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What Are Tropes in Writing?

In this post, we answer the question of what are tropes in writing, and we look at a few examples to help show what tropes are and whether they're good or bad.

This may eventually date this post, but I like to play Wordle each morning (or in the evening when I stay up past midnight). Recently, the word of the day was "trope," and my family didn't recognize the term. This came as a surprise to me, because it's a common term in my line of work.

(Wordy 30: Poetic Games.)

However, there are so many terms I've internalized over the years that are not familiar to others. So, what are tropes in writing? Also, are they a good thing or a bad thing in writing? Let's look at the answers to these questions and more.

What Are Tropes in Writing?

What Are Tropes in Writing?

While some resources say tropes can be basically any form of figurative language, including metaphors and oxymorons, I think most people use the term to refer to common plot devices within various genres of writing. For instance, a popular trope in romance fiction is bringing together two people who despise each other and making them fall in love. Other tropes that litter literature include the story involving an orphaned child who has great powers or the roguish character who's a reluctant hero.

(Plot Twist Ideas and Prompts for Writers.)

Tropes are sometimes given a bad name, because they can be mistaken for a cliche. However, tropes are important building blocks of storytelling, especially in genre fiction, because they help set and/or fulfill expectations readers have. People want happy endings in romances and dead bodies in murder mysteries, right? Of course they do.

Smart writers learn the tropes and exploit them to surprise their readers in delightful ways. Going back to mysteries, readers expect there to be red herrings in the mystery, so a smart author will provide so many that the real culprit is hiding amongst a cast of plausible suspects. Or the person who is following the archetypal hero's journey will actually be proven the villain.

Here are 21 popular horror tropes to get you started. I'll start adding to this list for other genres soon.

*****

Fearless Writing William Kenower

If you love to write and have a story you want to tell, the only thing that can stand between you and the success you’re seeking isn’t craft, or a good agent, or enough Facebook friends and Twitter followers, but fear. Fear that you aren’t good enough, or fear the market is too crowded, or fear no one wants to hear from you. Fortunately, you can’t write while being in the flow and be afraid simultaneously. The question is whether you will write fearlessly.

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