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Mar 3, 2023

Laterpress Tournament of Tropes, Round 3

The round of 16* is here! Who moves on to top 8?

Nate Gillick
Nate Gillick
Person about to start running

The Laterpress Tournament of Tropes moves on to the "Round of 16." Inspired by “March Madness,” our first community event of 2023 features 20 books from independent authors, representing 40 different tropes, all facing off in a bracket where readers and authors alike can vote for their favorites. What trope will walk away with the crown?

You can view the full bracket HERE. Read on to vote.

Why put "Round of 16" in quotation marks? As you'll see below, there are actually 18 tropes doing battle. There were two ties in the first half of the second round. Rather than do something boring and anticlimactic like a coin toss, we though it would be more fun to let both tropes advance into a three-way battle to really see who is the best!

Read on to learn more about the tropes doing battle today, and if you like them, check out the book representing them! Laterpress is not using affiliate links for this community event. All proceeds from any sales go directly to the authors!

When can I vote?

Mark your calendars! All voting rounds begin at 1pm Eastern, and close at 11am Eastern on the day the next voting round begins. 

Round of 16 - Now, keep reading!

Round of 8 - Monday, March 6

Round of 4 - Friday, March 10

Championship - Monday, March 13

Matchup 1: Breaking the Fourth Wall vs. Pawn to Cosmic Powers

Breaking the Fourth Wall means the story is self-aware enough to know it is a story, and either makes fun of itself or addresses the audience directly. A character may exclaim, “Of all the books I could have been written into, why did it have to be this one? The author’s crazy!” Some cinematic examples of this would be Deadpool or She Hulk.

If you like Fourth Wall breaking meta humor, check out 1001 Episodes to Literary Godhood, by Eldritch Thundergod.

I thought I'd be king of the world on the fiction platform Zella, but when my magnum opus about a telepathic cuttlefish and his pet human flopped, I was desperate for a way to climb the ranks. When I bought a magic lamp at a garage sale and the djinn offered me a wish, I thought I was set. But magic comes with a price, and the $10 I paid didn't count. To ascend to literary godhood, I must write 1,001 episodes with features dictated by authors and readers... while using this stupid pen name. (Published under the name Eldritch Thundergod.)

Pawn to Cosmic Powers - Also known as the “Cosmic Plaything.” With this trope, characters are pawns on a game board of cosmic significance, dancing to the tune set for them by a much more powerful being. This dynamic may be known to characters early on, or not revealed until much later in a book or series. Much of Greek mythology involves characters being pawns to the schemes of gods. Other examples include the Ellimist in the Animorphs series (as the meddling power) or Kalidin in the Stormlight Archive (as the pawn). 

Ready to tangle with cosmic powers? Check out Anti-Villains: One Night in Harlem, by Andrea Stanet 

In this version of 1938 jazz-era Harlem, Ella Daniels has been down on her luck. At the unemployment office, she meets the mysterious Nathalie who in an act of kindness invites her and two others for a night of séance, self-discovery, and spiritual awakening. The 3 participants have secrets that could threaten their existence. Strange events, the opulence of Nathalie’s home, and the discovery that they can’t leave all convince Ella that the invitations weren’t an act of kindness but something nefarious. The guests become pawns in a battle of wills, deceptions, revelations, and tough choices that threaten to lay the three women, especially Ella, bare.

Matchup 2: Reluctant Heroes vs. Animal Companions

The Reluctant Hero - Often, when a hero undertakes a quest, they do it because they feel a calling to the task. In other cases, their life may depend on it and they have no other choice to proceed. But sometimes, our hero is perfectly cozy and content with their life, but the course of events drags them along on an adventure (though they would have preferred to just stay home). Those are your reluctant heroes.

Animal Companions come in many forms, and their capabilities vary depending on the setting. They could be well-trained but otherwise ordinary animals, such as a wolf, bear, or fox. They could be mythical animals, like a unicorn or phoenix. They may even possess unique abilities, such as the ability to talk, or communicate telepathically. What doesn’t change is their unwavering devotion and loyalty to their companion. If a character has an animal companion, it’s typically rare for the two of them to be separated.

You’ll encounter both animal companions and reluctant heroes in The Adventurer’s Guide To Shopkeeping and Sidequests, by Elle Wilson

Strange magic, uncharted territory, danger at every turn. Adventuring is never easy. For Evadne, it means giving up the life she's built to embrace a legacy she never wanted. Pricing is for early access while I draft, but it will be made available for purchase when finished at a lower price.

Matchup 3: Lost Knowledge vs. Dangerous Magic vs. Fish Out of Water

Lost Knowledge - Knowledge once commonplace is now rare or extinct. This may be because of a cataclysm. Perhaps a spaceship crashed and the survivors don’t have the knowledge or means to reproduce their technology. An evil wizard may have wiped the information from everyone’s minds. Sometimes, rediscovering lost knowledge is core to the story’s plot. Other times, it’s used as a backdrop to explain the current state of the world.

Check out Thomas and the Girl from Another World by E.R. Zanes for an example of the Lost Knowledge trope in action.

It's a universal truth that magic is long gone. Yet everything changes when Thomas meets an impossible girl at the epicenter of a bizarre incident. She's in need of help, especially with the unexpected threats that emerge the moment she arrives. In aiding her, he'll have to leave all he's ever known for a road fraught with relentless pursuers and ancient mysteries that demand resolution.

In universes employing the Magic is Dangerous trope, magic is as deadly as a loaded gun. Or nukes. For stories employing this trope, magic isn’t all fun and whimsy. Its misuse can lead to serious injury, or even death. It must be used sparingly and carefully. The use of magic may be considered inherently evil, with any magic users feared or shunned by society. Narnia, this is not.

Be ready to approach magic with caution and respect while reading Dead Lands Rescue, by E.R. Zanes

Dangerous exploration into the dark unknown runs in Aer's blood. She's spent her adult life denying it. But when strangers come asking for her help, she's forced to pick up her family mantle and return to the Dead Lands. With cursed, blood-chilling creatures lurking within, survival is anything but guaranteed. Drawn into the old mysteries once again, will she only find familiar pain, or the desperate answers she didn't know she needed?

The Fish Out of Water is a very popular trope with portal fantasies, Isekai stories, and LitRPGs, but can appear in any genre. A fish out of water is a character plucked from what they know and placed into a radically different situation, where they have little to no idea what is going on, or their skills are ill suited for the task at hand. Because the characters are clueless about their situation, the trope provides a natural way for authors to educate their protagonist and readers simultaneously on how the world works, making this trope handy in stories that are heavy on worldbuilding.

In Welcome to the Nexus, Serena discovers her world is just one of many in a vast multiverse, filled with beings she's never heard of. She's in way over her head against ancient forces of evil.

Epic Multiverse Portal Fantasy - A pyromancer, a dryad, and an elven warrior join forces on an epic quest across the multiverse to eliminate an ancient evil.

Matchup 4: Sentient Buildings vs. Royal Palace Intrigue vs. Alien Artifacts

Sentient Buildings (typically houses) are living entities with minds and desires of their own, able to think and act independently of any owner they may have. The house gained awareness through magical or supernatural means, not technology. In horror stories, the house is often a malevolent force, trapping and killing anyone who moves in. They’re not all bad though. TV Tropes notes that Castle Glower from Jessica Day George's Tuesdays At The Castle frequently adds new rooms and passageways to itself, or rearranges the ones that are already there. It doesn't speak, but can use this ability to communicate with and help the people that it likes, as well as to further its own agenda.

The sentient house in A Wreck of Witches by Nia Quinn is quite friendly. It just longs for some companionship.

When you're a witch juggling a sentient house and a magical plant nursery, you already think life is about as crazy as it can get. But scary things start happening in my mundane neighborhood when my friend goes missing. It's up to me and my ragtag group of witches—oh, and the ghost dogs—to get things under control before the Unawares figure out magic's real.

Royal Palace Intrigue relates to the schemes and maneuvering of royal characters. These high-stakes power games can be played for any number of reasons: politics, power, prestige, money, love, religion, diplomacy, war. Often, there may be a whole combination of reasons in play. With the power and influence royal characters have, the outcomes of their struggles will influence the lives of many innocent people.

Need a story of high drama and intrigue within a royal family? Check out The Stars & Green Magics, by Novae Caelum

Dressa has no wish to be the heir, but she's falling for her sister's betrothed. Two heirs, one kingdom, and with the title comes the bride. When rulers can shapeshift and masquerade as each other, who will rule? A Robot Dinosaur Press serial. S1 is [Complete].

Alien Artifacts are a popular science fiction trope, where explorers encounter some relic or piece of technology from a lost or vanished alien race. The Stargate franchise is filled with alien artifacts, from the Stargates themselves, which allow for travel across the galaxy, to lost deposits of knowledge, and even the lost city of Atlantis itself. These artifacts don’t always push humanity forward though. In the Dead Space games, alien Markers lead to madness, death, and nightmarish transformations. 

You can find alien artifacts in On the Outward Edge, by C.P. Night

Her galactic empire is in turmoil. Will her attempts to save it push it to the brink of collapse? Princess Serina is out for revenge. Driven to destroy the rebels who slaughtered her family, she risks her declining health to prioritize her deadly mission. With enemies filling the surrounding shadows, will her faith blind her to the danger?

Matchup 5: Never-Ending Quest vs. Murphy’s Law

The Never-Ending Quest is much more complicated or difficult than “Go to Point A, obtain Magic Item, Return Home.” These epic quests may take characters across time and space, and take years to accomplish (if a “final victory” is even possible.) The quest may be handed down from one generation to the next, as new heroes carry on the legacy of their forebears. These kinds of quests demand everything from those embarking on them.

In My Celtic Luna by J. R. Froemling, Rolf has this kind of quest on his hands to find his lost love.

Book II of the Immortal Love Saga (Ongoing) - Rolf and Lily saved the day, only to be separated. Rolf pines for his mate and never gives up the hunt to find her. When his father suffers a terrible fate, Rolf is sent on a journey to the Old World to gain him access to Valhalla. In the land of his forefathers, Rolf is gifted a second chance to find happiness when a fiery Celtic witch with a strange birthmark is thrust in his path. Amidst the political dangers of the wolf clans, Rolf must win Lily's heart a second time before it's too late.

Murphy’s Law is popularly known as the idea that “Anything that can go wrong, WILL go wrong.” Characters may make careful plans to confront an enemy, but those plans will all go awry, often spectacularly. Any genre can use this trope. I’m most familiar with its use in military sci-fi, where battle plans against invading aliens blow up in our hero’s faces, or in fantasy, where best-laid-plans devolve into the kinds of hijinks you may see from a good group of D&D players.

Murphy’s Law is in full effect in The Night Rangers, by J. R. Froemling.

A Savannah Nights Story (Complete) - The Night Rangers, a top-secret paranormal hunter force for the US Military, is the first, last, and only line of defense between humanity and the monsters of the underworld. Follow Shadow Squad as they track down a new drug called Kiss. In the back alleys of Bogota, the hunters become the prey as they struggle to not become the monsters they hunt.

Matchup 6: Scrappy Underdogs vs. Found Family

An underdog is a person or team most outside observers would believe is at a heavy disadvantage against their opponent, and can be expected to lose. Scrappy Underdogs are the kinds of characters who know they’re at a disadvantage, but manage to achieve the impossible through determination, ingenuity, and a little luck. They have a “never give up, never surrender” attitude, and aren’t afraid of the challenge.

Found Families may also be referred to as a “Family of Choice.” Characters in these stories often lack strong bonds with blood relatives, or those relatives are deceased or far away. Over the course of the story, the character will form deep, meaningful connections with others, either forged through shared stress (like fighting in a war) or mutual interests (like a sport). There is a deliberate choice to construct a family out of the people they care for, and who care for them in turn.

You'll find both scrappy underdogs and found family in Sigils & Sushi, by Nia Quinn. 

I suck at magic, but make up for it with style—ask my demon roomies. Checking in rental cars for supernatural beings, I score whatever they ditch flying home—and they leave some weird stuff behind. Sometimes it’s a toss-up if it’ll help pay the bills, or cause an apocalypse. I don’t wanna start an apocalypse, but I gotta eat. What’s a girl to do?

Matchup 7: Secret Worlds vs. Robot Girls

Secret Worlds are whole societies running parallel to our own, in secret. They’ve been there the whole time, if you only knew where to look. The wizarding world of Harry Potter is a secret world, hiding from the Muggles. The John Wick franchise depicts a vast secret brotherhood of assassins, with its own arcane rules and traditions. 

In A Wreck of Witches by Nia Quinn, witches and magical beings hide their talents and do what they can to pass as normal, to avoid upsetting those without magic.

When you're a witch juggling a sentient house and a magical plant nursery, you already think life is about as crazy as it can get. But scary things start happening in my mundane neighborhood when my friend goes missing. It's up to me and my ragtag group of witches—oh, and the ghost dogs—to get things under control before the Unawares figure out magic's real.

To paraphrase from TV Tropes, “She's gorgeous, she's sexy, and she's got a 50,000-mile warranty. She's the Robot Girl. Despite their artificial nature, Robot Girls are at the very least cute as hell, and more often drop-dead gorgeous, if not outright seductresses. Despite how cute or sexy she may be, though, the Robot Girl is often a dangerous opponent in a fight, even if they're only created to do common household chores.”

Meet Replika, your new favorite Robot Girl, in The Magician and the Mechanical Doll, by Gaius J. Augustus. 

Octavian is a grad student at a top magic university working on Replika, the world's first magic robot with a perpetual power core. But upon activation, Octavian and Replika are thrown into a web of alternate universes. Will Octavian's magic & Replika's brainpower be enough to survive one spine-chilling reality after another?

Matchup 8: Chosen Ones vs. Immortal Love Interests

The Chosen One is a character selected by fate / magic / a deity for a grand purpose. Nobody else can do it. If this character fails, all hope is lost. In the Buffy the Vampire franchise, this was the Slayer, the “one girl in all the world” with the power to take on vampires and other forces of darkness. Many characters treat Harry Potter like he is one, in the battle against Voldemort. Frodo is meant to be the one carrying the Ring.

You’ll find Chosen Ones pursuing their destinies in My Celtic Luna, by J. R. Froemling.

Book II of the Immortal Love Saga (Ongoing) - Rolf and Lily saved the day, only to be separated. Rolf pines for his mate and never gives up the hunt to find her. When his father suffers a terrible fate, Rolf is sent on a journey to the Old World to gain him access to Valhalla. In the land of his forefathers, Rolf is gifted a second chance to find happiness when a fiery Celtic witch with a strange birthmark is thrust in his path. Amidst the political dangers of the wolf clans, Rolf must win Lily's heart a second time before it's too late.

What if the person you loved never aged and died? This is the core appeal of the Immortal Love Interests trope, where at least one partner in the relationship will never die, unless they can be killed through some unnatural (and likely violent) means. Vampires are a very popular choice as immortal love interests, but they’re not the only option. They could be a god or demi-god, have achieved immortality through magical means, or could be of an alien race where genetics or advanced technology have rendered them immortal. If the other partner is a mortal being, the relationship may have a “Mayfly-December” dynamic.

Meet your next immortal love interest in Good King Lyr, by Novae Caelum.

In the far future, interstellar con man Anais Cavere takes the job of his life to impersonate his hero, immortal demigod Barenin Lyr. But his job as contract king to an unstable world takes a dangerous turn when he learns it was his hero who hired him. Lyr and Cavere Book 1. [Complete]

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