Tropes. It’s a dreaded word. Overused. Cliche. Unoriginal. The worst thing that an author can use, right?
Wrong. Tropes are not all bad. In fact, they can be a great way to draw in certain readers. For instance, tell me you have an “underdog” trope, or a “found family” trope in your book, and I will be drooling for it instantly.
Tropes, or “genre conventions” as Shawn Coyne of The Story Grid Method calls them, are a great way to cement your reader in something trusted and familiar before you pull the rug out from under them. The only thing better than tropes, is when you take that trope, and twist in to fit your unique voice as an author.
Here are a few tropes I put in Malfunction, before warping them like silly putty.
The "Quiet Damaged" Man Trope:
It’s always frustrated me that men don’t feel safe to show emotions. I mean, other than anger, which seems to be fine for any guy. Especially with a leading male in a book or movie... Anger, jealousy, hatred. The quiet, sullen, dark cloud of a man with a damaged past.
I actually have one of those in another book and I love how I twisted it there too. But I used this exact template for Bas. While, in most books, the quiet, scared male lead will only show love to the one girl he’s supposed to adore and the rest of the world will see only anger and a constant grumpy face. I took this template of an emotionally studded guy and wondered what would happen if that man was naturally a complete mush. What if he was the gentle giant and then some, and it wasn’t that he didn’t want to show emotion. He just didn’t know how to.
Up popped Bas in all his bumbling, awkward, doe-eyed glory.
2. The Love Triangle
I fought this one. Man, did I fight this one. I didn’t choose it and try to subvert it, I denied it vigorously. The only thing worse than romance is when there are multiple romances crammed into a small space. Sorry, I'm not a big fan. Not my fortay.
It was my writing partner, S.M. Holland who fought me on it. “This is a love triangle,” she would say.
And there is. Not a romantic love, though. Most of the plot of the Malfunction trilogy focuses around the male lead, Bas. Menrva is the closest to me. Yes. But Bas is by far my favorite. If I’m allowed to have favorites, that is.
More than that, Bas is what us authors would call a “McGuffin”. In other words, the object of desire that drives the plot. So the love triangle kinda focuses on him.
While Menrva slowly learns to love Bas in a romantic way, Cowl’s loved him for a long time as a brother. He’s tried to replace the devastating loss of his own older brother in some ways. And it’s Cowl who knows how to handle all Bas’ struggles. So when Bas and Menrva grow closer, it’s Cowl who gets pouty and angry.
Yes…it’s a love triangle. Booo.
3. Evil Government
“Wait,” You say. “This is a dystopian, and the government is nothing if not evil.”
Sure, i’ll admit that. The government plays the role of the main antagonist in the first book. And maybe the second. At least for most of the book. But i didn’t want this to be just another “trio against the twisted dystopian government” plot.
So who is the real antagonist? Well. You will have to wait to see. The clues have been planted. Let me just give you a hint. One that might be obvious, but I think you will be surprised in how it all plays out. At least, I hope you will.
There are many antagonists in Malfunction. There are even more in Disintegration. It gets really complicated. Sometimes the lines get blurred. But there is one force that is making everything that has happened possible.
And in Disintegration, that force is unveiled.