Tropes in literature and other works of fiction have become recurring themes that don’t appear to be going away any time soon. They are vital elements in literary works, movies, and TV shows, and are mostly used to carve story arcs for a plot. This is why they are often regarded as plot devices that are used to make a story engaging.
Characterization is a vital part of fiction writing. It is responsible for determining plot changing attributes that define each character’s role in a novel, film, or TV series. It is no surprise that this aspect of literature and fiction, in general, can also be influenced by tropes.
The proliferation of fictional works has seen an increase in the use of stereotyped characters that basically portray identical attributes. This phenomenon is referred to as a character trope.
What is a Character Trope?
A character trope is basically a well-defined trait-set that is consistently used for characterization in numerous works of literature and fiction. To break this down for better understanding, it is better to make use of a simpler analogy to the concept.
So basically, every short story, novel, film, and TV series is made of various characters that contribute to the plot and its resolution. Each character has a range of attributes that don’t only personify the individual but also contribute to the conflict generated from the story’s plot.
There are, however, certain types of characters that are constantly reused in stories simply because they are either well-developed, able to deliver better entertainment value or resonate perfectly with the audience. The constant reuse of these character types in multiple works of fiction has seen them gain popularity. They are referred to as character tropes
When critically assessed, the use of character tropes is far more common than most people realize. There is hardly any new selection of characters that isn’t developed from an already existing characterization template.
Why Character Tropes are Important
It is easy to castigate the use of character tropes or tropes in general since many assume that their use is as a result of lazy plot constructions. You must understand though that tropes are important elements of literature and other works of fiction. Without them, the process of characterization will be a boring mess.
When you make use of a character trope in a creative piece, be it a novel or a film, you add a lot of dynamism to the story’s plot and basically fuel the conflict that occurs. Without that creative input, the story will simply be as ordinary as a regular tale.
Character tropes also help in backstory development, which is an essential aspect of characterization. Coming up with an origin story for a character can be very tasking if there aren’t established attributes to work with yet. If a character is, however, formed from a solid trope that isn’t out of place, it is easier to generate a backstory that will perfectly mesh with the rest of the plot.
Popular Character Tropes in Literature and Fiction
There are numerous types of character tropes that are used in literature and other works of fiction. The few, however, briefly explained below are commonly used today.
This is definitely the most used character trope in fiction writing. It is a character that is inserted into a story for the sole purpose of accomplishing the writer’s wishful desire. This is why “Mary Sue” characters are usually equipped with traits that make them nearly-faultless. They are basically representations of what the writers deem to be perfection.
Attributes that are often bestowed on a Mary Sue character includes the ability to easily resolve conflicts without suffering any damning consequence, the absence of any flaw that may make the character unlikable, and the power to single-handedly control the direction of the plot.
It is ironic that these traits are also the reason why this particular character trope is hated by a lot of writing critics, literary audience, and film and TV viewers.
Examples of the Mary Sue character trope in literature include Wade Owen Watts in Reader Player One, Richard the Seeker in the Wizard’s First Rule series, Eragon, Rand al’Thor in The Wheel of Time, Bella from the popular Twilight Series etc.
Depending on what the plot of the story is, it isn’t unusual to have a character whose sole purpose for the story is to provide intellectual input. This individual is without a doubt the smartest character in the story.
Often times, when the nerd character is used in works of fiction, it is as a side character that assists the main protagonist. It is also possible for the character to play a similar role for the story’s villain.
The main attributes the nerd character portrays are eloquence that may at times be pretentious, obvious intellectual superiority, tendency to be obsessed with organization, and of course, fashion pragmatism.
In Films and TV series that are set in modern times, the nerd can be easily identified simply by his or her mode of dressing. The individual often dons very practical clothing that is bland and undesirable; style is the last thing that is considered.
It is also common for the nerd character to don a facial accessory, particularly a pair of glasses, which affirms the stereotype of nerds always wearing glasses.
This is a character trope that regularly makes an appearance in various literary works as well as movies and TV series. It is often restricted to certain genres of literature and films, though its use in others isn’t inappropriate.
Like the name suggests, the purpose of the character is mostly to bring comedic relief to the story. Parts of a plot where comedic elements are apparent can be directly attributed to the input of the comedian either through words or actions.
There is, however, a tendency for this character trope to be abused with a writer papering a poor story by including a very funny character. This is very common in Hollywood with comedic actor, Kevin Hart, making a name for himself by portraying this character trope in a lot of his movies.