Site Unseen is a brand spanking baby larva new column here at Agents of GUARD, one that seeks to shine a light on websites that don’t end in “tube,” “book,” “oogle,” or “tube.” The second tube represents a porn video site of your choice.
Our goal is to add another bookmark to your bookmark bar, or at least give a lesser-known site a chance to to peek its head up out of the endless, murky swamp of internet content.
Today’s Site Unseen is . . . TVTropes.org.
What is It?
In the words of TV Tropes itself: “This wiki is a catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction.”
There’s a bunch more text after that, but who has time to stare at their computer screen (or smartphone, smart glass, or Zeiss-Ikon Cyb3rEye feed) while some jerkass prattles on and on . . . okay, I hear it. Nevermind.
TV Tropes, at its heart, is the dictionary of a language you didn’t realize you’d been hearing and speaking your entire life. Every time you’ve stood in a circle after a movie and picked it apart, slapping down cliches and praising new twists, you were speaking the language. Every movie, book, TV show, and comic book you’ve ever experienced was a poem (good or bad or double-triple-dog terrible) drafted in that language. Every time you listed a third example to make a paragraph feel “right,” you were waist-deep in the dialect of that strange language.
Put simply, TV Tropes is an open-to-public-edits wiki that collects the story beats, character archetypes, cliches, and plot devices that are found in every work of fiction constructed by man (or woman, or that ape that does abstract paintings). Your favorite television show, your least favorite movie, that weird, obscure web original series you’re sure no one has ever heard of – all have been recorded, analyzed, picked apart, and put back together again on TV Tropes. Hell, you might even find that someone has put up an entry for your very first published novel.
Why Haven’t I Heard of It?
TVTropes.org isn’t exactly an obscure website – many of you have probably heard of it. However, let’s get real here. Like “Bad Boys” real. Like “Stop Being Polite, Start Being” real. Like “Partly Metal, Partly” real. SILVEERRRRHAAAWWWKS. If you’re reading “Agents of GUARD,” there are some basic assumptions one can make about you and your character.
- You’re probably incredibly handsome / gorgeous.
- Your taste is impeccable, and you have the soul of a poet.
- You got that Silverhawks reference without having to clink on the link.
- You’re a geek.
And what do we know about geeks? Geeks are intelligent, inquisitive, and creative – just the kind of good and decent folk right in the splash radius of a website like TV Tropes. We geeks are known for our ability to dissect pop culture on the spot, which is just the sort of needless scrutiny that TV Tropes feeds off of.
Why hasn’t the site gone mainstream? Well, for one thing, the site is almost entirely text. It’s not at reddit levels of non-existent web design, but it’s a damn close thing. I mean, who wants to stare at a giant wall of text without pict – you know, I hear it again. Either way, most people on the planet Earth don’t know how to read (FACT), so they usually deal with an abundance of text by trying to burn it or to “Lynch it tight, Jimmy-Kyle!”
The other reason the site hasn’t gone viral like face-herpes at a KROQ festival is because of the misleading name. TV Tropes really only spends about twelve percent of its server space on discussing television shows. The name is an artifact, dating back to the site’s birth, when it used to be dedicated exclusively to cataloging tropes in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” And no, I’m not making that up.
Unfortunately, the website’s name fails to court the two largest pools of fiction analysis – Literature, and Film. Though the site itself is awash in literature and film pages, you wouldn’t know it from the title. But fret not – do not be fretted, dammit! – the website’s popularity is growing. You can’t get through a Cracked article without at least four hundred references to TV Tropes – hell, half of the Cracked articles were clearly inspire directly by individual TV Tropes pages. The kind of lazy writer that would turn to TV Tropes to do their heavy lifting doesn’t deserve – dammit, yeah, I hear it again.
Why Should I Love It?
TV Tropes is amazing. Why? For two major reasons. For fiction lovers who like chewing on their stories, TV Tropes offers a chance to jump into an ever-growing internet conversation about every piece of fiction you would ever want to discuss. New or Old, Good or Bad, you can always stop by TV Tropes after consuming any story.
Just re-watched Star Trek: Wrath of Khan? Why not spin by TV Tropes and take a look at all the writing tools that were used in its creation. How it took popular sci-fi story points, or how it folded in classic literature, or even the silly mistakes of the crew or general scenery-chewing of the actors. Just-released movies usually have pages up before you can get back from the theater – if you just caught Star Trek: Into Darkness, there’s already pages of material and hundreds of “tropers” biting into the story’s marrow.
The second great reason to check out TV Tropes is if you’re a fiction creator yourself, or have ever had aspirations for same. There are hundreds of books on writing at Barnes and Noble, thousands of interviews from your favorite writers, and hojillions of dollars the world is happy to let you spend on writing classes, writing degrees, and writing seminars. None of these are bad ideas – in fact, I recommend all of them. However, none of them hold a candle to the amount of story education you can get from TV Tropes, and all for the low price of ALL YOUR FREE TIME. Seriously. The site is the go-to spot for fiction writers of every skill level.
So please give TV Tropes a decent shot. There is a reason, after all, they say that TV Tropes will ruin your life. If you’ve ever gone on a wiki binge, dancing from page to page like a demented dancing pagey thing, then you know one-tenth the psychotic obsession TV Tropes can burn into your soft, gooey brain cells.
If you’re still not sure, just go to the site and search for your VERY FAVORITE movie. Or TV show. Or Book. Skim the page. See what shakes out.
I’d like to apologize in advance. You didn’t really need any of that free time you had, did you?