This Metaphorical Bar ep. 4: Bulletproof Tropes – Enemies to Lovers

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Who we are:

I’m Karen Healey, an author and teacher living in Otautahi New Zealand, and I spent $400 on books last weekend.

I’m Robyn Fleming, I write and Mom in Tucson, Arizona, and I can break bricks with my bare hands.

I’m Carla M. Lee, an author, artist, and attorney living in the Midwest USA and I recently explored a run-down, abandoned manufacturing building that had a weird little house inside, and I did it as part of my job as a lawyer — never got to do that at a law firm. I love everyone in this metaphorical bar!

What we’re drinking:

Carla: Diet Dr Pepper
Robyn: Mountain Dew
Karen: Diet Coke

Episode summary:

Topic: Bulletproof tropes – Enemies to Lovers

What’s a trope?: a repeating pattern in a text (including movies, tv, etc.), like evil stepmother or stable boy who is really a king. Tropes touch something in people. It’s not repeating within a text but across lots of stories and texts.

What’s a bulletproof trope?: Repeating thing across texts that will always get to you, something you will always love no matter where it shows up.

What’s enemies to lovers?: People who are on opposite sides for some reason, philosophical, competition, etc., but they snap and fight and tear at each other and then there’s a moment of realization and they fall in love. Or, as Karen says, “Put their faces on each other’s faces.”

What’s woobification?: Softening a character in a way that skips over the redemption they have to have — often because they have a tragic backstory — and we never see the change.

What are slash goggles?: Metaphorical goggle that makes you see potentially romantic interactions between characters whether or not it’s actually there. Most of the time it really is there.

  • Tricky to pull off because some enemies are written in ways that there can never be any redemption. We want to actually see the redemption happen in order to believe that the characters can conceivably come together without one of them sacrificing themself for the other.
  • Doesn’t have to be enemies in a huge ethical fight, it can be on a much smaller scale, people annoying each other in a workplace, for example.
  • Stories based on real life that are presented as fictional stories inspired by real life can be approached as a story and can be unsatisfying if they don’t follow the traditional beats we’re looking for in that type of story.
  • There may be a difference in approaching this type of story when writing for professional publication versus writing fanfic, because when creating your own characters, when you create an enemy without intentionally creating that character to be an enemy-to-lover character, it’s harder to put that nuance in later, because you intentionally created them as an enemy. In fic, you’re dealing with characters you did not create as an enemy, so you can play with it in different ways because you did not create them to be the enemy.
  • Sometimes we want to read or watch tropes that we don’t want to write; consuming has a different appeal to creating it yourself.
  • Enemies to friends is also very satisfying — see this a lot in heist settings.
  • One of the appeals of tropes generally is that we know where it is going. The layers around the trope at the core, the characters and setting and other details, change and twist, but the arc itself is a huge part of the appeal. The rest of it is the decoration around a basic story that we love. And even if all three of us started with the same setup and basic characters around the same trope, we’ll all write very different stories.

Which characters we imprinted on early:

Robyn: Data, basically tall, pale men with dark hair and large noses and who don’t do good emotions.

Karen: Textual Eowyn. David Bowie from Labyrinth

Carla: Worf.

Things mentioned in the episode:

Ask Your Friendly Neighborhood Bartender:

TC Harris: How did you develop an interest in flatworms, Robyn?

Robyn: Read about flatworm research that built on previous experiments where flatworms could be taught to do a simple maze, cut them in half, and both halves that grow into new flatworms will learn the same maze faster than a flatworm that has never seen one. Build-on research was around the theory of feeding trained flatworms to untrained flatworms to see if they would learn the maze faster. Robyn spent two years in a science class built around science fair research trying to recreate the earlier experiments, but in that entire time could not train a single flatworm to run a single maze.

HOWEVER, an important lesson was that science is about failure in a really good way, that failing to create things and replicate results causes understanding to develop, and you have to keep trying and failing — and writing is similarly about failure. Tropes allow you to keep circling around something that fascinates you, and you are trying to find a truth in it.

Find Us Online:

Carla: @carlamlee on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram 

Karen: @kehealey on Twitter, @karenhealey on Tumblr 

Robyn: @robyn_writing on Twitter

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