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An Autumn Veil: Three Years Later

Current word count: ~168,000
Listening to: People talk

It's been three years (November 5) since I began the Ark series. Typically I am long-winded, but to be honest, I don't feel very reflective about it this three-year milestone. Surprise!

I wanted to come to this anniversary post contemplatively. I wanted to say something meaningful and deep about how writing a novel changes you. The fact that I'm writing a novel stopped being novel (see what I did there?) after the first year, though. Once you write a 167,000-word-story that still isn't done, it becomes so ingrained in the rhythm of your life that it ceases to be fresh. I don't mean to say that I don't think my novel is interesting—far from it; I am the story's biggest fan—only that I want to be done with it. I want to begin pursuing publishing, attend conferences, get an agent, and perhaps feel like I have more time to work on my master's thesis (or play Team Fortress 2, y'know, whatevs). I want to see the directions my life may veer off into once I reach this milestone. I am seriously hoping that it is something more than selling a thousand copies and getting a few pats on the back from family, friends, and acquaintances who like to read. Too much time, too much of myself, has been poured into this book for me to aim at anything less than success, and I know myself well enough to know that I'm not going to stop writing the story because my hopes and dreams aren't realized. I don't expect to be the next New York Times bestseller, but it would be nice to get some recognition and compensation for the thousands upon thousands of hours I've spent sitting in front of computers on account of these imaginary people and their doings.

So instead of getting mushy on the internet about this being my baby's third year, I want to talk a little bit about tropes. “What is a trope?” you may be wondering. Well, it's kind of a subdivision of a genre. Whereas a genre will notify you as to what sorts of characters and events may occur in a given story (for example: romance, action, horror) tropes are what make up the genre. In a sports film about a team of misfits coming together, growing, and taking down the state champs, a trope would not be “sports movie,” but the misfits themselves.

If it's still nebulous, you could just follow this link. is one of my latest discoveries, and before I type another word, you should know that it has the potential, like the Death Star, to destroy the pristine garden world that is your mind. I do not wish to recount how many hours I have spent reading this site, lest I am forced to seriously reevaluate my life; you have been warned.

That said, the site is a humorous, informative resource for those who craft stories, or for those looking to gather useless facts which may at some point win them Jeopardy. As I've searched the site, I've been able to track down a number of tropes that made their way into An Autumn Veil. With the book nearing completion, I think it will be fun to list just a few of the major tropes that come together.

Tru's personal struggles are rooted in the ruined relationship between herself and Deng. This is the most obvious trope, evident from chapter one. The murder of her mentor at Deng's hands leads Tru into a a dangerous juxtaposition between justice and revenge, where she realizes that the only way to stop Deng is to beat him at his own game by dancing along the outer ring of the Moral Event Horizon—even if it means trampling all over the Undying Loyalty of her best friend and the wisdom of her proverbial Obi-Wan.

There are, of course, countless other tropes, as the novel contains dual plot lines. Going too far into detail may blow too many whistles as to who functions as what and what will happen, but here are a few of the other tropes which are either tacitly present or will become more apparent as the series progresses:

The "Cool Old Guy"

The "I Just Want to be Normal"
The "Battle in the Rain"
Anti-Hero and its sub-trope the Nominal Hero. There is also some tacit Mama Bear and some not-so-tacit God Save Us from the Queen.

Many nascent writers struggle with the notion of originality, believing that what they write must be untainted by other authors, the movies, or whatever else. This goal is of course unattainable. "There is nothing new under the sun," a wise man once wrote, and, from a more contemporary voice,"There are no no ideas, only new ways of making them felt." Cultural Anthropology, particularly as it relates to stories, is a fascinating field precisely because of the unspoken knowings of story weavers and story readers. It was after learning that one of my “original” plot points is thoroughly Lovecraftian that I realized that modern storytelling is not so much the origination of novel concepts as it is the rearranging of tropes with which most story interpreters are already familiar—regardless of their cultural locus.

And as part one of the Ark series moves into its final chapters, I will continue to move toward that crowning moment of awesome—and beyond.

If you've been with me this long, you've got my love.



  1. FYI, your links are broken...

    Came here based on your critique writing article on Scribophile (thanks!). Good points regarding TVTropes, I've found it both fascinating and soul-crushing ;)


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