Tropes can basically be described as plot devices and narrative concepts that regularly feature in creative works, whether written or visual. Tropes in literature are pretty common and often form the central plot of a majority of published fictional works including novels, novellas, and short stories. Along with the tone of a story, its trope can equally play an important role in unraveling the story’s plot.
Yes, you and many other readers probably curl their eyeballs at the sight of plots that even faintly depict the slightest exhibition of literary tropes; it, however, doesn’t mean that the use of tropes in literature is entirely a taboo. In fact, there are germane points that prove that tropes can be quite useful in executing the critical literary goals.
Why the Use of Tropes in Literature is Important
Tropes are Relatable
One of the reasons some tropes are very popular in fictional works, particularly, in literature is because they are quite relatable. There is nothing readers of literary works love more than having a connection with the characters in written pieces and also being able to immerse themselves in the circumstances surrounding these characters.
Tropes make this possible by using plot elements most readers encounter in their own lives; hence, allowing them to figuratively put themselves in these characters’ shoes.
Tropes are Straightforward
Some plots in novels and short stories tend to be very complicated and difficult to follow, and this can put off even the ardent of readers once they lose interest. Since tropes are, however, plot devices most readers are familiar with, it is very easy for them to follow the stories especially if the tropes form the central ideas of the plots.
Tropes can be Effective Social Commentaries
Many literary pieces being released today serve as mediums to critic and draw attention to societal issues e.g., gender inequality and racism, and one way to smartly incorporate these types of social commentaries in literary works is by using well-executed tropes.
The best social commentaries in literature are, however, those that aren’t so glaring and are managed to be sheathed by a well-grounded plot.
The List of Tropes in Literature that are Common Yet Still Relevant
The Chosen/Special One
The chosen or special one trope is quite a common theme in many fantasy genres and even forms the central plot of some of the best classics in this very popular genre. It basically revolves around the concept of the main character or protagonist being a special person or creature and having a determining role to play in the events that ensue in the literary piece.
Big fantasy hits like the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings, and A Song of Ice and Fire make use of this trope to varying degrees, and all have been very successful due to the trope’s execution.
It is possible for literary works using this trope to be poorly received most especially if the trope isn’t well-executed.
It is quite common in the fantasy genre for a prophecy trope to form the main plot or part of the plot of a literary piece. Most of the times when this trope is used, the prophecy becomes the foundation of the story; and it basically triggers the events that occur from the beginning to the end of the literary piece.
It is understandable that many readers aren’t too amused with this trope since it sometimes reveals what is to be expected later in the book. It remains a relevant trope though, particularly, if it is well done.
The Love Triangle
Yeah…you probably rolled your eyes reading that sub-title. If there is one trope that seems to be over-represented in commercial literature, then it is most certainly the love triangle trope. So why are books that apply this trope to varying limits released on a consistent basis? It’s simple really — there is and will always be a market for literary works with a love triangle theme.
It is perhaps the most relatable trope in literature, and this is why readers will always be willing to give books and other literary pieces with this trope a try.
Average Looking Female Lead Opposite a Hot Male Love Interest
Place this two set of characters in any young adult themed plot and you most definitely have a marketable work of literature certain to pique the interest of readers. This trope reigns supreme in the young adult genre and to some extent…the romance genre, and tries to sell the cool-aid that physical attraction isn’t the core ingredient for love.
It is an often poorly executed trope though with most authors making their female lead characters downplay their beauty instead of actually making them unattractive.
The Unworthy Hero
Another of the common tropes in literature is the unworthy hero plot device where the hero comes from a very humble background and is basically undeserving of the being the one that saves the day. The trope can be merged with the “prophecy” trope as well as the “chosen one” trope to create a more expansive plot.
The Dream Reveal Trope
It is common for writers who are looking to cover up a major plot hole in their works to lazily craft dream sequences that function as a reveal device. Most readers are able to see through this sort of masking, though, it can still work well if it is subtly executed.
The Good versus Evil Trope
It is common in most commercial literary works for there to be an ongoing or ensuing battle between good and evil, or light and darkness. This trope is mostly used by a writer to draw the reader’s allegiance to one of the warring parties, which most often times is the character or group of characters that represent the good.
Save the World Trope
This is when the plot of the story involves a damned world that must be saved by a hero or a group of heroes either by defeating the enemy or averting a deadly threat. The threat can either be man-made or a natural disaster waiting to happen.
The “save the world” trope regularly features in the fantasy and sci-fi genres but may also be used in any of the sub-thriller genres.
Friends Become Enemies
Though this is one of the least commonly used tropes in literature, there are story plots in some popular literary works that do execute this plot device…and do so very well. For this trope to be well received, the dynamics of the relationship between the two feuding characters most be aptly elaborated to make it believable.
This is one of the most common tropes in literature with a bulk of published literary works involving a main character or group of characters journeying through various fictional worlds. This trope can be combined with the “save the world” trope though it can also work in an apocalypse story about escaping a terrible threat.
Tropes in literature are not necessarily bad even though they do seem like they have been overdone. If the plot of the story is engaging and the characters are compelling, a well-executed trope may be the icing on the cake that creates the perfect literary piece.