Learn the Tropes Learn the Ropes: Knowing Genre Matters

BY GREGORY GAROFALO

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It was a late night at the office and I was finding innovative new ways to procrastinate. I sat there fiddling with the keys, hoping, praying that my article would write itself. No luck. With a loud knock at the door I looked up and that’s when she walked in. Charis Joy Jackson, my editor. Just one look at her and you knew that she meant business. Maybe this time she’d put me out of my misery. Again, no luck.

“Kid, you’re writing a piece on genre! Now get to it!” The door slammed behind her and that was that. It was going to be a late night.

That’s write, genre’s the name of the game and here’s how you play, see. I bet you thought the rules didn’t apply to you, well Buster Brown do I have news for you. There’s a reason tropes work and why you at least need to know them before you break them.

People search for patterns in things, it’s why we gravitate towards genre’s and tropes. When you go see a mystery you know that someone’s probably going to get betrayed, that the detective, or the unwilling detective will fall in love with the wrong girl and so on. We gravitate towards genres, because they all tell us a different aspect about life and thus who we are.

For example:

The mystery genre confronts the unknown darkness we all have lurking within (just watch Seven, or Chinatown.) Of course there’s going to be betrayal, alcoholic heroes, and infidelity, the genre wouldn’t exist without those things.

While Sci-fi confronts the dangers of where society could be heading (watch any episode of Black Mirror.)

Understanding genre helps you understand your own story better than you could before.

Now of course there are exceptions and not every mystery needs to be about the dirty underbelly of humanity, but it’s important to understand so you can make a genre your own.

If you’ve ever watched an episode of Community you’ll know what I’m talking about.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9O2nVgz0Cs [EMBED IN ARTICLE]

In no way was Dan Harmon or the show’s writers trying to make a comment on the human condition, it’s a love letter to shows like Law and Order and the whole detective genre. But they needed to understand the tropes of noir mystery in order to hit the gags.

It’s not just comedy either, the interrogation scene in The Dark Knight wouldn’t even exist without a million detective movies before it.

The mystery/noir genre is just an example, but the same goes for all genres.

Figure out what kind of story you’re trying to make and learn what makes it tick from the inside out. Find other movies similar to yours and take notes and see how you can translate them to your creative project.

 

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  • While a great many would see him as a hero, there are some that would prefer the term vigilante. Gregory is an aspiring filmmaker who loves writing, directing, coffee and long walks on the beach.

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