Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Difference Between Tropes and Cliche

Many authors often confuse the concepts of tropes and cliche. I do believe a lot of this has to do with the often confusing use of the word trope, especially in the world of fiction writing. I want to take the time to talk about both of these ideas. Let's start with the definitions:

Trope Definition

Trope is a figure of speech through which speakers or writers intend to express meanings of words differently than their literal meanings. In other words, it is metaphorical or figurative use of words in which writers shift from the literal meanings of words to their non-literal meanings. The trope, in fact, could be a phrase, a word or an image used to create artistic effects. We may find its use almost everywhere such as in literature, political rhetoric and everyday speech.

Cliche Definition

Cliché Definition Cliché refers to an expression that has been overused to the extent that it loses its original meaning or novelty.

But here is where things get a little messy. Fiction writers have morphed the definition of Trope into meaning something different than the definition. Authors are now using the term trope to mean. 

Common plot devices and themes used in novels, such as in romance novels which would include: accidental pregnancy, amnesia, enemies to lovers and so forth.

What we have to understand is that in writing, there is nothing wrong using common plot devices. These have been seen in literature all around the world. The Cinderella theme is a good example. You can find stories in every culture around the world with this same idea. This is even translated at some level to the Rags to Riches motif and Horatio Alger. 

But here is where the problems arise. When an author starts to overuse common language phrases, or even those themes, then the story itself is weakened horribly. That over-use, regardless of it being a single phrase, a scene or even a plot device becomes cliche. 

For romance authors, this is the problem so many have with their writing, which also extends to the perception people have of romance authors and their stories. They have overused these themes so much that it is now becoming cliche.

Your job as a writer is to find different ways to say those same ideas. Find different ways to use that theme and motif in a way that is not simply copying. That will keep you out of the cliche world. 

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