Questions tagged [tropes]

For questions about commonly-used storytelling devices, such as character stereotypes, plot devices and other tricks of the trade.

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86
votes
9answers
16k views

Using real words from a foreign culture feels like 'Calling a rabbit a "smeerp"'

I'm working on a novel, that's set in pre-Islamic Persia, in the same general way that The Lord of the Rings is set in Britain. (Meaning, it's set in a world all its own, but there's this source of ...
64
votes
14answers
27k views

Is the "hero guy saves girl" trope misogynistic?

(Question about my hacker (hacking??) novel.) Just an FYI, I am a woman. Edward is a cyber spy and works with an organization named Vox Populi to curate and release all data online, especially the ...
55
votes
22answers
14k views

How do I avoid the "chosen hero" feeling?

In many works of genre-fiction (I'm talking mainly about fantasy and sci-fi, but others genres can apply), and across many forms of media, the main characters ends up being special in some ways. ...
42
votes
13answers
17k views

Avoiding the "not like other girls" trope?

The "not like other girls" trope is pretty common in young adult fiction, arguably misogynistic, and usually applied to a female protagonist or love interest. Attempts to make a female character ...
42
votes
12answers
12k views

Averting Real Women Don’t Wear Dresses

Real Women Don’t Wear Dresses is when writers portray female characters possessing traditional feminine qualities as being less desirable, competent and reliable instead of their tomboy foils. They ...
39
votes
8answers
7k views

Avoiding the "as you know" trope in exposition

When writing fiction, especially in universes other than our own such as sci-fi/fantasy genres, the reader often has to be given a piece of information about how the world works in order for what's ...
33
votes
12answers
6k views

How can I convince my reader that I will not use a certain trope?

Imagine a fantasy story in which there once was a very powerful evil divine being, but it was defeated long before the beginning of the story. For the story it is very important that it was defeated, ...
32
votes
7answers
5k views

Writing a love interest for my hero

If I'm going to face down a dragon, Mob boss, evil corporation, or a demon from the 7 circles of hell or dystopian dictator, etc, it's not going to be to rescue my buddy Herbert, or cousin Jimmy. The ...
30
votes
6answers
14k views

Dead parents: something to avoid?

A lot of people die in my story, some of them are parents. One of the main characters for example lost his father (and one brother) in a car crash when he was young, which he was a part of. He became ...
30
votes
16answers
6k views

How do you write boy & girl protagonists without turning them into a love story?

I've played with the idea of a multi-book fantasy story for years, where a female and male protagonists' lives intertwine with one another, the series running from 12-22 years old for them. There ...
27
votes
14answers
5k views

Non-trope happy ending?

This is in the idea stage, but I was wondering... In stories involving multiple protagonists (4 or more) that make and end relationships, date each other, etc. during the course of the story, the ...
25
votes
4answers
7k views

How to Write an Eldritch Abomination?

My trilogy features an otherworldly monstrosity called Fenrisúlfr as it's primary antagonist, whose characterisation takes cues from Nyarlathotep, Sauron, Showa!King Ghidorah, Sutekh, Makuta Teridax ...
24
votes
11answers
7k views

Is there any way to get around having everyone in the world speak the same language? [closed]

You see this a lot in fantasy fiction, where everyone on the planet (and sometimes beyond) speaks the same language, even though it makes absolutely no logical sense for them to have any knowledge of ...
24
votes
3answers
6k views

Chekhov's gun, but it's just "useless" background info

We all know how Chekhov's gun works: in short, it's the "rule" that whatever is explicitly shown to the audience should be important later, otherwise you should get rid of it. Don't show us a gun if ...
21
votes
11answers
6k views

Avoiding cliches when writing gods

When writing fictional polytheisms, it's tempting to draw inspiration from the existing ones. In ancient religions (I'm mainly thinking of the Greek/Latin, Egyptian and Norse pantheons) there are ...
21
votes
9answers
6k views

What are some bad ways to subvert tropes?

I recently came across something I wrote in 4th or 5th grade, where the MCs, a girl and a boy, were superheroes. One wore a blue costume with knives, and the other wore a pink one with flowers... BUT ...
19
votes
16answers
6k views

How do I subvert the tropes of a train heist?

What are the recognizable tropes to a "train heist", or more broadly the action sequences where a protagonist boards a moving train in order to stop it? My protagonist is the unreliable guile ...
19
votes
5answers
4k views

Term for a character that only exists to be talked to

I just saw a two-person play where one character did the majority of the talking and the other seemed to exist only to give the other character someone to talk to. I've seen this happen in books and ...
18
votes
6answers
3k views

Avoiding Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy

Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy is when the audience is put off by the incredibly dark nature of a fictional work and won't care what happens next, lose interest or want all the characters to die off....
17
votes
4answers
9k views

What's it called when the bad guy gets eaten?

Is there a specific name for the plot device in which the story's "Big Bad" has a cunning plan to use some monstrous being to further their diabolical machinations. This may be something summoned from ...
17
votes
5answers
2k views

How can I convey an absolute truth from the author to the reader without a mentor character?

There are sometimes moments in works of fiction where the author needs to convey something to the reader without ambiguity. Let's say the situations around the characters get so weird that the author ...
16
votes
7answers
4k views

Subverting the emotional woman and stoic man trope

In my post-apocalyptic story, the split of male and female main/supporting characters is 50/50. The girls and women in the story, Eris, Marina, and Ezrith, display very little emotion--Eris ...
16
votes
9answers
4k views

How to compactly explain secondary and tertiary characters without resorting to stereotypes?

Sure, I understand the characters, but that's because I've been thinking about them. But how do I transfer that knowledge to the reader without taking the time and space to flesh them out further?? ...
12
votes
1answer
3k views

Is there a phrase that means "a character suddenly gets a lot of development right before they die"?

If I remember correctly, there is a phrase meaning "a character suddenly gets a lot of development right before they die". However I have forgotten the name and can't find it. Perhaps I am ...
12
votes
3answers
9k views

What does it mean to subvert a trope?

Recently, I've been seeing a lot of discussions about works that subvert a given trope. I think I have an understanding of what this means (from context) but can someone offer a clear definition or ...
10
votes
7answers
4k views

I love the world and characters I've created for my story, but I dislike the plot. How can I proceed?

I've spent several years periodically writing and developing a high fantasy story I mean to turn into a book, or even a series depending on how much material I write. However, lately, I've realized I ...
10
votes
7answers
809 views

Can dream reveals make good climaxes for a POV’s internal struggle?

Dream twists just spoil our senses of disbelief. I can see how that can be excetuted carelessly, but if done for the need of showing what the main character wants or fears most then maybe it would be ...
8
votes
9answers
10k views

Is killing off one of my queer characters homophobic?

(For reference, I am queer.) In my post-apocalyptic novel and in the short story from the novel's antagonist's perspective, my MC, Eris' love interest, Caspian, has/had two mothers, Saskia and Ezrith ...
8
votes
8answers
580 views

Including disabled characters without "inspiration porn"

We all have seen the headlines: "Touching Moment Where Autistic Boy is Asked to Prom", "Watch This Child With Downs Win Her Heat During a Swim Competition", etc., that are touching at first glance, ...
8
votes
4answers
1k views

Non-cheap ways to make villains evil?

Do you have any tried and true techniques to make villains of your stories truly hated by the audience? I mean, frequently it's "eh, sure, that's bad, he's got to be stopped" but the audience would ...
7
votes
4answers
4k views

What are some signs of a chosen one nebulous enough that they can be mistaken?

The setup: We have a fantasy world. A while back (like, 30-100 years; not really sure yet) a prophecy was given that basically outlined a chosen one. More specifically it outlines a reincarnate of a ...
7
votes
5answers
899 views

Averting Bathos

Bathos is a storytelling technique that consists in the rapid succession of 2 “moments” with conflicting tones. This trope occurs when a serious moment gets followed by a gag. One of the many, many ...
6
votes
5answers
2k views

What makes for a successful resurrection?

If you've seen Avengers: Infinity War, you'll recall the line "No resurrections this time" being said in the scene just after the first (arguably second) on-screen death of a main character at the ...
6
votes
11answers
579 views

Can writing actually be creative?

I've been pondering this a lot just now. After reading and learning about tropes online, rhetoric devices, and all relative things, it's come to my attention that writing seems less of a creative, ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

Resource for generic plot hooks?

I'm in a long and painful recovery from many years of writer's block. Coming up with even quite simple story ideas costs me unreasonable amount of effort. Sometimes inspiration is generous and I'm ...
5
votes
6answers
634 views

From a writing standpoint, what is the value of Deus Ex Machina?

Deus ex machina is considered by TV Tropes to be a sub-trope to asspulling, and thus, often considered a bad writing trope. Now, unlike most other bad writing tropes, that have their roots in ...
4
votes
5answers
4k views

Why using the "It Was All Just a Dream" Trope?

There is a particular trope that became quite infamous across many media: the "it was just a dream" revelation, where, usually at the end of a important story arc, everything turns back to the start ...
4
votes
3answers
353 views

How to make a harmless villain

TvTropes alert! Harmless villains are the straightforward opposite of a complete monster and the typical evil overlord in fantasy, and so, creating one who can raise the steaks or look threatening is ...
4
votes
1answer
265 views

What's the name of the trope that means fae can't cross over unless a human crosses over first?

There's a trope I remember, having a denizen of the fae realm only be able to cross over to the human world once a human has first crossed over to their world. Though I remember seeing it multiple ...
3
votes
6answers
370 views

Averting Always Chaotic Evil

Always Chaotic Evil denotes an entire species in a fictional setting as outright evil - no matter how one treats them, they reward kindness with treachery and violence. Frequent recipients of this ...
3
votes
3answers
456 views

How Many Tropes Are Allowed In a Short Story?

I am trying to add some dramatic ‘zombie-virus’ suspense to a short-story about boy-meets-girl young love, which already has an unlikely (but not the first sort of) antagonist The boy named Ethan is ...
2
votes
4answers
435 views

Reasons to use "red herrings"?

I don't see any analytical literature about the usefulness of red herrings as a TV trope. What are some reasons to use them? I'm assuming there's more to it than just bored writers trying to amuse ...
2
votes
4answers
226 views

What are some tropes associated with social acceptance or rejection of infants with supernatural abilities?

Are there any tropes regarding how societies react to children with supernatural abilities, besides abandoning in the woods or, for the complete opposite, considering them gods? Is there anything ...
2
votes
2answers
134 views

Action-packed opening events: cliché or not?

Not a duplicate of Trying to avoid being cliché as that question asks about the opening line, rather than an opening event. I am trying to avoid the many clichés out there, so I had a question about ...
2
votes
1answer
246 views

Comic Cruelty - Examples

In the movie Inglourious Basterds, there are many scenes employing what I can only describe as "comic cruelty". Acts of barbarity that yet somehow inspire glee and revelry in the audience. Anyone who'...
2
votes
3answers
172 views

Does including a lot of tropes in a single idea pay off well?

The other day, I was working on a Supernatural Fiction genre and I was stuck in a dilemma. I had two choices, whether I could focus on one trope, that is, just the vampires and their conspiracies or I ...
2
votes
1answer
283 views

What's the term used to describe a twist which is badly written because the twist is based on information not yet available to audience? [closed]

Context: In my question How did Olaf know?, I asked about a twist in the TV series A Series of Unfortunate Events, adapted from a book series of the same name. My understanding: Twists, whether good (...
2
votes
1answer
4k views

What are common writing tropes in dark romance? [closed]

What are common writing tropes in dark romance? What do readers expect from a dark romance? For those of you who don’t know what “dark romance” is, here is a list of examples https://www.goodreads....
1
vote
3answers
420 views

Averting Protagonist-Centred Morality

Protagonist-Centred Morality is when a fictional work is eager to point out when an antagonist does something immoral or distasteful but fails to acknowledge when a protagonist does the same or ...
1
vote
1answer
130 views

How to construct the "inner layers" of a character: a doubt on construction of the psyche of fictional characters and bibliography suggestions

First of all, this is a question that was asked aiming good bibliography suggestions and tips. Secondly, my question could be cast into the famous interrogative sentence: "How can I construct ...