Bruce and I have something in common between his new book Blood of the King and my e-novel Born of Water: they both use the farm-boy forced to heroism trope. Of course, in my case it is farm-girl!
The topic this round is tropes – the common threads that weave through fantasy. Not every story has the same tropes, but to be fantasy there are a few essentials. The difference between Bruce’s farm-boy and my farm-girl highlights why that though tropes exist, not all novels are the same. It is the unique twists that an author gives to a trope that begin to make a story original (not to mention plot twits, characters, etc!).
In fact, “farm-girl” is a stretch for Ria in Born of Water. She is actually from an estate that raises olives and oranges. Her family is fairly well off – so no poor farmer here! And she is reluctant to begin her journey because she frankly doesn’t want to be any more special than the lovely young woman she is. To her and her family, the potential for unique abilities is a curse. Ria is also one of four main characters that are introduced in the first chapter. Niri, Lavinia, and Ty make up the other three. All four have equally compelling stories and journeys ahead. This casts the “farm-girl turned hero” trope into a less dominant role. (Whew!)
It can also be the tropes that an author avoids that craft a unique novel. I purposely stayed away from several to give Born of Water an individual feel. For one, it doesn’t take place in medieval times. I can’t think of any place in the first novel where I mentioned a castle. Instead, the world, Myrrah, is centered around the Sea of Sarketh as a means of commerce and travel. I often say the novel has a lot to do with sailing actually. The time period is more reflective of the ancient Mediterranean and Greek or Minoan legacy than of castles and knights.
There is a sword. As Bruce mentioned in his last post, swords and magical objects are another trope of fantasy. This sword gets Lavinia into trouble with her brother, but it isn’t magical and isn’t mentioned until Chapter 14. You can’t quite say it has a central role at all! Magical objects do exist in the world of Myrrah as well, but they don’t make an appearance in the first novel. I won’t say more than that!
If there are magical artifacts (again – eventually, Born of Water is only book one of a planned three!), there is obviously magic. Sort of. There are things we’d refer to as magic if they could happen here, but in Myrrah there are those who control the elements, those with no skill, and a subset whose gifts are beyond fire, water, air and earth. Those gifted with this special trait don’t last long once they are found though. I won’t say more than that. You’ll have to check out the book or the Companion to see what is going on!
I also avoided most common fantasy races when writing Born of Water. There are no trolls, ogres, elves, or dwarves. There is the rumor of one dragon, Isha. I love all those races, but as I mentioned in a previous post, I wasn’t excited about writing about them. There are, however, unique races other than humans. There are the Kith, the Shinai, and legends of other species such as the Torek and the Aquinians. These are mentioned more in Born of Water’s Novel Companion (which is free everywhere but Amazon! I’m working on that, though.). So, you can’t say that I avoided the trope on different races, I simply tweaked it.
There is no way I could avoid the quest trope though! Born of Water is epic fantasy after all. It had to include a physical journey to mirror the interior one each character struggles with. But a quest does not need to be a sword in a stone or a prophecy. For the characters in Born of Water, it is simply a way of saving Ria’s life from the very unfortunate heritage of her family. It just so happens achieving that goal sets off much greater forces, which follow the characters into book 2.
So now we are back to that reluctant hero/ine trope. It is a pretty common one for epic fantasy. But look at all the amazing – and different – stories that have come from it. It is a classic stemming all the way back to the first fantasy/legend stories and certainly one of my favorite. Even my day job uses it in a way: Opportunity is never convenient. Think of that the next time things just don’t seem to be working out. It could be the universe is trying to tell you something . . . or you could be at the beginning of a great quest novel!