the team most trusted by the Big Bad.

As the article over at puts it:
"[The Dragon is] more likely to be The Hero's Evil Counterpart or Worthy Opponent within the context of the story than the Big Bad is."
Example: Darth Vader is a classic nemesis/Dragon.

3. The Evil Genius

This is one smart puppy. Often he/she makes and operates all sorts of dastardly weapons.

Usually the evil genius doesn't care about overarching schemes or the big picture. He wants to be paid well, be paid on time, and stay alive long enough to spend his money.

Example: The tech guy on the short-lived TV series The Dollhouse. Here's another one from
"Barty Crouch Jr. is a better example. He replaces a teacher, kills his father, and lures Harry away from potential protectors, and no one realizes until nearly the last moment what he's up to." (Evil Genius)

4. The Brute

If the Evil Genius is at the top of the intellectual ladder The Brute is at the bottom. For all that, they are second in power to The Dragon. If anything happens to The Dragon, they'll take over. A fact that does not escape their attention.

The Brute is, as the name implies, physically powerful, though they couldn't best The Dragon in a fair fight.

The Brute is also the most sadistic of the Five Bad Band.

For numerous examples click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

5. The Dark Chick

The Dark Chick acts very different from the other members of the group. She adds color to the group and in all other ways stands out from them.

The Dark Chick is the 'loose canon' and the most likely to be redeemed and join the side of good. If The Dragon switches sides she might end up as his lady love. If not, she might end up with the hero.

If The Dark Chick and the hero or Dragon don't walk hand-in-hand into the sunset, she may form a pathological need to kill either of them after they spurn her affections.

#  #  #

I'd like to note that, although the description over at talks about four men and a rather kinky gal it's fine to make them whichever sex you'd like.

In this article I've talked about the Five Bad Band but there is a corresponding Five Man Band composed of the hero and his companions. (Bit of a tongue twister!)

If you read the description of the Five Man Band you see that it can fit many different fictional groups. For instance, Buffy and her gang as well as the characters from Scooby Doo.

That's it for today! I have to tear myself away from reading and do some writing now. (grin)

Photo credit: "Emperor Palpatine vs. Justice Lords Batman (345/365)" by "JD Hancock" under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, June 10

The Power Trio: A Trope

The Power Trio: A Trope

Let's talk tropes.

Years ago I began a story based around the structure of one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, but I got stuck. Toward the end of the story, what my characters needed to do was different than what the characters had done in the episode; I needed a slightly different structure but got stumped.


A couple of weeks ago I picked up the story again and everything came together, everything except for the most important bit: the ending.

I didn't know what to do so I surfed over to and read about Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Let me just say: Wow! I'm probably not going to use all the information I found in my story, but I'll use some of it.

One thing I love about studying tropes is being able to give a certain situation, one that recurs often, a name. Anyway, I thought the following was just plain fun (as well as useful) so I wanted to share.

The Power Trio

We've all read and watched countless instances of this trope but before I get to examples lets talk about psychology. Specifically ...

Freudian Trio
Among a Power Trio of the "two Foils + balance" variety, one of the most common subtropes has the three characters have psychological positions based on the Freudian idea of the Id, the Ego and the Superego.

Freud defined the human psyche as consisting of three parts: the Id, which represented emotional and instinctual desires; the Superego, which represented the logical and intellectual reasoning (or rules and social conventions, which is how Freud actually used the term); and the Ego, which reconciled the Id and Superego. Likewise, the Freudian Trio consists of three characters: one who acts emotionally and instinctively, one who acts with cold, passionless logic and one who reconciles the two conflicting ideals. (Freudian Trio)

The Kirk 

Rounding out the archetypal Freudian Trio with The Spock and The McCoy, The Kirk must balance these opposing personalities while being able to take their advice and choose between them (or literally, choose "between them") without being overcome either by emotion or dispassionate logic, representing what in Freudian psychology is called the ego.

Usually, The Kirk is The Captain or a similar leader who needs to be practical rather than emotional or distant. It's not impossible for a show to have The McCoy or The Spock as the leader, but they'll have to be far more ideologically flexible than they would otherwise. (The Kirk)

The Third Option

In any situation Spock and McCoy are pretty much guaranteed to be at loggerheads. McCoy looks at the world through his feelings, his emotions, while Spock is dispassionately logical. Or at least that's the setup.

Often this problem is solved by choosing a Third Option:
In most Power Trio scenarios, when The Spock advocates one course of action and The McCoy insists upon the other, The Kirk will be particularly fond of using this method as a solution to the problem of the week. This is also the best way to deal with a Xanatos Gambit. A true Magnificent Bastard will have anticipated that, though. (Take A Third Option)

Kirk Summation

A Kirk Summation is ...
A speech made by the hero to the villain just before the climactic fight in which he points out exactly why what the villain is doing is wrong, and begs him to forswear his ways.

This rarely works but he had to try: that's what makes him the hero. (Kirk Summation)
If the Kirk Summation doesn't cause the Big Bad to give up in a fit of despair, the Villain might give the hero a Breaking Speech.

Breaking Speech

This is often achieved by a kind of "The Reason You Suck" Speech, telling the other character how pathetic they are or perhaps how guilty of something terrible, perhaps Not So Different from someone unpalatable, but there are other ways of breaking someone down by talking. You could for example instead deconstruct the world, other characters, or their relationship with the victim. The important part is that they can't deny your words, at least not in the heat of the moment, and you gain a psychological advantage over them. Uncomfortable truths (or at least half-truths) and logical arguments are effective for making claims hard to deny, but hitting emotional weak spots is also important and can work even if your statements are not truly reasonable. (Break Them By Talking)
Here is an example from

"You look like you're going to spend your life having one epiphany after another, always thinking you've finally figured out what's holding you back, and how you can finally be productive and creative and turn your life around. But nothing will ever change. That cycle of mediocrity isn't due to some obstacle. It's who you are. The thing standing in the way of your dreams... is that the person having them is you."
— xkcd, "Pickup Artist"

Harsh. Great speech though. You might also want to take a look at The Reason You Suck speech.

If you're stumped and you're looking for ideas, is a fabulous resource.

What is the trope you most often come across in your reading/viewing?

Photo credit: "Batman Extreme" by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, April 10

Every Buffy Needs A Xander: What Makes A Great Sidekick

Every Buffy Needs A Xander: What Makes A Great Sidekick
Xander: Where is he? Where's the creep that turned me into a spider eating man bitch?
Buffy: He's gone.
Xander: Damn it! You know what? I'm sick of this crap. I'm sick of being the guy who eats insects and gets the funny syphilis. As of this moment, it's over. I'm finished being everybody's butt monkey!
Buffy: Check. No more butt monkey.
- Buffy, Season 5: Buffy vs. Dracula

When to give your protagonist a sidekick

Liz Bureman writes that:
A sidekick is often useful when a protagonist is difficult to get to know from an audience perspective. Since the sidekick is often implied to know the hero better than anyone else in the story, there is often an emotional connection between the reader and the sidekick, and that connection combined with the friendship with the hero informs the audience’s opinion of the hero. (How to Kick Your Story Up a Notch With a Sidekick)
For instance, John Watson and Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock would be very difficult to get to know, and even harder to like, without Watson. It's not easy to identify with someone super-humanly intelligent who views regular people as the intellectual peers of aardvarks. And as for who he'd rather spend time with ... well, the aardvarks win, hands down.

Liz Bureman's discussion of sidekicks whet my interest so I headed over to, a truly wonderful site that will make hours of your life vanish before you can say "I never knew there was a trope for that!"

Here's a few of the things they had to say:

What Makes A Great Sidekick

Sidekick as foil: Opposing traits

I didn't know the origin for the idea of the foil until I looked it up on
Jewelers often put shiny metal foil underneath a gem to make the stone shine brighter. A literary foil is someone who highlights another character's trait, usually by contrast, but sometimes by competing with him, hanging a lampshade, making snarky remarks, or egging him on.

Sidekicks often serve as foils to the hero by being something the hero himself is not (a calm and pragmatic sidekick when the hero is hotheaded, for example). In the classic good-guy versus bad guy scenario, both the hero and villain can each be considered the other's foil, in that each acts to show how the other behaves in certain situations. (Foil)
So the sidekick as foil highlights the hero's qualities by counterbalancing them.

Just as Sherlock Holmes is insanely intelligent, so Watson is thoroughly ordinary and yet he has more common sense than Holmes will ever possess.

[T]he foil is a recurring character that has a personality, or an opinion of things, that is different from another recurring character. This character can be the opposite of the character in many ways — or perhaps very, very, very similar, except for a crucial difference.

Many intentional foils are depicted as physical contrasts to the main character. Thin vs. fat and tall vs. short are among the most common ways of setting up a contrast. Similarly, when the hero's Love Interest is blonde, the villainess tends to have dark or red hair; when the villainess is blond, the hero's Love Interest tends to be dark or red haired. (Foil)
Even the sidekicks physical appearance is different--opposite--that of the hero's.

Sidekicks further the plot

Sidekicks have problems and they know people who have problems. This allows your protagonist to be anti-social and still get involved in the messy business of helping ordinary people fix what has gone wrong in their lives.

Also, a sidekick provides someone for the hero to explain things to. Since the sidekick often doesn't have the hero's mental faculties he/she often has to explain what's going on to his/her slower, less observant, partner/helper.

Sidekicks are usually younger than the hero

This came as a surprise but it makes sense.
Because we expect an older character to have more experience, a sidekick older than the main hero is a rare thing. (Older Sidekick)
A sidekick is, in some ways, like an apprentice, they are being taught by the hero, and we naturally think of a student as being younger than their teacher.

To read more about sidekicks, foils, evil minions and heroes, head on over to

Question: Have you used a sidekick in one of your stories?

Other articles you might like:

- Writing Trilogies & Keeping Track Of Characters
- Help Raise Money For David Farland's Injured Son, Ben Wolverton, On Wed April 10
- When Should You Send Your Short Story Out For Critique?