Tropes Nopes

By Ronda Simmons

Originally posted August 21, 2019

A trope, according to Miriam-Webster, is “a common or overused theme or device.” In movies and literature, examples include:

· the ugly duckling turns into a beauty queen

· the commoner inherits the crown

· the dead bad guy isn’t dead after all

· the race to the airport

· the hooker with a heart of gold

Not all tropes are bad. In fact, some are required. For example, in a romantic comedy, you better have a “happily ever after” ending. In a classic buddy movie, the friends must part, but eventually reunite with a stronger bond. A superhero must always have a nemesis.

Here are some examples of tropes used well:

· The Unlikely Hero of Humble Origins: Frodo in The Lord of the Rings; Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games; Harry Potter in the Harry Potter books.

· The Love Triangle: Katniss again, having to choose between Peeta and Gale; Scarlett in love with both Rhett and Ashley in Gone with the Wind; Claire is in love with both her husband Frank and the kilt-wearing Jamie in Outlander.

Poking Fun at The Power Walk.

· The Power Walk: When a group of misfits becomes a team, and they walk toward the camera in a line, often in slow motion. Guardians of the Galaxy or The Avengers.

The challenge with tropes is that they can be a crutch or, admit it, lazy writing. Is your bad guy purely evil? No one is. Give your villain three dimensions. Make them interesting! Are the high school cheerleaders in your story sort of brainless? Why not give them good grades? Is the football player mean to the skinny nerd? Why not make them best friends instead?

Tropes are tools, so good ahead and use them in your writing. Just be aware that if you decide to use one, use it well.

For more on tropes, see these websites:

12 Overused Story Tropes in Modern Literature

6 Absurd Action Tropes You Never Noticed and Can’t Unsee

The Good, the Bad & the Overdone: Tropes in Fiction

The trope I loathe the most is the homely-person-transformed-into-a-beauty-by-taking-off-their-glasses one. Do you have any trope pet peeves? Add them in the comments!

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