How Long Is a Piece of Trope?

Double Tongued Word Wrester hasn’t been too thrilling lately–e.g. their breathless revelation that step on means “cut” in the parlance of the drug world. (I mean, where did these guys spend the 1970s?) But they made up for it today with a new-to-me buzzword about screenplays: “Page 75.” That’s ““the dark heart of the narrative arc, this moment of failure represents a loss so profound that the viewer (or reader, as the case may be) is meant to abandon all hope of a tidy resolution. Well, almost.”

Another interesting site for narrative tropes I came across recently and serendipitously, thanks to these guys, is the TV Tropes wiki.

One could waste endless hours in trope-hunting, of course, and the fact that someone can caricature a trope doesn’t mean it’s a cliché or otherwise unusable. (I’ll always insist, for instance, that “white room syndrome” is not necessarily a mistake, but a perfectly valid way to begin a story.) Still, a browse through sites like this or the famous “Turkey City Lexicon” can stimulate the storyteller into realizing he is trying to reinvent the wheel (or something they used to use before there were wheels). At least, it can if the storyteller is me.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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4 Responses to How Long Is a Piece of Trope?

  1. nathan_long says:

    Hmmm, the term “page 75” is new to me too, but what it refers to is the end of the second act, the place in the story where everything looks its worst, the place where it seems the villains must triumph, and the place where the heroes make their decision to try one last desperate gambit, that then leads to the big finale and the resolution.

    The end of the second act in Raiders of the Lost Ark is the precise second that the stone slab seals Indy and the others in the tomb.

    • grantbarrett says:

      James, I spent the 1970s being a child. The closest I got to drugs was watching the high school kids pick the seeds out of baggies of pot in the back of the schoolbus. But I’m glad you like the site occasionally. Most words are new to most people most of the time, so if you’re recognizing almost everything I’m posting, then you’re well ahead of the curve. Cheers, Grant Barrett, editor of the Double-Tongued Dictionary.

      • JE says:

        Sorry–I actually meant to praise DTTW, not burn it, but I see on rereading that the post is unnecessarily snarky. I certainly appreciate your labors in the vinyard of lexicography, and am glad to get the benefit of them.

    • JE says:

      Sure. Isn’t that what the article (quoted at DTWW) says? Maybe I’m missing your point.

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