Avoiding Script Cliches- and how to distinguish them from useful tropes.

Tropes and cliches

Greetings fellow screenwriter. Today I want to address the difference between tropes and overworn cliches.

What is a trope? What is a cliche? Are they the same thing? The answer may shock you. People talk a lot of about tropes and cliches and they use the terms interchangeably, but the fact is tropes and cliches aren’t necessarily the same thing although in order to write at a professional level you need to stay away from cliches.

First, we deal with tropes: A trope is a common convention or plot device. For example, a happy or really disfunctial family are tropes. Tropes are generalized and universal aspects of the human condition.

It’s very common to read stories where multiple characters form a happy or really unhappy family unit. Nothing wrong with this.

So now what’s a cliche as it pertains to tropes?
Cliches are very specific tropes that have been used so much that they become tired and uncreative. If an author employs a popular trope without adding anything new or original to it, it’s, probably a cliche.

This means that tropes and cliches are connected to one another. They’re, not necessarily the same thing. Additionally, there are other types of cliches in writing, for example, overused expressions and phrases- an obvious example of cliched phrases are once upon a time and they lived happily ever after.
Keep in mind, fiction writing depends on generalized tropes. There are countless tropes way too many to list, because nearly every single plot device you see in fiction can be labeled as a trope. There are entire websites devoted to categorizing them. Newbie writers often proudly proclaim that they’re, not going to write any tropes, but that is literally impossible.

If you have a hero in your story, that’s a trope. If there is death suffering or conflict, it will likely fit into a trope. This isn’t a bad thing. Lots of tropes are really entertaining, and thus it’s perfectly fine to use them.

It’s, not a good idea to write tropes that are harmful or alienating. For example, the woman in the refrigerator is a trope where a female character exists solely to be killed off, so a male character can be motivated by her death.

Is it a good idea to write cliches? nope a cliche is an overused unoriginal trope, and none of that is a good thing. It basically means that you took a trope that’s, been beaten into the ground and then regurgitated it without offering any new insight.

DISCLAIMER: You can write a cliche if you’re going to use it to fool your audience or if you’re going to use it for comedic reasons.

So we’ve established that tropes may be unavoidable, so remember these tips for writing tropes:
First and foremost, examine your own favorite tropes to see if they’re not cliches. If you love a particular trope, chances are other readers will love it too- usually. And implementing a trope you love into your work may make it fun and passion tends to follow fun and this translate directly to better writing.

Also, try to write tropes with intention. If you know which tropes you want to include in your fiction, It will be much easier to avoid cliches because you can craft those tropes in an original inventive way that speaks to the content of your story.

In a similar vein, know which tropes you don’t want to include and be mindful of them. While you’re writing, say you’re about to kill off a character. Does their death fit into any harmful tropes like woman in the refridgerator, standard evil corporate villain or the sympathetic supporting black character dies? Ultimately, being intentional with your tropes is going to make them a lot more powerful and a lot less offensive.

What are some tips for avoiding cliches? First of all, educate yourself on cliches- definitely not hard to do because people bitch about cliches all over the internet. I’ve seen entire playlists devoted to it.

Second, read. The more you read the more tropes and cliches you’ll come into contact with. This will give you an idea of what you like what you don’t like what works and what doesn’t. Third, don’t play your tropes straight to play a trope straight means to utilize scent rope without any deviation from the norm.

Writing a love triangle between a mortal woman, a male vampire and a male werewolf might have been a trope 15 years ago, but it’s definitely a normie cliche by now. This exact scenario has been written ad nauseam, so you’re, not bringing anything new to the table.

Finally, I’d suggest joining a writer’s group either online or offline. Getting a variety of your writer’s group opinions will definitely give you a boost toward freeing your work from cliches.

BONUS ROUND: How do you subvert a trope or cliche in order to pull a switcheroo on your readers? Take risks and chances with your plot or character choices.

Many tropes are specific to character types. Some tropes only apply to heroes, some only apply to men. You can subvert these tropes by applying them to villains or women. An example would be the damsel in distress. This is a universally female trope. If you made the damsel in distress a man that could potentially be a fun subversion .

So how do you know if I’ve written a cliche? First of all, your characters are one-dimensional. A lot of cliched characters are one note wonders and they speak in on-the-nose dialogue. Think of the dumb jock cliche, for instance. This usually happens when you don’t put in time into formulating your characters.

You’re supposed to think about your plot and characters for more than five seconds put in some effort. This will only help your story arc in ways you can’t imagine at first.

Marc Henry Johnson Producer

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