Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Understanding Tropes - Question from a writer

I hope this isn't too "huge" of a question, but what exactly is a trope? I checked the dictionary and the internet. Still don't get it other than it is figurative language. But is it referring to the author's voice, a character's description, the way a character speaks or ???
Great question!
I brought up this concept last week in a post.
You are right. Tropes are figurative language. We use these tropes to get across particular meanings to the readers. Over the course of years, authors have worked the concept of tropes into their stories as particular character or plot elements. The character and plot devices were used originally to convey a particular message to the reader. Think about the Major General in Pirates of Penzance. That same "old guy" image shows up in stories such as Disney's Aladdin with the Sultan. This is a trope.
Today, many authors have broadened the idea of tropes and refer to these as simply common characters or plot elements. Unfortunately, in many of these situations, the "meaning" behind the character or plot device is gone. This is just a repetitive idea. For example, someone uses a rich millionaire for the hero. The idea of rich as in Jay Gatsby is simply not there anymore. Authors are using this character simply for the luxury of setting the story in a fancy house, having him wear designer clothes or to fly to exotic locations.
Hope this helps.


  1. It does help! I've come across that term and really couldn't zero in on what was meant. This was very helpful. Thank you.

  2. Yes, your reply was great! I get it. A trope is a type of depiction with evocative meaning. And in writing, it's ok to "borrow" this kind of description. I absolutely love the idea. Can't wait to try it.

    And, I love the Major General in Pirates of Penzance. When you mentioned him, it made me start thinking of all the instances where "I have" seen him before. My favorite is the current " bestest movie ever" now playing at our house: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Grandpa, who takes off in his outhouse, is magnificent.
    Thanks so much for this reply! Kate M