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Story tropes are your friends

September 1, 2023
Posted by:
Ron Seybold

We have expectations about the things we love. If you love stories (all authors do) then you have expectations about their elements. These are tropes. When they're characters in the story, they might be archetypes.

When you don't like these expected elements, because they feel tired, you might call them cliches. They are a delicious net of ideas to toss, as complex as the periodic table. An interactive table version by James Harris Design keeps me entertained for hours. Archetypes are one class of elements in his table, by the way.

I encourage authors to embrace their tropes. Stories as brilliant as WALL-E from Pixar live on the bones of tropes, knitted together so they help us see the meaning under a story's events.

WALL-E — so brilliant because it uses so little dialogue — rides on more than 200 tropes, according to a treasury of tropes. At, books and movies and shows all have their tropes clocked and cataloged.

You can save yourself a lot of time in development by studying story tropes, then employing them. You keep them fresh whenever you can. At the top of the WALL-E tropes page is "All Animals Are Dogs," proven in the story when it makes a cockroach adorable by giving it the manners and habits of a dog.

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