Trope Tuesday: Gone Horribly Wrong

For this week’s Trope Tuesday post, I’ve invited a guest blogger to come on and discuss one of the tropes in his most recent book.  Andrew Saxsma is the author of Lonely Moon, a space opera / horror novel.  I haven’t read it yet so I can’t say much about it, but it looks interesting, and I’m a sucker for space opera.  So without further ado, here we go!


saxsmaandrewThis trope is all about Science gone horribly, sometimes violently wrong.  Morality’s been thrown out of the window, compromised in favor of delicious success. Maybe the Mad Scientist played God; maybe mankind has accidentally awakened a Sleeping Giant.

This trope has many faces and masks and plays out in many different ways. In all cases, ethics are thrown to the wolves, and the big payoff is not as much a payoff as it is a new impeding doom the hero must now overcome.

Classically, this trope is mostly derived, if not invented, by Mary Shelley in her novel Frankenstein. Dr. Frankenstein’s obsession leads him to create what would eventually become the bane of his very existence. He unwittingly unleashes the mad dog from its dormant cage and makes it his mission to put it down. You might also recognize this trope from Deep Blue Sea, where scientists genetically enhance sharks for cancer research, but the predators get loose and begin eating their masters.

The key element is the backfire, the unforeseen consequence. It’s born of an innate character flaw, the inability to see beyond one’s good intentions. The character has a vision of a greater good in sight–to cheat death, to cure cancer. They’re so focused they never stop to think: was it worth it? Is this a line we should cross?

To make matters worse, this trope can become complicated when one’s intentions are infused with emotions. A dead loved one, revenge, a preemptive strike. Sometimes the choice is long decided before it is made.

In my book, Lonely Moon, the hero, Captain Hane, has a crisis of the monster. He faces a morally weighted fork in the road. Does he open a forbidden gate, opening our galaxy to a potentially devastating entity in an attempt to save us from an equally evil threat, or does he choose the path of uncertainty in hopes of finding a safer, less dangerous option?

Gone Horribly Wrong is a particularly fun trope to play with from a writer’s aspect, and I’m not sure if it’s a one and done. I plan on playing with this one again in the future.



Thanks, Andrew.  I think the Rule of Drama is one of the keys to doing this trope well.  Never pass up an opportunity to make things go wrong for your characters.  And if the problems are of their own making, that makes it all the juicier, especially when it adds the internal conflict of knowing that they’re the ones to blame.  We all love to watch a train wreck, especially in the world of fiction.

What do you guys think of bringing on more guest bloggers for the Trope Tuesday posts?  It’s something I’ve done occasionally in the past, but I’m thinking of doing it much more in the future.  I think it could be interesting to get some different points of view besides my own, and maybe introduce you guys to some new authors you might like.  Maybe it’s something I could rotate every other week.