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✏️ The Sandbox: What are Tropes? And How to Avoid or Conquer 'em.


You've probably heard of this word before…

Merriam-Webster gives a definition of "trope" as a "figure of speech." In storytelling, a trope is just that — a conceptual figure of speech, a storytelling shorthand for a concept that the audience will recognize and understand instantly.

Above all, a trope is a convention. It can be a plot trick, a setup, a narrative structure, a character type, a linguistic idiom... you know it when you see it. Tropes are not inherently disruptive to a story; however, when the trope itself becomes intrusive, distracting the viewer rather than serving as shorthand, it has become a cliché.

A literary trope is the use of figurative language – via word, phrase, or even an image – for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.

Basically a trope is a common or overused theme or device, it can be cliché. 

"I'm your father" or "Obi-wan/mentor/wise old man" are common tropes in adventure stories. They have been used many times and can be cliche, BUT they can be reconstructed and give it a new twist. However, this is hard to do, depending on the trope.

Time travel trope has been an overused sci-fi trope for over a century, it's fun trope but overused and has been used a lazy plot device, J.J. Abrams is know to use this trope alot and it can be predictable. Making your self a time traveling prophet. I've give you three good examples of movies that have used this trope and reconstructed it into a different twist.

- X-Men: Days of Future Past

Kitty Pride uses her powers to send Wolverine to the past by sending his conscious to his younger self in the 70's. 

- Avenger's Endgame

The Avengers' time machine is taking the Pym's tunnel that leads to the Quantum Realm, but using special wristbands that can guide the Avengers to precise coordinates in spacetime, both past and present (and implied to even cross timelines, which would be necessary to return the stones to their proper places).

- Tenet

Christopher Nolan reconstructed the time travel trope cliche and adverted into something else entirely. It's not Time Travel, but Inversion. The movie's whole plot hinges on it. It is not actually time travel—as the Protagonist learns, it is a phenomenon called "inversion", the reversal of cause and effect induced by reversing the entropy of a given object. There are instances of this phenomenon, both blatant and subtle, throughout the film. Tenet is concerned because they have discovered an increasing number of inverted objects.

If you have a story but there's a trope in your way, you may conquer it and reconstruct it, use the trope if you don't have a choice or avoid and find another way. 

It's okay to use a trope if you have to, just be creative and don't be too cliche with it.

The Love Triangle is one of the most overused and cliche tropes ever, it works, but don't make it familiar. In order to conquer this trope, you have to make it exiting and original. Add something new to the table, something we haven't seen before and blend it with other tropes. Some films use uncommon variants, Love Octagon or Love Square. 

TV Tropes is a site dedicated to cataloging and studying different kinds of tropes. It's so far, a good website if you want to study and research this subject.


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