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Thread: November 2017: Mentor Prose Workshop - Tropes, Tropes, Tropes

  1. #1

    November 2017: Mentor Prose Workshop - Tropes, Tropes, Tropes

    Mentor Prose Workshop
    November 2017

    Workshop Prompt: Tropes, Tropes, Tropes

    Welcome to WritingForums.com's first Mentor-run prose workshop (formerly the Monthly Mentor's Challenge)! Here, you can hone and exercise your literary skills by writing a piece (800 words max) centered around a prompt. Our mentors will then review and discuss your piece. Authors are encourage to respond to mentor comments. We then encourage forum members to discuss each other's works. There will be no official scoring and any member of WF can participate (even Mentors!).

    Premise


    This workshop will revolve around tropes. In general, tropes are just figurative elements an author uses to express themselves with. However, we will focus on the definition that tropes are commonly used or cliched elements in a story. These sorts of tropes can either be helpful or a hindrance to the value of your work. Tropes are readily accessible to the reader and can increase the marketability of your work. They offer a compelling and familiar starting point for readers in which you can then add your own twists and spins on. Take the first novel of the Dresden Files, which written as artificially as possible (mostly as a sleight to the author's writing teacher) and became one of the bestselling novel series and the platform for its own, original brand of urban fantasy. Flipping through the pages, dozens and dozens of tropes can be identified, from the generic police investigator to the disgruntled antihero protagonist to even some billowy hair, dreamy warriors pulled directly from a romance novel.

    Still, tropes add little to no originality or artistic value by themselves and it falls to the author to deliberately use and work around these literary elements.

    In this workshop, you can do one of two things.


    1) Write a story that exclusively uses tropes. Do NOT try to rework these tropes or add your own spin to them.

    OR

    2) Write a story that takes a trope (or more) and rework it into something original.

    Before your piece, describe which of the two options you attempted and which tropes you are working with (this will not be included in your word count). Then, post your piece and be ready to discuss your work!

    Resources


    There are many different cliched tropes you can use and I encourage you to experiment with ones that irk you. To list off a few: "Love is the answer!", "everything was a dream!", love triangles, "you and I aren't so different...", Chosen Ones(especially from downtrodden backgrounds), damsel in distress, zombies, absentee/alcoholic parents, love at first sight, etc.



    Rules

    · All forum rules apply. The Mentor's Prose Workshop is considered a creative area of the forum. If your story contains inappropriate language or content, do not forget add a disclaimer or it could result in disciplinary actions taken. Click here for the full list of rules and guidelines of the forum.
    · No poetry may be posted in the workshop. Head on over to our sister workshop, The Poetry Hill if you want to hone your poetry.
    · Editing your entry after posting isn’t allowed. You’ll be given a ten minute grace period.
    · Only one entry is allowed per member.
    · The word limit is 800 words, not including the title or description. If you go over, your story will not be counted but feel free to post works under the limit. Microsoft Word and Google Drive are the standard for checking this. If you want verification of your word count, send it to the host for verification.


    The workshop will conclude on December 15th, 2017 at 11:59 pm GST.
    Click here for the current time.
    Welcome to WF!
    Feeling lost? Want to connect with experienced members of the forum? Then meet our talented staff of Mentors!
    They're always looking to help and advise and don't bite... much...


  2. #2

    Alone Together with Step Dad

    Alone Together with Step Dad
    (An Oxymoron Tail Fail
    and One Minced Oath)

    (745 wds)

    “Just leave me alone,” she said. Her arms were tight across her chest. She sat on the far edge of the sofa, pressed against the arm so generously tight, she looked like she was part of it.

    “You look like a social hermit,” I commented. “All of this atmosphere and you’re hugging the end of a couch.”

    “That’s a slight exaggeration,” she said icily.

    “Come on, Peggy, we’re supposed to do this together. This is our weekend, remember? Alone together? Just you and me? We’ve been planning this for weeks.”

    “I remember how I planned it. You. You never lifted a finger.”

    “What do you mean? You are positively wrong. I did all the yard work so we didn’t have to worry about that. I did the grocery shopping. I am clearly confused; I helped!” I sat on the opposite end of the sofa and turned toward her.

    “Well. I know you did all of that.” Her arms came down to her sides. “It’s just that getting the kids out the door with their dad was hardly easy, you know. It’s always a civil war.”

    “I know.”

    “I mean, he wasn’t even planning on coming to town this weekend; said he was having a working vacation, whatever that means. I told him you and I really needed this time alone together. Just you and me. I think he understood, and he can be agreeable now and then. At first he gave me a definite maybe, but I was able to win him over. I should be more timidly assertive in the future. That would surprise him.”

    “Yeah. You can be demanding when you want to be.” Shoot! I knew that was the wrong to say the minute it was out of my mouth.

    “You think I’m demanding?” Her eyes were cold.

    “No, of course not. I know you did your best and it was hardly easy, like you said.”

    She had turned toward me and was even leaning forward a little, her arm now resting on the back of the sofa. I scooted over a foot or so. She did too. Then we were sitting in the middle together. I reached for the jumbo shrimp that we had bought just for this night. They were disgustingly delicious. I stuck a toothpick into another one and fed it to her. Sauce remained on the side of her mouth and I took my thumb and cleaned it off.

    “These remind me of that restaurant we used to go to, when we were dating. No one goes there anymore; it’s always too crowded.”

    “Yes, it was awful good.”

    I picked up her hand and held it. The light from the candles and the fireplace made her look painfully beautiful. I kissed her boldly tentative, and she smiled up at me.

    “Good grief,” she said. “Why are wasting all of this time apart? We have this entire weekend and we are alone together at last.”

    Suddenly she moved over and sat on my lap. This was a departure for us and I was enjoying it. There was a deceptive absence of inhibitions for both of us and before I knew it, we were having sex on the sofa! This never happens, I thought, and it was the living end.

    So engrossed were we in the moment that we did not hear the door open.

    “Mom?” Yes, that we heard; from two feet away.

    Peg pulled up sharply and slid sideways slowly; I was growing smaller by the moment.

    “I forgot my inhaler.”

    “Oh, okay honey.” Peg was the one who sounded out of breath, and successfully failed to pull it off.

    “Do you need help finding it?”

    “No, I’ll get it, Mommy.”

    We sat side by side, eyes closed, wondering if we were going to be able to re-capture the moment. Then came an adult voice saying “Fudge!” and our eyes flew open.

    They were all there; a group of individuals, looking at us, looking at our condition. The kids’ dad, the kids, the dog who should have been sleeping peacefully in front of the fire. The dad was smirking and the kids were clearly confused. We tried to compose ourselves, to pretend that we were just hanging out on the couch, doing nothing in particular.

    I reached out and picked up a tooth pick and with reckless caution, speared a piece and said, “jumbo shrimp anyone?”
    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we'll see
    No, I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
    Just as long as you stand by me.


  3. #3
    Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    An Excess Of Harmony




    The tangible universe – the one populated with things one can conceivably make physical contact with, as opposed to those stuffed only with that which people surmise or posit – was about to undergo a small Shudder. And the epicentre of that Shudder was in the Laboratory, five feet or so to the left of Steve Jobson.

    No, not that Steve Jobson. That Steve Jobson isn’t even a real Steve Jobson.

    Steve – Jobson – tilted his test tube up and let the Solution trickle into the Beaker. It was a greenish-yellow muck that reminded him of toxic waste mixed with snot. He said as much to his lab mate.

    “Hey, Steve,” said Steve. “This Solution looks like snot. Wanna taste?”

    “Nuh-uh,” Steve replied. “I’m not drinking that. It looks like snot.” That was Steve. His last name was Wilson.

    They turned to Heather, on the next desk. “Hey Heather,” they chimed together, “Want a drink of our … snot’cktail!”

    Being close friends and partners-in-crime, they often spoke the same words together. Heather – blond hair shaggy, frowsy features blushing – just shook her head and looked at her own Solution. She had no tablemate, and owing to this undistracted state, hers was a deep shade of amethyst. Perfect, Mr. Loaves would recall later. Steves tried to shoehorn their snotcktail joke into something. “Snotcail … snocktail … cocksnail …” they muttered.

    It never took off.

    In case this behaviour seems childish, it must be remembered that the Steves were fourteen, and impish. Heather’s purple mix gave out a single forlorn bubble.

    And that was that. Their lives were never the same.

    “Hey, Mr. Loaves,” they said, together again, and that alone cracked them back up. They started anew. “Hey, Mr. Loaves, our Solution looks like snot.”

    Together again. A little of the laughter went out of the classroom, as though someone had turned down the colour around the Steves. If they had been twins, it would have worked, but they weren’t. Mr. Loaves strode over.

    “Yes, boys, what is it?”

    “Our Solution looks like – ”

    This time there could be no denying. Their words – all of them – were coming out perfectly synchronised. Actions too. Their grins faltered, and they stared at each other from the corners of their widening eyes. Even their stances were similar. Others were watching, absorbing the awkwardness.

    “Did you – ” they said.

    “Dammit, dude, stop – ”

    “Stop – ”

    “No you stop – ”

    “ – oh, hell – ”

    Both boys ran a hand through their hair. Sweat broke onto their foreheads. Within twelve seconds of Heather’s goopy mix issuing its putrid bubble, Steves had been brought to a juddering halt by the horrible realisation that they were, inexplicably and inextricably, entwined.

    They daren’t move. The thought that bloomed in Steve Jobson’s head was that, where a buddy had stood before, had sprouted a sudden Siamese Twin, conjoined not by body but by something which, seemingly trivial, showed a crack in the very underpinnings of their Euclidian lives: they were too similar. Every thought, every action, every last piece of predetermination was identical in them. He knew, with the certainty that only a cold, depthless onrush of pitiless fear can supply, that the same thought was erupting in Steve Wilson’s terrified mind. Something in the Solution must have distilled that similarity down to inescapable fact.

    Mr. Loaves whipped out his clipboard, scribbling furiously.

    “Gather round, class,” he said, his voice wobbly with the tremor of discovery. “It seems that Heather’s perfect mix has had an unintended side-effect. See how the Steves are utterly linked. Everything that has happened to them – you have known each other for many years, boys, have you not? – has pushed them into occupying the exact same causal space.” He looked at Heather. “Heather, come here.”

    She shambled forward. No-one accompanied her. Plus one for the friendless, although for her it felt like even a crack in the universe like this couldn’t jimmy up a partner for her. She laid her Beaker on Troy and Triana’s desk with a dolorous huff.

    It bubbled again, an agga-lagga-loop? sound. Troy and Triana looked at each other. They stepped apart, perfectly timed, unexpected sparring partners.

    “No, no, no-no-no-NO!” They seized their heads, perfect mirrors of one another.

    They shrieked. The class bolted.



    Soon, school was empty, and with the pandemonium done, it was just Heather and Mr. Loaves. Outside, one solitary pigeon cooed. Mr. Loaves smiled, a teacher-pupil smile that said everything’s probably okay. She smiled back. She didn’t know his first name, only that it too began with H.

    He moved his eyes. She did the same. It seemed like the right test for the situation.

    A bottle of bleach stood on the counter by the sink. Its orange Toxic symbol seemed to glow like the Last Button, and they reached towards it.


    ~ * ~





    Tropes used: "One Steve Limit" and "Capital Letters Are Magic" from tvtropes.org
    799 words




    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





  4. #4
    Oh this was fun to read, BD. Just a few suggestions.

    And that was that. Their lives were never the same
    I know there was a word limit, but I think there should be more to this awesome transition. I had to read it twice to be sure I understood what had just happened, and why, so I think maybe a smell? Something to indicate that when Heather's amethyst bubble burst, the essence somehow made it over to the Steve's, and they were thus affected and transformed.

    And . . .
    Soon, school was empty, and with the pandemonium done, it was just Heather and Mr. Loaves. Outside, one solitary pigeon cooed. Mr. Loaves smiled, a teacher-pupil smile that said everything’s probably okay. She smiled back. She didn’t know his first name, only that it too began with H.
    So, here you say the school was empty, but it looks as if Heather and Mr. Loves were still in the school - or did they run outside too? I assume the "she" in the last sentence is Heather, and not the pigeon, so I think one of the she's could instead be Heather.

    Otherwise, this was so good! Loved reading it.
    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we'll see
    No, I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
    Just as long as you stand by me.


  5. #5
    Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Thanks Sue! Sorry, I didn't realise we could discuss it straight away But yes, I think you are right with those changes. It's always a challenge to fit things into the word count, isn't it? I wrote this in one straight shot, then trimmed it up just a little, but I imagine there is some other fluff that can go: that character-vomit about Steve "Jobson", tidy up the bit about theoretical universes, clarify stuff, get rid of all the "seemed"s, the passive voices, etc. Things like:

    It bubbled again, an agga-lagga-loop? sound.

    Could be this:

    It bubbled again; agga-lagga-loop?

    Or something. I shouldn't need to re-emphasise that it's a sound. Gives me an extra two to do something with. I do struggle a bit with a whiz-bang transition, so I tend to underplay it with a little bit of light-hearted voice to hide this fact. Maybe I should have a sonorous bell ring, some sort of signifier to make it more of a "event". Maybe make Mr. Loaves drop a book. I love a dropped book as a change device, a "dah-dah-daahh!" moment, and I particularly love a dropped Bible, and I especially love a hurled Bible, but I guess a venerable textbook would do. What do you reckon?




    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





  6. #6
    Well, I hope I didn't mess this up by responding to your piece. I'm a little confused, but I thought the premise was to post something, and then the mentors were supposed to have at it. What was your impression? I hope I didn't get it wrong. Anyway, yes the word number is sometimes really hard! But you did such an awesome job and it was really funny to think of these things going on. I really like this idea because even these little things can be so helpful. Like figuring out how to transition, and how the effect of that funny noise. Where else would we get this kind of challenge?
    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we'll see
    No, I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
    Just as long as you stand by me.


  7. #7
    SueC - Haha, thank you! This is what I was hoping for the workshop: intentionally bad writing that just steps over all the lines. Here we have generic descriptions (arms tight around the chest, she undervalues the work he puts in the household chores), telling instead of showing, obvious descriptions (I turned and looked to her), blatant/unsubtle dialogue ("we're having sex on the couch!") and nonsensical (or lack of) transitions. There were some really inappropriate adjectives (timidly assertive, awful good, disgustingly delicious, painfully beautiful) that just... stabbed at me. I wasn't expecting those and hope there are more curve balls like that in this workshop.

    There's enough intentional "terribleness" in this piece that is laughable yet frustrating at the same time. Why didn't you just name the dad instead of having the step dad (who is also unnamed) call him "the dad"? What person just names the former lover of their partner "the dad" on multiple occasions? Why, SueC? Why?

    You were able to break enough rules that I'm sure that most were intentional. The reveal at the end was anticlimatic (both figuratively and literally) and predictable. What can I say? I got what I asked for. Work worthy to be pulled out the slush pile and pinned up on a board of "notables" in a writing agency.
    Welcome to WF!
    Feeling lost? Want to connect with experienced members of the forum? Then meet our talented staff of Mentors!
    They're always looking to help and advise and don't bite... much...


  8. #8
    ...
    Last edited by VonBradstein; November 26th, 2017 at 06:21 AM.

  9. #9
    Forum Moderator Plasticweld's Avatar
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    I hope this is what you were looking for. I do feel a little embarrassed that I really don't know a lot of the vocabulary of writing or the technical aspects involved. Based on Guy's description and what the others have written, here is my best attempt and bad/good writing that should elicit a smile if nothing else. Please offer any suggestions I am really working hard at trying to become a better writer...Bob


    The Ice Cream Stand
    I saw her on that brutally hot day last July, and I can’t get her out of my mind. The dog days of summer had started to wear on me. I remember it, like it was just yesterday. My quest was ice cream, not a broken heart.

    My clothes hung on me like limp dish towels. I was in the prime of my life, but it looked more like life had passed me by. I tried to think of some great line that would justify my morbid appearance in the mirror. I stared back at my reflection, none came.

    I had been drinking like a fish lately. The bloodshot eyes told the story. The bags under my eyes didn’t help; nor did the tobacco stain that emanated from the corner of my mouth. I flashed a smile, somehow expecting a row of pearly whites to appear. Instead, three brown teeth stared back at me. Thankfully two of my teeth, actually meet. I run my fingers through my straw like hair, combing it over to cover the bald spot.

    I am ready.

    I hop on my bike. Hard to believe what some people throw away nowadays. I peddle towards town. The wind blows and messes up my greasy hair and dries my sweat. Maybe I should have taken a bath, but it is not bath night for another couple of days. I’m sure I look no different than that guy riding a horse with the open shirt and long flowing hair that you see on all the romance novels.

    The change in my pocket is heavy, it is amazing how much money you can get from collecting cans and bottles. I feel rich today, a regular J. Paul Getty.

    I park my bike up against the tree and wander over to the ice cream stand. While trying to decide on chocolate or vanilla, I saw her. She was a goddess with hair of gold, and eyes that shimmered like ocean blue. Her long legs were attached to a bottom that equaled that of Jennifer Lopez’s. Her breasts were like two rocket ships pointed towards the sky. When she moved they swayed like puppies wrestling under a blanket. I was in love.

    She stood in the line in front of me. How would I engage this princess, convince her I was her knight in shining armor? She chatted with her friend. I listened for a chance to jump into the conversation. As I moved in close, they moved away. Maybe, even though it is not Saturday, I could’ve used that bath.

    I saw both of them glance at me out of the corner of their eye. I am pretty sure they were checking me out, but did not want to be so bold as to look directly at me. I saw them smile at each other and giggle. I was on the home stretch; this princess would be mine. I daydreamed for a moment. We would have two children and live in a van down by the river.

    They looked into each other’s eyes and held hands, mouthing something to each other without a word being spoken, then giggled again. I could tell they were talking about me.

    With a new-found confidence I spoke up. “Hot today, huh!”

    I was met with more sideways glances and silence.

    “Chocolate is my favorite.” I added, hoping they would join in the conversation.

    They were silent.

    I was wrong. They did not care about me, did not want to talk to me. I felt bad. I felt sad.

    I mumbled, “I’m sorry.”

    Then the princess with the hair of gold, ocean blue eyes and rocket ships for breasts, turned and smiled at me.

    I will never forget her. I will never forget that day.
    God hates a coward Revelation 21:8

    “Good writin' ain't necessarily good readin'.”

    Ken Kesey,

    To encourage and facilitate "me"

  10. #10
    The New Client (787 words)

    Prompt #2 (Irony / Metaphor): All Hollywood agents are sleazy cowards. All aliens are bloodthirsty killers. What if a pair teamed-up and found a way to save The Earth?




    "Mr Goldstein, your 2PM is here. Should I send him in?"

    The balding, portly man behind the desk wiped a dab of mustard from his face. He set his Ruben on a stack of papers and flicked a switch. "Buzz him in, Bunny."

    The hulking figure flung Goldstein's door hard enough to loosen the hinges. The brute hissed as he hovered over the desk, leering at the man seated there.

    Goldstein got up and awkwardly wiped crumbs off of his cheap suit. He grasped his visitor's claw and shook it vigorously.

    "Mr Granthax! So good to meet you! Oy! I hate doing buisness over the phone..."

    "Subspace carrier wave." Granthax growled.

    "Eh," Goldstein motioned to the worn chair in front of the desk. "please, take a seat."

    Granthax folded himself clumsily into the seat. Goldstein shuffled through some papers on his disheveled desk, finally finding one with a caramelized onion stuck to it.

    "So, you're a reptillian? Never worked with one of your kind before."

    "I find that offensive."

    "Sorry." Goldstein made brief ocular contact before continuing. "I worked with some Greys in the past. Any idea who they're with now?"

    "Most are out in the Midwestern Spiral Arm, freelancing. Making crop circles and mutilating cattle. Agriculture and ranching. Pathetic."

    "I'd say. But oh boy! But do WE have big plans!" Goldstein stood up and paced franticly. He stopped and spun to face Granthax. "Global invasion! This will be big! Spectacular!"

    "I do not understand your enthusiasm. It's routine for us. And not good for humans."

    Goldstein's face drooped slightly as he sat back down. "Yeah. We need to talk about some of those details." He grabbed the greasy paper and frowned.

    "Okay. Here's the first thing. We can't have you leveling every major city. Our test audiences really gave that unfavorable ratings."

    "Ratings?!"

    "You're new in town. Just go with me on this. Howabout we flatten some town where no one will care? Like Detroit. That will get you exposure, without driving up your negative numbers."

    Granthax inhaled deeply, sucking in a viscous green bubble by his nasal opening.

    "The environmentalists will lose their mind with your contingency plans. Chemical and biological warfare? You don't want PETA and the ASPCA on your bad side."

    "We engineered our weapons to be fatal to humans, mostly."

    "Humans are our demographic! No one cares how this plays in Rigel! We don't kill our target audience!"

    Granthax shook his scaly head. "So, what do you propose?"

    Goldstein's eyes gleamed. He leaned forward, smiling broadly and displaying some beef stuck in his teeth. "An epic space battle! First, go ahead and level some bases, sink some ships blah blah. But then, Earth unites! We send up a fleet of ships, find some ridiculously obvious flaw in your defense... then wammo!"

    Granthax recoiled slightly as Goldstein slammed his hands on the desk.

    "Grrrr. Wammo, what?"

    "We blow up one of your ships! You're insured, right? I know this guy, Michael Bay, and he..."

    "This is insane! YOU are insane!" Granthax stood up, jabbing a pointy claw at Goldstein. "My son was right. We should have just used one of our dark matter singularity bombs on you, and be done with it! But no. I though we could use some slaves..."

    "Oh, you'll get your slaves." Goldstein calmly motioned Granthax to retake his seat.

    "Explain."

    "First, let me ask you. How expensive is it to maintain that fleet of ships you own."

    "The cost is substantial. I don't have those numbers. My wife usually pays the bills."

    "Let me explain something to you. I am a legend in this town. I can negotiate you a contract that will provide fat residuals for the rest of your life."

    "Keep talking, human."

    "Merchandising, licensing. I'll book you some spots on late night TV..."

    "Just not Colbert. He gives me the creeps."

    "...and most importantly. Sequels. If this is as big as I see it, this thing has legs. We can ride it for years." Goldstein sat back in his chair, and let his new client digest the offer."The big no-no," he continued, "is we do not kill our audience. We fleece them."

    Granthax smiled, displaying rows of razor sharp teeth, "I think we can do business."

    Goldstein stuck out his hand, but Granthax balked. "Just one addition. I want San B'erdino on the list. Don't ask me why. Personal reasons."

    The two beings shook appendages and had a hearty laugh. Goldstein walked his client to the office door.

    "I'll have my girl write up the papers. This was a nice chat."

    "Yes it was, human." Granthax shook his head, grinning. "Those Greys are such morons. The best cattle, and sheep, are here on Earth."







     
    Last edited by Winston; December 2nd, 2017 at 07:46 PM. Reason: format

    "I made that up... Think for yourself. Don't be a sheep."

    Rick Sanchez


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