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Reinventing Tropes

We really can’t help but love a good trope, can we? Got two characters headed to a hotel for a stay? I see what’s coming but I still get excited when they find out there’s only one bed left for them both. Got a group of hopeful and innocent teens fighting the big bad guy? It might be cheesy but when they win with the power of friendship, I’ll definitely cheer for them.

Tropes can be exciting markers for a given genre, bringing humor, thrills, anxiety, or happiness to the writer’s story and its audience. However, tropes still need a good deal of care for the story to truly benefit.

Some tropes can be based on harmful stereotypes. Whether it comes to a specific type of character or the depiction of a greater culture or history, as writer’s we have to be mindful of the ideas we’re choosing.

We are constantly influenced by depictions and tropes in different media, it’s up to writers to question these images and work for better representation. How do similar characters, in other stories, compare and contrast from your own? Are they following similar stories? Are you participating in creating one model for this type of character?

Making work that draws from communities you aren’t familiar with can be done thoughtfully through correct and complete research. Tropes should be given the same amount of care. You don’t want to create a token character whose image could harm readers of that identity. This doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating tropes, but rather reinventing them in healthier ways.

On that note, reimaging tropes also helps break the writer from the clutches of tropes themselves. While readers love to come across their favorite tropey relationships, writers face the danger of predictable and diluted narratives when they are heavily relied upon. It can induce a nasty case of writer’s block when trying to fit your voice into a trope-shaped box.

Sometimes, you start writing with a specific trope in mind, such as a love triangle or enemies to lovers. However, when crafting a shorter piece, you don't have a lot of time or space to build up the scene, the characters, and their history to fully realize that goal. The most successful of these works are one’s that remake the trope to fit their style. This could be simply making sure your own voice is clear, or possibly cutting up one trope and splicing it to another.

You could apply tropes from romance to your murder mystery or bring in science fiction to historical writing. Tropes have been mixed and matched in so many different ways to keep readers engaged in a more complex narrative.

Tropes are great mediums to hold a reader's attention with familiar but loveable concepts, but they are not as easy as they sound. We encourage more stories that break away from stereotypical and formulaic tropes for a better writing experience with proper representation and a plot that keeps readers on their toes.


About the Author: Sydney Macias is a practicing novel writer whose interests take form in metaphysical settings. Her work explores large casts of ambiguous characters dealing with themes of grief, identity, and power.


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1 Comment

Jim Shilts
Jim Shilts
Sep 17, 2021

Excellent piece! Thank you

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