KB Featured Book
A Second Chance
by Marcia Whitaker

$7.99
Kindle Edition published 2017-08-30
Bestseller ranking: 264164

Product Description
What would you do if you got that once in a lifetime second chance to seize everything that was torn away from you and make it right?

Living in the foothills of the scenic Rocky Mountains, highly respected Neurosurgeon, Julian Cahill, appears to have it all. He’s handsome, compassionate, ambitious, and wealthy but one thing is missing…a woman to share his life. For eighteen years he has grieved the loss of his high school sweetheart, Amber Scott, who passed away just prior to the start of their senior year. Ready to give up on love all together, college freshman, Destiny Bradshaw walks into his life, astounding him with her beauty. A girl half his age, she intrigues him. His attraction to her is powerful, but he’s unable to make sense of it. Despite the age difference, Destiny is also drawn to him, but her overly-protective parents have their concerns and give her an ultimatum. Upon uncovering some life-altering details in conne...

Author Topic: Space Opera Tropes  (Read 1265 times)  

Offline JTriptych

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 559
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • facebook
Space Opera Tropes
« on: August 16, 2017, 04:48:16 AM »
OK, I'm getting ready to write a space opera series and doing research on what sort of tropes I have to put in to please readers.

So far I've got:

Faster than light ships
Artificial gravity on ships
Dashing heroes and beautiful women
Force fields
Mechs
Energy weapons
Lots of action
Every planet is earthlike in atmosphere, gravity, and terrain
Everyone speaks English
Aliens are usually like humans in behavior, culture, and communication- the only difference is appearance
Space fighters need to be manned, instead of automated

Anything else? Suggestions appreciated.  ;D

Online Patty Jansen

  • Status: Isaac Asimov
  • ********
  • Posts: 11419
  • Gender: Female
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Destroyer of Science Fiction
    • View Profile
    • Patty Jansen Author of SF and fantasy
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2017, 04:49:29 AM »
a good story that would fall down if you took the SF elements away.

Online TobiasRoote

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 338
  • Gender: Male
  • Greece
    • View Profile
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2017, 04:57:28 AM »
a good story that would fall down if you took the SF elements away.

'wouldn't'


Tobias Roote | Website | Facebook | Twitter

Offline Benjamin Douglas

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 361
  • Gender: Male
  • Iowa
  • Reading :) Riting :) Rithmatic :(
    • View Profile
    • Benjamin Douglas Books
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2017, 05:01:24 AM »
Because I like my space opere with a dash of political drama, I suggest:

Empire v. resistance
Government conspiracies/coverups
Secret genetic manipulation
Secret megaweapons or chemweapons or genetic weapons testing
Bureaucratic red tape
"King of the hill" struggle--some character rising to prominent gov position
Backroom deals between opposing gov'ts, or gov w/ mafia/pirates/organized baddies

That rabbit trail could easily go father than you'd probably like in terms of cross-genre writing... but just a pinch of it can bring a lot of relatability, I think (Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica).

"Your bitter recollections have time to change themselves into sweet remembrances." -Dumas
Benjamin Douglas | newsletter | blog | twitter | the book speaks podcast

Online Patty Jansen

  • Status: Isaac Asimov
  • ********
  • Posts: 11419
  • Gender: Female
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Destroyer of Science Fiction
    • View Profile
    • Patty Jansen Author of SF and fantasy
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2017, 05:32:29 AM »

Offline Mark Gardner

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1532
  • Gender: Male
  • Arizona, USA
    • View Profile
    • Article 94
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2017, 05:39:26 AM »
I'd say that you don't necessarily need FTL ships. I can think of several space operas that don't have that trope, including The Expanse and Firefly.

Same with artificial gravity. Many great space opera series use conventional gravity, and it can make for interesting story elements with the difference in the force of gravity in different areas of a spinning habitat.

Forcefields are another item that "real" science has a realistic alternative. Even with current computer tech, we can use masers and lasers to eradicate space dust and other contaminants.

Energy weapons I can take or leave. I liked the way that The Expanse uses projectile weaponry. Kinetic bombardment and low-speed bullets that won't penetrate hulls are an interesting concept. Frag-bullets too. The obvious benefit to using kinetics and projectiles, is that you can use the classic pirate/seafaring trope of the broadside.

Fighters being unmanned is becoming more and more acceptable. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 comes to mind, but they took it to the extreme, almost absurd.

People want a space opera to be "suitably epic and grandiose," but so many book series don't have to be: Dragonfire Station, by Zen Dipietro, Tales of a Dying Star, by David Kristoph, and Earth's Last Gambit, by Felix R. Savage are just a few.

I'll even go a step further, and say that a space opera can be mundane and practical. I suggest my War of the Worlds sequels, co-written with John J. Rust, and Days Until Home, also co-written with Greg Dragon and David Kristoph.

OK, I'm getting ready to write a space opera series and doing research on what sort of tropes I have to put in to please readers.

So far I've got:

Faster than light ships
Artificial gravity on ships
Dashing heroes and beautiful women
Force fields
Mechs
Energy weapons
Lots of action
Every planet is earthlike in atmosphere, gravity, and terrain
Everyone speaks English
Aliens are usually like humans in behavior, culture, and communication- the only difference is appearance
Space fighters need to be manned, instead of automated

Anything else? Suggestions appreciated.  ;D
« Last Edit: August 16, 2017, 05:55:50 AM by Mark Gardner »

Offline she-la-ti-da

  • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
  • *******
  • Posts: 5790
  • in the bunker
    • View Profile
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2017, 06:09:21 AM »
Like Patty said. And there's a difference between a trope and a cliche, though I leave it up to the individual to decide which is which (I'd vote for the dashing hero and beautiful woman thing, personally).

I forgot to add the standard advice:  read widely in the genre, especially books that are doing well. It's pretty much in the job description.  ;D
Queen of Procrasti Nation

Genres: speculative fiction under main pen name.




Offline Word Fan

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1229
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2017, 06:10:48 AM »
OK, I'm getting ready to write a space opera series and doing research on what sort of tropes I have to put in to please readers.

So far I've got:

Faster than light ships
Artificial gravity on ships
Dashing heroes and beautiful women
Force fields
Mechs
Energy weapons
Lots of action
Every planet is earthlike in atmosphere, gravity, and terrain
Everyone speaks English
Aliens are usually like humans in behavior, culture, and communication- the only difference is appearance
Space fighters need to be manned, instead of automated

Anything else? Suggestions appreciated.  ;D


I've suggested some modifications in what you listed (and made one correction):

Faster-than-light ships (corrected the punctuation) [It's true that F.T.L. ships are not a requirement, but they make some other things in a story much easier to implement.]
Most planets are earthlike in atmosphere, gravity, and terrain
Most characters speak or understand English
Aliens are usually like humans in behavior, culture, and communication---the only difference is appearance (though very non-human differences can be great for the story)

It seems obvious that you have been influenced by Star Wars, among others. Nothing wrong with that. Star Wars itself was built upon earlier influences.

Offline John Dixon

  • Status: Madeleine L'Engle
  • **
  • Posts: 68
  • Gender: Male
  • Pennsylvania
    • View Profile
    • John Dixon Books
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2017, 06:11:23 AM »
A colorful, ensemble cast - part of which generally assembles into a motley crew
BIG action
Larger-than-life characters
Plausibility sacrificed at the altar of twisty, fast-paced fun
Many stages - these stories tend to cut from Planet A to a ship in space to Planet B and so on...
Humor
Science and tech that an eight-year-old can groove on. From Star Wars: blasters, light sabers, the Death Star
Subplots that weave together over the course of both a book and a series. Yeah, that's common to most series, regardless of genre, but Space Opera characters tend to have big, overt goals and motivation -- I WANT TO TOPPLE THE EMPIRE BECAUSE THEY DESTROYED MY PLANET! -- so these interwoven story lines stand out

Finally, HAVE FUN! That's the thing that's always struck me about Space Opera vs. harder science fiction (and I love both): the stories are fun, and I picture the authors having a blast.



John Dixon | Facebook | Twitter

Online C. Gold

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 675
    • View Profile
    • Golden Elm Publishing
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2017, 06:27:32 AM »
When you put in artificial gravity on your spaceships make sure to include inertial dampening or else you might run into the reviewer I saw who basically wrote War and Peace when detailing the many ways this one military sci-fi story screwed up the physics, including forgetting to mention how people weren't shoved backwards when a ship goes to light speed. Apparently the book was trying to pass that off as artificial gravity when it should have been inertial dampening. It also went on a diatribe about the poor choice of weapons and just about everything else. I really wish I could find it and link it here because I've never seen a person so passionate in a review before. I made a comment on the review, but have no way to find it now. :(

Offline Kal241

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 506
  • Gender: Male
  • Things are never what they seem
    • View Profile
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2017, 07:20:39 AM »
Artificial sapience/sentience often crops up if AI characters are used.

An artist and a writer combined into one being. When you work with Kal, you get a 2-4-1 deal!  

Check out my artistry at: http://kal241.deviantart.com/
Writing samples of mine will be made available upon request.

Offline archaeoroutes

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1219
  • Gender: Male
  • Somerset, England
    • View Profile
    • Alasdair Shaw
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #11 on: August 16, 2017, 08:30:03 AM »
Faster than light ships - not essential, but really helps with the storytelling
Artificial gravity on ships - not essential, but really helps with the storytelling
Dashing heroes and beautiful women - not essential, certainly no more or less than any other story
Force fields - definitely not essential
Mechs - definitely not essential
Energy weapons - definitely not essential
Lots of action - not essential, certainly no more or less than any other story
Every planet is earthlike in atmosphere, gravity, and terrain - definitely not essential, in fact worsens it
Everyone speaks English - well, not different to any other book written in English
Aliens are usually like humans in behavior, culture, and communication- the only difference is appearance - definitely not essential
Space fighters need to be manned, instead of automated - definitely not essential, though can help

Genres: Space Opera, MilSF, Popular Science, Physics Textbooks, Archaeology, Walking
Alasdair C Shaw | Personal Website | SciFi Website | Physics Website | Archaeology Website | Newsletter Signup

Offline Flay Otters

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1017
  • Gender: Male
  • New Preston CT
  • Stone the crows!
    • View Profile
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #12 on: August 16, 2017, 09:00:56 AM »
And space battles. Numerous epic fantastical space battles. In space.
And shields. Plenty of shields.

Offline Linn

  • Status: Madeleine L'Engle
  • **
  • Posts: 79
    • View Profile
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #13 on: August 16, 2017, 09:37:08 AM »
Anything else? Suggestions appreciated.  ;D

Some form of telepathy or telekinesis maybe. References to an ancient religious or monastic order. A commodity that all civilizations need to survive. And a robot with a wry sense of humor.


Offline Craig Andrews

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 311
  • Gender: Male
  • Portland, OR
    • View Profile
    • Craig Andrews Website
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #14 on: August 16, 2017, 10:04:35 AM »
a good story that would fall down if you took the SF elements away.

I'm really struggling to make heads or tails of this, Patty, since it goes contrary to what most authors say. Care to elaborate?


Online Dragovian

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 632
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #15 on: August 16, 2017, 10:13:42 AM »
I'm really struggling to make heads or tails of this, Patty, since it goes contrary to what most authors say. Care to elaborate?
She's saying the SF elements should be integral to the story, not something that's just pasted on.

Offline KeithWardFiction

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 37
    • View Profile
    • KeithWardFiction
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #16 on: August 16, 2017, 10:16:06 AM »
I believe the only thing that matters is telling the best story you can. If you try to shoehorn in tropes, it will likely feel just like that: artificially placed elements put there for no other reason than to fill out a grocery list. Move people with your story and characters, and include only those things that serve those goals.

Keith Ward | Keith Ward | Twitter | Facebook

Offline German_Translator

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 216
  • Gender: Male
  • Austin, TX
  • Translating SF / Fantasy, English <--> German
    • View Profile
    • Frank Dietz Translations
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #17 on: August 16, 2017, 10:25:53 AM »
- Hierarchies based on the navy (admirals, captains etc)
- Ship types based on navies (battleships, cruisers)
- Space Marines
- Pursuit through asteroid fields
- Planet-killing weapons
- Lost colonies in space
- Lots of strangely named aliens or human groupings



Just a few of the books I have translated (English <-> German)

Offline Linn

  • Status: Madeleine L'Engle
  • **
  • Posts: 79
    • View Profile
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #18 on: August 16, 2017, 10:56:00 AM »
Some form of telepathy or telekinesis maybe. References to an ancient religious or monastic order. A commodity that all civilizations need to survive. And a robot with a wry sense of humor.

And fishbowl space helmets.


Offline deanstow

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 22
  • Gender: Male
  • Northwest Tennessee
    • View Profile
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #19 on: August 16, 2017, 11:10:09 AM »
I believe the only thing that matters is telling the best story you can. If you try to shoehorn in tropes, it will likely feel just like that: artificially placed elements put there for no other reason than to fill out a grocery list. Move people with your story and characters, and include only those things that serve those goals.

I agree with this sentiment.  Tell a great story.  Relying on the 'gee whiz' factor too much is what gives science fiction a bad name.

IMHO


Offline Brad__W

  • Status: Madeleine L'Engle
  • **
  • Posts: 74
  • Dublin, Ireland
    • View Profile
    • Taslian Empire Books
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #20 on: August 16, 2017, 12:52:31 PM »
To me, compelling plot(s) and characters are most important... everything else is window dressing - important to have, but when included they should flow seamlessly to populate your universe setting rather than be included in the hope that it might appeal to a set of readers. I'm not suggesting that's what you're doing, just pointing out that it's easy to see folks that write like that and their work is usually not very compelling beyond the first chapter or two. Sure there are some elements you need to have included to class it as SF, but if you try and follow a bucket list it 'might' look contrived.

As other have suggested, if not doing it already is to read/watch some of the other works in the genre that appeal to your world-view for common tropes. Another handy reference source are some of the old-school role playing games floating around on drivethrurpg.com like Traveller, Star Wars/Trek, Mindjammer, etc... for ideas and world-building guidelines, the last one especially for Transhumans in an advanced setting.

Bradley Warnes | Author Page

Offline Jeff Tanyard

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1557
  • Gender: Male
  • Georgia
  • Wait and hope.
    • View Profile
    • My Blog
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #21 on: August 16, 2017, 01:28:37 PM »
Aliens are usually like humans in behavior, culture, and communication- the only difference is appearance

Don't agree with that one.  You can have aliens who are practically humans--nothing wrong with that--but that doesn't preclude having actual alien aliens, too.  Think of the Shadows and Vorlons from Babylon 5.  Truly alien species can add touches of mystery, wonder, and fear to the story.  Don't feel like you have to limit your sentients to the mundane.  Allow your imagination to get a little crazy.   ;)

Finally, HAVE FUN! That's the thing that's always struck me about Space Opera vs. harder science fiction (and I love both): the stories are fun, and I picture the authors having a blast.

I've tried my hand at both, and I definitely enjoy writing space opera more than hard SF.  Science and engineering are intellectually stimulating, but splattering guts across a bulkhead in zero-g is a lot more satisfying.   8)
Jeff Tanyard | Author Website

Online Patty Jansen

  • Status: Isaac Asimov
  • ********
  • Posts: 11419
  • Gender: Female
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Destroyer of Science Fiction
    • View Profile
    • Patty Jansen Author of SF and fantasy
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #22 on: August 16, 2017, 04:20:07 PM »
I'm really struggling to make heads or tails of this, Patty, since it goes contrary to what most authors say. Care to elaborate?

Take SF romance. The reason that it's placed in romance is that it's a romance story in space. Take away the space setting, paste on a dystopian setting and dressing and voila! You have a dystopian romance. Same story. This is why SF romance is classified as Romance first, and people get p*ssed off finding those in SF.

True-to-genre SF is a story where if you took away the setting and the elements in it, you'd have no story, because they couldn't easily be replaced by anything else.

Now this is a very black and white position and I know that people will say "But...!" and of course there are stories that do both. But a good SF plot does not work without the SF elements.

In other words, it's the gun on the mantlepiece thing. If you have aliens, you better show them as true unique aliens, not some wort of weak-tea extract of people. If you have FTL travel, you better use it in imaginative ways that are important to the plot.

Which is why I cringe so hard at lists like those given here. If you make your book a laundry list of must-haves, it will be crammed of copycat stuff and nothing will truly shine. Take a concept, like weapons, like aliens, like FTL travel and do something interesting with it, not copy the same-old, same-old with the old cookie cutter.

Online Jenny Schwartz

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 644
  • Gender: Female
  • Australia
    • View Profile
    • My website
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #23 on: August 16, 2017, 04:30:05 PM »
I agree so much with John's answer - that space opera includes the author having fun. I'm writing the sequel to my first space opera right now and it's huge fun! Anything I want to include I do! So, yes, there are shamans in space :)

As for tropes, I think artificial intelligence is huge. Also clueless humans. All tropes don't make it into each book (stating the blinkin' obvious), but I enjoy the minor utopias created in individual spacecraft - you know self-sufficient, growing own food, recycling water, air, etc., a sense of community, humour.

Jenny Schwartz | Website | Twitter | Facebook

Offline Lorri Moulton

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 805
  • Gender: Female
  • Author of Romances, Mysteries, and Fairytales
    • View Profile
    • Lavender Lass Books
Re: Space Opera Tropes
« Reply #24 on: August 16, 2017, 04:38:39 PM »
I love Firefly, Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate SG-1, okay...I like a lot of sci-fi.  That being said, the one that strikes me as completely falling apart without the science fiction would be Babylon 5. 

Not only are they located in space, but all the different alien races play such a huge part in the story as do their relationships with each other.  I can't imagine replicating this story in any other genre.  And those spider things (yes, they're ships) still freak me out!

« Last Edit: August 16, 2017, 06:26:53 PM by Lorri Moulton »

Author of Romances, Mysteries, Fairytales and Historical Non-Fiction.
Lorri Moulton | Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter