On 'Tropes' ... or where writers mess up.
The rage in writing circles right now is ... hmm, what's the word I'm looking for? Imitation, I suppose is the polite way to say it.
I saw someone say the other day that writers should buy the top books in their genre and literally put them into a Word doc. From there, the writer said that people should break them down by word count per sentence. Sentence structure. Pacing. Tropes (this means themes and plot). Then they should copy what they find while putting in a few unique twists to make their book not a direct copy.
This is, without doubt, an easy way to make some cash. A lot of people are doing it. Indeed, an artist I know just launched his career by doing something similar to this.
I've thought about this a lot, wondering whether that's the way to take my career. Clearly, from a capitalist perspective, we want to give customers what they want, and if they're clamoring for certain things, it would be wise to give 'em what they ask for.
I decided--for now--that I think such a route is disastrous in terms of long term thinking.
I don't want my books to imitate anyone else's. If I tried to emulate James Patterson, I'd basically be selling my soul, and I'm not willing to do that. More, though, what separates me from any other writing doing those things?
The greats--from Hemingway to King--didn't break down books to see what sold. That's not to say they weren't influenced, as all of them read prolifically, but the words they put out were their own.
I hate when people quote Steve Jobs, mainly because I've studied the man a good bit. First, no one wants to really be him, as he was a pretty shitty individual for much of his life, and second, no one else is Steve Jobs. However, he didn't imitate. He stole, sure, but then he combined things in a way that had never been considered before.
Look at PCs. For decades, they all simply imitated each other, putting out crap that sold really well. You couldn't distinguish an HP from a Dell, though. It didn't matter which one you bought, because you were getting basically the same thing.
That's what I believe will happen/is happening with this 'trope' mentality. Authors will commoditize their work.
Someone responded to the earlier discussion around breaking a book down into a Word document with something along the lines of, "if people listened to this, there would be a lot more intense competition. They won't listen, though, and that's good for me, because I'll keep raking in money."
That's fine and probably true. However, what you're missing is the chance to be great. Give people things they hadn't thought of before; make them wonder questions that have never been posed to them; make them see things in completely new light. Long term, that's building a brand. Long term, that's going to satisfy customers.
Homogenization is for hacks. Perhaps hustlers, too--as it takes a lot of work to imitate at such a granular level. But a hustler can most definitely be a hack.
I'll choose to be one, but not the other. See ya at the finish line.