Monday 8 February 2021

The Trials Of A Crime Writer: Subverting Tropes



This is a topic that has probably been covered by a lot of writers, crime and mystery alike. There are always certain tropes that get associated with a genre. Whether they're good or bad ones is up to the individual reader, but I do feel like there are some that are overused. There comes a time when a trope becomes a cliché, and I think that a lot of the time, it's because people don't know that you can still had a loveable trope in your book, but that you need to put a different spin on it, or subvert it in some way.

Since I've got thoughts and feelings on some tropes in this genre, I thought I would give you some tips about how to subvert a trope and what the good thing about doing this is. You'll all have seen that I did a video on my Authortube channel about the top five tropes I hate in crime and mystery (found here) and so I thought that taking from that, I would pick a couple of my least favs and show you how they can be subverted and how it helps your fiction to do this.

So starting with one that's pretty easy to do.


This trope is basically just as it sounds, the detective is a loner, is someone that can never form a good personal relationship with anyone else on the squad or team because they are hiding some deep dark secret, or they're just too bitter to be able to be nice to other people. There's also the ones that show just how broken the detective is, and it kinda sends the message that if you have things in your past that are less than savoury, you're not worth the chance of an actual real relationship. So you can see how it can be harmful.


You basically have to take that trope and turn it on its head. You can leave the trauma in the background, or you can keep the deep dark secret, but you can show that while the detective finds it hard to be around others, there are some that they will allow to be close to them. Or you can show them going through the process of something like therapy, where they have to work through whatever issues they might have and are able to start that slow process of finding out how to connect with other people, especially those they work with on a day to day basis.

This is an offshoot of the above trope. The detective is so lone wolf that they never work with anyone else. Only they have the prowess to solve all the crimes. They're so good at it, but they do it all alone, with no backup, no trust and no ability to empathise with other people. It can be great to have a main POV in your books, and it's great if they're part of the team that helps solve the crime. But the key point here is, if they're a high up detective and they have a team beneath them, or they have a partner, they can't just be the only one with the special ability to always solve the crime, and do it alone and with no help. It just doesn't work like that.


You can have the character start out as a lone wolf, you can have them going out on their own to find answers, and then have them get to a point where they have to ask for help. It may not come easily to them, but it will show some humanity in them. Whether that's a tentative trust, or whether it comes about by the lone wolf starting to accept that they don't have to be the only one to solve every single crime. You can even have them make a mistake and that can be a wake up call. That they need to have the people around them, otherwise they're going to end up getting hurt, or worse, missing something important and have someone else killed.

These are just two tropes, there are so many more in crime and mystery that I could talk about, but I think you get the point I'm trying to make here. There's always going to be books that follow the same tried and true tropes, that's never going to change, but as a writer, putting your own spin on things can make you stand out from the crowd in a good way. Try it with a trope you love, or even one you hate, see what ideas you can come up with to try and subvert that trope and make it your own.

As always, any questions, lemme know in the comments!

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