So before I post the first thousand words of ‘Troped!’ I thought I’d write a paragraph or two about the trope the chapter is named after. ‘Ordinary High School Student’ does not mean ‘generic average-grades Abercrombie & Fitch-wearing child of two happily married upper-middle-class saints in suburban America/England/Japan’. At least, not the way I see it. No, the way I see it, all you need to do to fit the trope is to be in high school full time and not already have magic powers or work for the government as a secret agent at the start of the story.
That means you can have as many weird family dramas, dark back-stories or personal psychoses as you like–and I expect you to have at least something going for you if you’re going to expect to hold my interest for very long. Otherwise you need to start the action quickly; Troped! for example, will start action-ing away in chapter 3, but before we get there we have this: a day at Ordinary High (actually called Rhea High, in this book). The appeal of a high school student protagonist is vast; the versatility and untapped potential of a child, the ability to understand complexities of an adult. Well, of many adults anyway.
Remember, Troped! is postmodern, and while that doesn’t come into play much in the first chapter, that nature will feature heavily later on. For now, enjoy this first draft of the first meeting of readers and characters.
Ordinary High School Student
“Can’t we read something good, Cheviot?”
There were a few muted snorts throughout the classroom when Jerry asked his question. Amy rolled her eyes and started flicking her pen against her workbook. She would have hoped no one else in the class associated her with the shallow moron who’d just opened his mouth—foster brother or no—if she hadn’t known more than half of them would echo his sentiments.
Unlike her own, Mr. Cheviot’s face retained its signature playful smile. He pointed a pen at Amy’s foster brother and tilted his head.
“Something good?” he repeated. “I hesitate to inquire as to what you have in mind, Mr. Solus.”
Cheviot was the only teacher in the school as far as Amy knew who didn’t call the students by their first names, but with his refined British accent the ‘Mr.’s and ‘Miss.’s didn’t sound at all out of place. A lot of the girls found it cute.
Jerry shrugged, and honestly Amy would have been surprised if he could name… a book.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Something that was written after the invention of the light bulb?”
A few people giggled. Cheviot wagged the pen at Jerry again and then lowered it.
“Well, depending on how you define a ‘light bulb’, one might say it was invented as early as 1835, so I’m afraid ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ manages to squeeze its way in there by virtue of being put to paper in 1859—though I will concede, Dickens is not for everyone. You should all be grateful I didn’t choose ‘Hard Times’; which is indeed an aptly named affair.”
“Is there like, a movie we can watch though?”
Amy refrained from letting her head thump against her desk, but barely so.
Smile splitting into a full-blown grin, Cheviot sat back on the edge of his desk and shook his head.
“It will be a sad, sad day indeed when the time comes for you to leave my classroom, Mr. Solus,” he said. “When that day finally arrives I believe I shall be so distraught that I’ll have a little doll crafted; with spiky green hair and a hoodie. And every time I miss your dulcet tones too much to bear, I’ll pull the little string on the back of the doll and it will say: ‘that’s just stupid’, ‘can’t someone else do it?’, and my new favourite—’is there a movie we can watch?'”
He put on a low and stupid-sounding voice for his imitations of Jerry and Amy put her hand over her mouth to keep from laughing. Jerry just nodded his head slowly.
“And when I hear those sage words,” Mr. Cheviot went on, “my poor broken heart will be soothed for just a moment before the inevitable agony returns.”
“That sounds great,” said Jerry, giving the teacher a double-thumbs up. “As long as you don’t, like, stick needles in it and stuff.”
“Perish the thought,” said Cheviot. Then he glanced off to the side. “Yes, Miss. Sutcliffe?”
Amy turned her head to Jocelyn’s seat just in time to see her friend’s hand lower. Jocelyn’s other hand was twisting her curly hair around her index finger.
“I was just wondering,” she said, “if ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ was going to have an impact on your character, what themes do you think you’d be dealing with in your own story?”
Did Jocelyn really have to bring the ‘influences on their character’ thing up here? Because yeah, Amy had been looking forward to finding out what they’d be studying for their second semester for those reasons, and she may have mentioned it a few times herself, but it wasn’t something you should actually bring up in class. What if this had been part of a scene an author was writing? How unsubtle would that be?
Cheviot adjusted his glasses. “Well, the obvious themes concerning the cycle of retribution in oppressed societies doesn’t seem to have much relation to our own. The more microcosmic issues of duality or self-sacrifice seem a better fit, though again, that’s an obvious one. If you’d like to look for a more well-hidden meaning while you’re reading the first three chapters for homework, I’d be very interested to see what you come up with.”
Was it Amy’s imagination, or did Cheviot’s eyes lock onto hers just then? She blinked and his gaze was roving around the class aimlessly, but for a second there she’d been sure…
Just then, the bell rang; a series of loud, long beeps that sounded almost like a heart monitor. Even in a generally well-liked class like Cheviot’s, the students around Amy raced to put their notes in their bags so they could leave. Amy was slower, as she didn’t intend to leave right away.
Jocelyn met her eyes across the classroom and jerked her head towards the door, but Amy held her index finger up to tell her to wait a minute. She needed to talk to Cheviot about the reading club text before tomorrow with so many other people in the group bugging her about it. Honestly. It wasn’t like she was ‘the leader’ of the group, she didn’t know why they were all looking to her.
She was about to approach Cheviot when she realised that, unfortunately, she wasn’t the only one who had stayed to talk. The majority of students had seeped out of the room, chattering as they went, and a sudden quiet had descended, pierced only by the slow clicking from the heels of a pair of ridiculously expensive boots against the floor.
Mercedes Talbot made her way from her usual seat at the back of the class to Cheviot’s desk with a smug smile on her face, handbag swinging casually from her painted fingertips. Amy looked away from her in disgust and glanced at Jocelyn, who was standing in the corridor by the open doorway. She caught Amy’s look at Mercedes and made a puking motion.
Amy looked back quickly to make sure Mercedes hadn’t seen that exchange. But Mercedes’ attention was, of course, on Cheviot. Her bright green eyes—modified, of course; Mercedes changed her eye colour as often as most people changed their shirts—had clamped onto him like magnets.