Today I wanted to talk about the differences between Tropes and Cliches. I feel like some people don’t take the time to figure out exactly what these are, and assume that they’re the same thing.
That is definitely not true. So let’s jump right in!
What is a Trope?
A trope is a common idea, character, or plot structure that is ordinarily used in a story.
So, let’s use fantasy as an example, because fantasy has quite a lot of tropes (and I write in that genre).
Dragons. Dragons are pretty common in fantasy. They’re an ordinary, almost expected and immediately accepted trope in a fantasy novel. However, does that make dragons cliche? No! Not in the least!
So wait. That’s a trope. Then what is a cliche?
What is a Cliche?
A cliche is basically the negative form of a trope. It’s a common idea, character, or plot structure, but, instead of being something that is accepted in the genre, its something that’s been used too much or has been practically taken from a story written before it.
So, let’s take dragons again for an example.
A dragon, right off the bat, is a trope.
However, a dragon that loves gold, hoards it, breathes fire, talks, and attacks dwarves, would probably be a cliche in this day and age. Why?
I think we can all say it at once: “Smaug”.
So Should I Never Use Tropes Lest They Become Cliches?
No. Use the tropes if you want! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with adding dragons to your story!
You just have to make sure that you’re not copying a trope that has been used in a previous story or making your trope so generic that it begins to become cliche.
How do you do that?
How Can I Write Tropes but Not Cliches?
It’s actually not that hard! You only have to follow two things.
1: Don’t Rip Off of an All Ready Written Story
Please please please, when you’re crafting a world, don’t create a small object of great power that has the dark lord’s soul inside of it. We don’t need another one of those. Or if you do, make sure that it isn’t a complete rip off of The Ring of Power.
2: Create a Unique Twist to the Trope
Instead of blindly following the ideas of someone else’s take on a trope, add your own idea! Perhaps, when you’re writing a dragon, make them weak and shy, or maybe make them so big that when they hibernate, they wrap their wings around mountains. Sounds cool, right? Then go for it!
Well, I hope you enjoyed this week’s post and found it helpful. What are your opinions on cliches and tropes? Do you think that no one should use tropes? Do you love certain tropes? Hate certain tropes? Is there ever a time that cliches are good? Let me know in the comments!