Tropes and Using them in your Writing

Tropes: Writers are for them, against them, and often discover they’re a necessary part of stories. So what are they, how can you use them, and why are they still so common?

woman on rock formation holding a flag
Photo by Engin Akyurt on

In essence Tropes are literary figures of speech where words are used in a manner other than their literal sense. In this brief article I want to talk about tropes for characters. Writers love them, hate them, and find themselves often using them whether intentional or not.

Examples include, but aren’t limited to…

  • Size means power
  • Bad guys wear blacks.
  • Two lovers separated by social class, race, species, etc., only to overcome them.
  • Friendships are forever if established as young children – (which statistically isn’t likely)
  • Funny sidekick (variant would be the always bemoaning and whining sidekick)
  • Cat Lady, Reluctant Hero, Old, Wizened Warrior as guide/mentor
  • Rebellion to overthrow an evil empire
  • Essentially they’re any story element that people can relate to that has been used many times.

In many stories, tropes are used by authors to provide a basis for the interactions between characters, and establish plot lines. The power of tropes comes from being able to connect with a reader. They’re familiar and comfortable. But too many of them lead to a story that seems both stale and unimaginative when used without much adaptation. With the sheer amount of literary work that’s come out, authors rely on tropes.

So when you do use them – and you will – be sure to use them as a base for a character or situation. Make sure that you mix, combine, explore how to make everything different. But remember that Tropes exist for a reason. People want to read about the reluctant hero killing the big bad guy in a last-ditch duel on a cliffside while their armies battle beneath them. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, hell, even the Lego Movies, all rely on Tropes, whether skinned in a new form or hewing close to their origin. Just don’t keep them all the same and make sure you make it your own!

  • Ciao!

Author: Daniel Ottalini

Author of the Award-Winning Steam Empire Chronicles Series

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