Tropes I have unaccountably never used myself

So, I commented the other day that I really like prison escapes.

Honestly, I love prison escapes.

I was thinking of the prison escape in Ann Maxwell’s Fire Dancer, which, by the way, was released as an ebook last year under the name Elizabeth Lowell, and thanks to @Sandstone on Twitter for that information.

The Honor Harrington series has its flaws, sure, but it’s still a fun series and of course my favorite book is this one, where Honor and others wind up on and escape from the prison planet Hell.

There’s a fantastic prison escape in the 4th book of Tanya Huff’s Valor series. What a great story that is! Practically the whole thing is an extended prison escape. It’s probably my favorite book in the series, and I enjoy all the books. I’m pretty sure this is my favorite military SF series.

There are innumerable prison escapes in SFF. If you’ve got a favorite, by all means let me know because I’m always up for this trope! I’m amazed I’ve never put a prison escape in any novel, except I guess this trope is actually a bit intimidating. You have to work out a clever escape in the same way that you’d work out a clever murder in a murder mystery. I don’t have a knack for that, so this sounds difficult to me.

The prison escape isn’t the only trope I have unaccountably never managed to hit myself.

A second trope I particularly enjoy but have never once used myself is The Bodyguard. I love bodyguard characters! I’m thinking here of trustworthy, competent bodyguards who, at least eventually, like or love the person they’re guarding. That’s the relationship I like and that’s how I would write a bodyguard myself. Several of you pointed out great bodyguards in this relatively recent post. I’m particularly planning to find Daughter of Mystery, which Irina pointed out and which I’m certain I have on my Kindle even at this moment. Every book that was recommended there is one I truly want to look at.

A third trope I’m very fond of is The Thief, particularly a character who is perhaps somewhat ambiguous, but when it comes down to it, on the right side. If you stretch the definition of “thief,” then Nicolas Valiarde might count. But I’m really thinking of more specifically thief characters. One reason Scott Lynch’s books work pretty well for me, despite being on the edge of too gritty, is that the protagonists and important secondary characters are thieves.

Oh, also Vlad, even though he’s an assassin as well as a thief. I like assassins a lot too, as long as they’re not embedded in a grimdark narrative. Assassins who aren’t evil. Vlad might have been pretty amoral for some time, but right from the first was willing to go amazingly far to support and protect people he cared about, which is why he works fine for me as a character. I think Vallista is the most recent book in the series, right? I don’t think I’ve missed any. Wow, fifteen books total so far. Fourteen if you pretend Brust never wrote Teckla, about which the less said, the better.

Anyway, amazingly enough, I’ve never put an important thief (or assassin) into any of my books. Or nothing that has been published. The original trilogy which I cannibalized to write both The White Road of the Moon and Winter of Ice and Iron actually did include thieves, and a thieves’ guild (more or less) and a king of thieves (again, more or less). I had to remove all that because there was just no room for any of it in the final versions of the books. I’m still sad about that. Who knows, maybe eventually I’ll find a place to put those thieves.

Granted, Oressa pretty much acts like a thief. In a way, writing her is a lot like writing a thief character. All the rooftops one could wish! She’s a smooth liar, and she’d steal something without a moment’s hesitation if she thought she needed to. I don’t think she actually does steal anything during the course of this story, but she certainly would.

One more: I’m very fond of kitsune. Not sure how I’ve never managed to work even one kitsune into one of my own books. The Black Dog series is already so cluttered, I don’t suppose it’s possible to cram a kitsune or two into that. Probably. Though it would be neat!

Of course, I have managed to write some tropes I particularly like. I’ve managed The Girl Who Disguises Herself As A Boy. I’ve always liked that one. But it’s amazing how many great tropes I have unaccountably never happened to put anywhere. Yet.

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12 thoughts on “Tropes I have unaccountably never used myself”

  1. Sign me up to preorder the Rachel Neumeier book that involves a kitsune thief, imprisoned after she is falsely accused of assassinating someone (she was really only burglarizing them!) and the cell mate who assists her prison break and subsequently becomes her bodyguard…

  2. I was reading this – very drowsy – thinking, “I’m sure there’s a Miles Vorkosigan prison escape. And as my brain woke up, they just keep jumping at me… so many prison escapes. “Borders of Infinity” most notably. That one starts somewhat light, but the end is so hard to read. And still one of my favorites. Cordelia escaping from Aral’s ship in the first half of “Shard’s of Honor.” The more I think of it, the more I feel like there is a prison escape in almost every story in that series!
    Why are thieves so fascinating? I love that trope. I also love hidden identity tropes: Zorro, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Clark Kent/Superman. I think hidden identities are my favorite. Not only in books, but in movies, and on television. And I enjoy the time spent on the overt role as much, if not more, as I do the hero/bravo moments. Especially if the known, visible role rings as genuine – a true reflection of the heart and soul of the character, as much as the hidden identity.

  3. Mary beat me to it. Borders of Infinity, plus Miles broke Taura out of prison on Jackson’s Whole. Plus Mark broke out of horrid captivity. Plus Miles gets kidnapped on Earth, as does Ivan…

  4. Ah, thieves! There’s a thief (surprise!) in my “Thief, Thief!” my first published story ever, (but if you want it you need the collection Journeys and Wizardry because I decided it was too short to sell on its own).

    But on ones where my judgment is less suspect —

    Thief Trap by Jonathan Moeller starts a series where the heroine Nadia is a elven lord’s professional thief.

    A little more loosely, The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman features characters who will freely steal books among other ways to get them.

    And of course, The Hobbit features a burglar, and more seriously, a prison escape in the middle.

  5. You are all skirting one of the most obvious books: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. It features pretty much every trope you’ve mentioned here except kitsune.
    As far as kitsune go, there’s a manga called Nura: Rise of the Yokai in which the main antagonist is a truly villainous nine-tailed kitsune (personally I like the original name better than the translation; Nurarihyon no Mago sounds so much better than what they came up with, but I’m not a translator, so . . .)
    There’s also Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn, in which an almost-respectable spacer gets hired to captain a dodgy vessel that may or may not have been stolen property. Zahn’s Dragon and Thief series also features prison escapes and – of course – a thief.
    Oh, and The Chronicles of Solace by Roger MacBride Allen has a nail-biting planet escape in The Ocean of Years, the second book in the trilogy. In my opinion, even better than Honor’s adventures on Hell.
    Man, now I’m thinking of all kinds of tropes I like myself that I need to write!

  6. Re Vlad Taltos: Apparently Steven Brust turned in Tsalmoth late last year, and started working on Lyorn in the spring.

    (Which would leave only Chreotha and The Final Contract, if he’s still sticking to his long-ago plan.)

    And of course (given its model) Brust had prison escapes in (what I think is still) his most recent book, The Baron of Magister Valley.

  7. I love the girl disguised as boy (with romance) so much but I feel like good stories that use this are hard to find. It’s kind of a subcategory of the character disguised as something they’re not trope which also includes secret identity stories like with superheroes.

    In the first Godstalker Chronicles by P.C. Hodgell the main character is a thief as well as someone pretending to be something she’s not. In Hunting by Andrea K Host the main character is not quite a thief though she spends a lot of time on rooftops. She’s also disguised as a boy, which makes me like it even more.

    My mind is blanking on other girl disguised as boy books. Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer. Mairelon the Magician by Patricia C. Wrede, but the main guy knows she’s a girl even if others don’t.

  8. I was just reminded of another girl disguised as boy book, Minstrel by B. Durbin. As I read it, the back of mind kept bringing up the ballad ‘famous flower of serving men’, which is another tale in that category. But the novel is itself, and I enjoyed it.

    I think Ellen Kushner used that ballad, too, in one of books, probably Thomas the Rhymer. So there’s two more for you to look into.

  9. Thanks for all your suggestions and comments!

    Kaylynn, I had to think about Hunting by AKH for a bit to be sure that the protagonist isn’t a thief. She reads like a thief, and also like a self-possessed, cool, low-angst girl disguised as a boy. I like this story better every time I read it, and in fact the protagonist now reminds me of Mika from The Book of Firsts.

    Mike S, good, good, I’ll hope to see another Taltos book later this year or next year then.

    Pete, that’s a great word, which I had to look up to confirm it means exactly what you’d think it means.

    EC, beats me how I didn’t think of The Thief and sequels!

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