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Romance -- my favorite tropes

Reading other people talking about their favorite pairings and kinds of pairings, their favorite kinds of stories and tropes, I started thinking about my own and how those turn up in my own books.

So what's a trope? It's a kind of story that has a familiar pattern -- for example, bare-knuckled fighter meets brainy scientist and they team up to save the world, or penniless but plucky girl meets older man with a dark past and they find an unlikely happiness. It's a story that may change setting and costume but is about the same kinds of characters and conflicts, and most of us have our favorites. My favorite het tropes are The Female Eromenos and the Hero and the Trickster.

The Female Eromenos -- she's brave and clever and a good fighter, "as good as a man" people say, but she's not a man and has trouble being taken seriously as a soldier/warrior/fighter/mercenary/pirate. He takes her seriously. He's her mentor and her lover, proud of her accomplishments and they've got each others' backs come what may. He treats her like a male lover, as if they were erastes and eromenos, even though she's a woman. Together they kick butt as soldiers/warriors/knights/mercenaries/pirates. And someday he'll count on her to carry on and do her duty when he's gone. (I leave you to consider which Stargate pairings might fall in this category....) The Female Eromenos is a bullet-proof kink of mine. I'll fall for it anytime, anywhere. In Lost Things, Alma and Gil definitely belong in this story. In The General's Mistress it's Elza and Michel.

The Hero and the Trickster -- he's the hero, the clean-cut clean-living good guy, wholesome and idealistic. She's the trickster, the con artist, the crook, the actress, the thief, the will o' wisp who's always got a plan up her sleeve, who's always working an angle. You know he's fighting for truth and justice, and maybe she is too, only hopefully there are some really nice prizes on the side. Maybe she's got a heart of gold under that catsuit or corset, and maybe he's not always going to play nice, but when you put them together, sparks fly. Maybe he'll solve the problem with his macho skills, but it sure helps to have her standing beside him with a stiletto and a witty comeback. (Again, I leave it to you to consider which pairings might go there....) The Hero and the Trickster is one of the main components of Elza and Michel in The General's Mistress. God only knows what Elza will do, but he can always count on her to come through. And when the chips are down, she knows he's got her covered and that he trusts her to the end of the world. In the second book after Lost Things, Steel Blues, we'll get The Hero and the Trickster in that series with the introduction of our Trickster.

So what do you guys think? Interesting?



( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 5th, 2012 07:40 pm (UTC)
I'm with ya. Love The Hero and the Trickster...and all their variations. I'm particualarly fond of The Scientist and the Seductress or The Scientist and the Ditz. I'm obviously quite fond of The Scientist/Hero...love the combination of brains and brawn. And yeah it doesn't take a lot of thought to come up with SG pairings,lol...has me anticipating "Moebius Squared".
Sep. 6th, 2012 05:36 pm (UTC)
All fun pairings, though I'm less into the Scientist as a matter of personal taste. I like Daniel, but it's Jack all the way for me! :)
Sep. 5th, 2012 08:07 pm (UTC)
That really is interesting! I don't happen to share either of those tropes as favorites, though I certainly appreciate them.

I think I would characterize my very favorite trope as the Wounded (Priest-)King (or something like that). Really bright, capable, reserved people dealing with personal damage/vulnerability/thing-that-does/would-set-them-apart finding love that accepts and works *with* the scars/danger/otherness, not denying or erasing it. (I am really enjoying that particular aspect of the Mitch-Stasi thing, even though Mitch doesn't entirely fit the pattern for me & I am not finding words to pinpoint why not. Maybe it's because Jerry absolutely does. :-)) Mordion in Diana Wynne Jones "Hexwood" is a good example.
Sep. 6th, 2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
I see what you mean about the Wounded King. I think that's definitely in play with Mitch and Stasi, though I think the Hero and the Trickster is the main trope. But it's definitely part of it. I'm thinking now about the scene in Silver Bullet where Lewis is doing his first reading for Stasi -- the central issues is the Hanged Man, which Alma associates with the Grail King, crossed by the Queen of Swords. And of course they're interrupted, and we never see what the outcome of the reading was!
Sep. 6th, 2012 11:29 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed that scene - especially the way the imagery worked with the underlying issues.

I do see Mitch as more the Hero, certainly. The Wounded King aspect with him is the physical injury & associated Stuff, more something that has happened to him, that he is dealing with. Mitch is Hero-King, not really Priest/Wizard King, if that makes sense. With Jerry, I feel/see the issue being primarily in who/what he is as Other (queer, intellectual, orphaned, etc) and secondarily as physically wounded. Alma I think shares some of the otherness aspect.

Sep. 7th, 2012 02:15 pm (UTC)
I think you're right that Mitch is much more the Hero. And his archetypal journey through the books is to the Hero-King. Jerry's is to the Magician, the wizard in his tower, Merlin and Gandalf, rather than to the king. The Wizard is always Other, as you put it. He's always set apart. It's a priestly archetype, not a kingly one.

One thing that's very interesting to us as we write this is that all of the main characters are going through the second transition, from the younger adult archetypes to the fullest expression of the mature archetypes, over the course of the books. Alma has very much begun as the Warrior Maiden, but that's an archetype for young women, and with Lost Things she becomes Magister and begins to move into a different role. Jerry is moving from the Hermit to the Magician, a transition that will take several books, with Oath Bound I expect being Jerry's critical book. Certainly in Invisible Wars he's taken up his new vocation.

Mitch is very much the Hero and his journey is to the King. Steel Blues is where that transition begins and then it's gradual through the next books. Stasi also changes, and I don't think she could have ever imagined where she winds up. And Lewis.... Well, Lewis knows what his fate is, doesn't he?
Sep. 8th, 2012 12:48 am (UTC)
I can see all that, yes. I guess I was conflating Magician and King somewhat. I am really looking forward to watching it unfold.
Sep. 9th, 2012 11:35 am (UTC)
I think I see the Magician and the King as separate in how they exercise their power. The Magician's power is esoteric, hidden, concerned with knowledge and secrets that aren't for everyone to know, concerned with responsibilities that most people don't understand. For example, my Dad was a good example of the Magician archetype fully mature, an environmental scientist whose job was about understanding complex relationships between systems that most people don't know about, and using that information to protect the public water supply. It involved a lot of working alone, a lot of time spent gathering data literally in the wilderness and then analyzing it with tools that seem esoteric to the average person. (Computer modeling of drawdown curves?) Apprentices came to him to learn their craft, returning to graduate school with practical work experience and a knowledge of field application. I think Jerry's archaeology is similiar -- and that he is in several senses a custodian of secrets. And of course when the war comes, he may more literally be the Wizard in the tower, weaving spells of protection....

The King, on the other hand, has power derived from and active in the world. The King's job is to lead other people and to manage the community's resources, both things and people. And of course traditionally his job is to lead men into battle, not as the knight who goes forth with the challenge but as the general who marshals his forces and makes wise decisions. The King is Father, whether literally or figuratively, Theoden rather than Gandalf. I think that's Mitch's journey -- to go from "a guy who lives over his friend's garage and flies planes" to the leader who makes measured decisions and takes on responsibility for the community and for lives, fully engaged with other people. And when the war comes, that's where he has to go -- he's a major in the Air Corps reserves. He'll activate as a full Colonel in 1941.

Does it make sense to you how I'm looking at the separation of the archetypes?

Edited at 2012-09-09 11:35 am (UTC)
Sep. 5th, 2012 11:43 pm (UTC)
I liked the Female Eromenos long before you codified the name for me. But it helps to know one's type. :)

I like watching the Hero and the Trickster, but I have trouble writing it - I'm not a Trickster type, myself. The Princess And The Pirate is probably more my thing - Leia Organa and Han Solo: she's the sober one, he's the mischief maker. (Elizabeth/Ronon falls into this category for me, too.)

I've discovered a fondness for what I'm calling Two Stoic Hearts: they're not emotional, they don't do drama, but they quietly circle, drawing closer by degrees and fractions, until they're standing within arm's reach and then one asks something of the other and it all falls into place. John/Teyla is that for me, and Maria Hill/Steve Rogers in Avengers.
Sep. 6th, 2012 06:09 pm (UTC)
Maria Hill/Steve Rogers? Now there's something pretty I haven't seen yet...
Sep. 6th, 2012 06:32 pm (UTC)
Read tielin's fanfic, she'll make you a convert.
Sep. 6th, 2012 08:47 pm (UTC)
Oh there is definitely not enough Steve/Maria in the fandom!

I wrote A Woman Of Edges.

There's also can't carve a whistle by irnan and conversations with other women, although the last one is more about Steve and just incidentally Steve/Maria.

It's difficult to find anything much Maria Hill centric that's good - she tends to end up the "bit part bitch" or "Fury's echo chamber" in most stories.
Sep. 7th, 2012 01:03 am (UTC)
Awesome, thank you for the recs!!
Sep. 6th, 2012 06:35 pm (UTC)
Oh yes! I totally see you writing the Female Eromenos! :)

The Princess and the Pirate is very much the opposite gender Hero and the Trickster, isn't it?
Sep. 6th, 2012 06:31 pm (UTC)
My near-bullet-proof character kink is the one I tend to call the Dutiful Soldier, which corresponds a lot to your Hero, I think. Steve Rogers, younger Obi-Wan Kenobi, Benton Fraiser, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, Dr. Watson (in pretty much all forms)...the "I'm going to do what's right even if it kills me" type of character. And to a large extent I ship that character/happiness.

In general terms, I like friendship-to-love, mutual respect and complimentary skills. I hate super bickering, or relationships where they don't seem to like each other as much as they love each other.
Sep. 6th, 2012 09:38 pm (UTC)
Oh yes! That type, definitely. Very John Sheppard?
Sep. 7th, 2012 02:01 pm (UTC)
John Sheppard never really clicked that much for me, actually. I think it's because he started off with very strong The Rebel characterization, and a big distrust for authority. And frankly, the Rebel is my anti-kink. I don't dislike it, but it's just not an archetype/trope that does much at all for me. In Westerns, for example, I'm always rooting for the doctor/lawyer/schoolteacher characte rather than the standard hero. He evolved into more of the Dutiful Soldier, and there were bits of that from the beginning, but by the time he was codified as the Dutiful Soldier for me, the show was already losing me by sidelining Elizabeth and Teyla, who were two of my favorites.
Sep. 9th, 2012 11:24 am (UTC)
He did start off as the Rebel. I think the character evolved a great deal during the second season as the writers found their distinct voice for him. Is Cameron Mitchell more your taste? (I have to admit, I love Cam.)
Sep. 10th, 2012 03:49 am (UTC)
I did love Cam, though it's been a while so I'm not as refreshed on all the characters as I once was. I'll have to bug my brother to pass over his SG1 episodes again and do a re-watch, I miss SG1.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )