Tropes

Hello, Write Owls! Welcome to Day 5 of Storytelling 101. Today we’re talking about tropes.

What are tropes?

Tropes are literary ideas or devices that reappear in stories. Two really common examples are love triangles and the Chosen One. Some tropes can appear in any genre, and others are genre specific. If you want to look more into the different tropes used in stories, I highly recommend checking out tvtropes.org.

How do you use tropes?

You can include tropes in any way you want to. There’s nothing requiring you to use them, though I can basically guarantee you it’s impossible to write a novel without using at least one trope. Like clichés, tropes can be overused. The Chosen One has been used a lot in recent stories, so it’s not generating the same interest it used to. Many people hate love triangles because they’re so overdone or done poorly. Keep this in mind when using tropes. My advice is to use ones that people don’t get tired of and/or aren’t overused.

The most important thing is to do them well. Even people who hate love triangles could be convinced to read about one if it’s written well. Another way to gain readers’ interest is to subvert tropes. This is where you use the trope in a way that’s opposite of the norm.

For example, a lot of times magic takes something from the user like their energy. In Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, not using their powers makes the characters tired. Another example is the hero in The Princess Bride wearing black when black is typically the color the villain wears. By tipping readers’ expectations on their heads, you’re providing a fresh take on a used idea. I personally love seeing subverted tropes.

I highly recommend doing research on tropes in your genre, so you understand what they are and which ones are overused. Then learn how to write them well.

Those are the basics behind tropes. If you have any questions about this topic, please leave them in the comments; and I’ll try to answer them either as a reply or in my Q&A on Saturday.

Discussion Questions:

Feel free to answer these in the comments if you want to chime in!

1) What are your favorite tropes?

2) What are your least favorite tropes?

3) What tropes have you used in your writing?

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