Tropes Are Back!

What is a trope?

A dictionary definition: a figure of speech or a metaphor. “a storytelling shorthand for a concept that the audience will recognize and understand instantly.”

Examples of Tropes in different kinds of fiction:

Romance: secret babies, marriages of convenience, bad-boy heroes, pretend relationships that morph into real love

Speculative Fiction: magical object, a character who is born with magical powers but doesn’t discover them until later, a character who is born to royalty but doesn’t know it, magical societies, and alternate history

Mystery: the anonymous killer narrator, the unreliable narrator, the jaded detective or hard-boiled detective, evidence hidden in plain sight, serial killers, and red herrings.

When does a trope become a cliché? When the trope is predictable to the point of being boring.

Some functions of tropes:

Comfort food for readers.

Instantly connect with readers

Heighten suspense

Make larger-than-life characters or situations acceptable

Add humor

How to make tropes fresh and more effective:

Give strong motivations for the tropes

Recast your tropes with characters of a different gender or race

Place your trope in a new setting

Parody the trope

Add an unexpected element

Have your characters acknowledge the trope

Use them well. They are perfect for filling character or plot holes and great for heroic quests and romances BUT, you must put a twist to it.

Resources for further exploration:

Adam Heine:

Cliché—an overused expression. For example, when the expression “hit the nail on the head” was penned into a play, people rolled out of their seats in uncontrollable laughter. We DO NOT find it funny at all today.

Trope—an overused theme, character, plot, metaphor. Anything that has been overused and is worn out. We have all seen that movie:  the one where the girl goes out to investigate a noise at 2 am. Of course, she heads out the door in 6-inch stiletto heels, no phone, no flashlight. We know she’s going to get chased through the woods and she’s going to fall.  They always do.  BUT, apply a twist. Maybe those stilettoes are turbo-charged and she can leap tall buildings and kill the creep. Maybe she uses them to put out his eyes!

Voilà! A trope with a twist!


Courtesy of RMFW. Cindy Meyers

Cindi Myers is the author of more than 80 published novels. Her most recent release is Deputy Defender. Visit her online at

Image: Wiktionary

#trope #writingtips #cliché

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