Still talking about Tropes

I just ruined your life with this link.

One of my writing groups is still talking about tropes. Mostly because I can’t shut up about them.

I feel a tad bit bad about this picture, because there are guys in this group.

The main question is what is a trope (as opposed to a cliche or an archetype)?

The best way I can describe it is an element of storytelling.  It’s the little building blocks of character, plot, back story, and themes that make up your work. All of those are tropes.

I ran through Mina’s characteristics, but tropes aren’t just about individual stories, they can also apply to the story structure.

For example, Uncommon Animals is a Hero’s Journey for Mina and Matty (who are very much split up the Journey between them).


The Call definitely knows where she lives as she gets kidnapped and brought into the World of Adventure. They then learn to navigate that world, with Helpers (Rick, Sonja, the Trojan, Dean), Mentors (Sam, Rita).

But it’s also a story about slavery, redemption, it’s a romance, it’s a action/adventure/horror tale with supernatural elements.

And ALL those stories have tropes. Because all a trope is, is the most basic building block of a story/character/setting/theme/plot, etc, etc, etc.

I often tell people to know what story you are trying to tell. Is it a romance? Then it needs a meeting (cute or otherwise), a chase, a happy interlude, a misunderstanding, a period of separation, and a resolution (or in modern terms a HEA, which isn’t true of classical romance).

Is it a mystery? Then you need a whole different set of tropes. What you do with them is up to you, but you will NEED them to tell the story, or it isn’t that story.

That’s why I don’t buy into gendered stories. I can put a man in a woman’s place and still tell the same story, because I know what plot elements I need, and a vagina isn’t a necessary plot element whatever people want to believe.

And that’s why people rolling their eyes and saying “that’s a trope!” are so annoying. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Everything can be and probably IS a trope in storytelling. It’s how you use them and why.

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