The Trope Cake

Guest blog by Kellie Doherty

Hi there! It’s me again, Kellie Doherty. I’m quite excited to be on the panel The Trope Cake: Queer Frosting and Subverted Sprinkles this May. It’s the first panel, and I feel like the discussion will be fun, as well as informative.

But first, what even is a trope?

A “trope” is a common pattern in the stories we tell. Sometimes this can be an overarching worldbuilding idea—the powerful artifact, one that can save the world or right the wrong if only the protagonist can get their hands on it. Other times, this can be a character type—the reluctant hero, the character who has to be the hero but really doesn’t want to be. Tropes can even be plot-based—the waiting evil, the big bad who will awaken after hundreds of years of slumber and end all life, and the protagonist’s job is to stop it.

Queer characters also have tropes, and once you know about these common patterns in stories, you’ll start to see them everywhere. Bisexuals are promiscuous, all lesbians are predatory or hate men, all lesbians are masculine, all transgender women are drag queens, bury your gays…the list goes on and on.

It’s the writer’s job to know these tropes and to play with them. To flip those tropes on their heads perhaps, or subvert them, do something new. And while that sounds like a daunting job, it can also be really fun!

For example, in my adult fantasy novel Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties, I flipped the “all bisexual characters are promiscuous” by making my bisexual main character—Misti—actually quite shy. She really likes Dylori but will she actually tell her that? Oh hell no. For Curling Vines & Crimson Trades, I remove the “coming out” trope entirely by establishing Orenda and Noss are married on page one.

The best thing? I say queer writers can still use those more common tropes the way they were meant to be used—i.e. friends to lovers, the chosen one, etc.—because our stories haven’t been told enough to make them old and stale. So go ahead! Write that reluctant hero who has to get that powerful artifact in order to stave off the waiting evil…but make it queer! Or subvert that all lesbians are masculine trope; I’d love to see what you come up with. Happy writing!


Kellie Doherty photoKellie Doherty is a queer science fiction and fantasy author who lives in Eagle River, Alaska. When she noticed that there wasn’t much positive queer representation in the science fiction and fantasy realms, she decided to create her own!

Kellie’s work has been published in SanctuaryInnovation, ImageOutWrite 2019, and Life (as it) Happens, among others. Her adult sci-fi duology—Finding Hekate and Losing Hold—came out in April 2016 and April 2017 from Desert Palm Press. She’s currently working on a five-book fantasy series.

The first book Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties (March 2019, Desert Palm Press) won a 2019 Rainbow Award. An excerpt from the second book Curling Vines & Crimson Trades  (November 2020, Desert Palm Press) won first place in a 2020 Alaska Writers Guild Fiction contest. Website here.

She will be part of the The Trope Cake panel (Panel A1) – Check the full schedule HERE!