This is How to Use Tropes to Create Original Stories

Examples of tropes to show how they can be used to create original stories

In the world of storytelling, tropes are the building blocks. They can be used to create original stories that resonate with readers and they can help shape narratives across genres. Generally, tropes are familiar themes, plot devices, and/or archetypes that are universal and relatable. They range from the classic “hero’s journey” to the popular “love triangle” to the conundrum of the “locked room mystery”.

Tropes are a Framework

It is important to understand that topes are an established and universal idea that helps writers build compelling and original narratives. Basically, they provide a foundation to use in constructing stories. While there are plenty of naysayers out there who think tropes are trite, the truth is that tropes are storytelling frameworks that provide fundamental components in crafting narratives, whatever genre you write in. Certainly, there are even some folks who might worry that relying on tropes will lead to predictability, or that using tropes is lazy, but rest assured that is not the case!

An Opportunity for Creativity

In addition, tropes offer authors a unique opportunity for creativity. Indeed, by understanding and manipulating tropes, writers can infuse fresh perspectives, build in twists, or turn a tried-and-true narrative framework on its head. Consequently, their stories are unique and memorable.

So, keep reading to see a list of common tropes with examples to show you how a single trope can be made original. Lastly, leave a comment sharing your own examples of tropes in action, which will further underscore how diverse tropes can be in the hands of creative writers.

First, Mysteries

  1. Whodunit:
    • “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie: A classic ensemble cast mystery where consequently everyone is a suspect
    • “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty: A modern take that blends domestic drama with a murder investigation.
    • “The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides: A psychological thriller where the reveal is a shock that is tied dark secrets.
  2. Amateur Detective:
    • “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” by Alexander McCall Smith: A gentle, humorous series set in Botswana, leaving the reader enchanted.
    • “Verity” by Colleen Hoover: A writer uncovers dark secrets while investigating a famous author.
    • “Nancy Drew” series by Carolyn Keene: Iconic teenage sleuth solving various mysteries.
  3. Red Herring:
    • “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson: Multiple suspects and misleading clues further the intrigue.
    • “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown: False leads in a fast-paced religious conspiracy thriller creates a compelling story.
    • “Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn: When the consequence of psychological misdirection impact a small-town murder case.
  4. Locked Room Mystery:
    • “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie: Guests on an island are murdered one by one.
    • “The Tokyo Zodiac Murders” by Soji Shimada: When an intricate puzzle results in impossible-seeming murders.
    • “The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton: When a time-loop twists the locked room trope.
  5. Femme Fatale:
    • “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett: The classic seductive and dangerous woman.
    • “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn: When a deeply manipulative character messes with her husband.
    • “Basic Instinct” by Richard Osborne: When a psychologist and a detective engage in a deadly game of seduction and manipulation.
  6. Unreliable Narrator:
    • “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn: When dual perspectives create twists and turns.
    • “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins: When a protagonist’s perspective is clouded by alcoholism.
    • “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel: When a narrative blurs the line between reality and fiction.
  7. Cold Case:
    • “In the Woods” by Tana French: When a detective revisits his own past in a chilling murder case.
    • “Case Histories” by Kate Atkinson: When a PI solves old cases that intertwine with his own life.
    • “The Bone Garden” by Tess Gerritsen: When historical and present-day investigations are connected by an old murder.

Next, Romance Books

  1. Enemies to Lovers:
    • “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen: When two people overcome initial misunderstandings.
    • “The Hating Game” by Sally Thorne: When office rivals turn into lovers.
    • “Red, White & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston: When enemies in a political setting encounter a royal twist.
  2. Friends to Lovers:
    • “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell: When ollege friends navigate feelings beyond friendship.
    • “Emma” by Jane Austen: When friendship blossoms into love.
    • “When Harry Met Sally” by Nora Ephron (movie): A decade-spanning friendship turns romantic.
  3. Second Chance Romance:
    • “Persuasion” by Jane Austen: When reunited lovers come back together after years of separation.
    • “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks: When a passionate reunion happens after many years.
    • “Take a Hint, Dani Brown” by Talia Hibbert: When two old lovers reconnect in adulthood.
  4. Billionaire Romance:
    • “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James: When a wealthy businessman and a young woman have a complex relationship.
    • “Bared to You” by Sylvia Day: When wealth and power lead to romance.
    • “The Marriage Bargain” by Jennifer Probst: When a financial arrangement turns romantic.
  5. Forbidden Love:
    • “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare: When two people from rival families have an archetype of forbidden romance.
    • “The Thorn Birds” by Colleen McCullough: When a love affair rages against religious vows.
    • “The Light We Lost” by Jill Santopolo: When love is constrained by life choices and circumstances.
  6. Fake Relationship:
    • “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han: Pretend romance turns real.
    • “The Kiss Quotient” by Helen Hoang: When a practical arrangement with autistic characters becomes heartfelt.
    • “The Wedding Date” by Jasmine Guillory: When a fake date for a wedding leads to real feelings.
  7. Love Triangle:
    • “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins: When Katniss, Peeta, and Gale compete in the Hunger Games, their complex dynamics create a love triangle.
    • “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer: When Bella moves to a small Washington town, she meets Edward and Jacob, leaving to a dramatic love triangle
    • “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon: When Claire travels back in time, her heart is divided between Jamie and Frank.

Then, Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books

  1. Chosen One:
    • “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling: When a boy learns he is destined to defeat a dark lord, he must learn how to become a hero (and a wizard).
    • “The Matrix” by Lana and Lilly Wachowski (movie): Neo as the prophesied savior.
    • “Eragon” by Christopher Paolini: A young dragon rider chosen to change the world.
  2. Hero’s Journey:
    • “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien: When Frodo’s epic quest to destroy the One Ring almost fails, he becomes a hero.
    • “Star Wars” by George Lucas (movie): Luke Skywalker’s journey from farm boy to Jedi.
    • “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss: Kvothe’s tale from childhood to legend.
  3. Magic School:
    • Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling: When Harry discovers he’s a wizard, he moves to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
    • “A Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula K. Le Guin: Ged’s education at the wizard school of Roke.
    • “The Magicians” by Lev Grossman: Brakebills University for magical pedagogy.
  4. Quest:
    • The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien: When Bilbo goes on an adventure to help a group of Dwarves on a harrowing journey to the Lonely Mountain, he becomes a hero’.
    • “Percy Jackson” series by Rick Riordan: Percy grows on his hero’s journey as he engages in quests involving Greek mythology.
    • “The Dark Tower” series by Stephen King: Roland’s epic quest to find the Dark Tower.
  5. Dystopia:
    • “1984” by George Orwell: A totalitarian regime controls every aspect of life, thereby showing a dark view of the future.
    • “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins: When a dystopian future hosts its annual deadly games, danger ensues.
    • “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley: When a society engineered for conformity and stability is challenged, change happens.
  6. Space Opera:
    • “Dune” by Frank Herbert: Epic political and ecological conflicts in space.
    • “Star Wars” by George Lucas (movie): Galactic-scale adventures and battles.
    • “The Expanse” series by James S.A. Corey: Interplanetary politics and conflicts.
  7. Time Travel:
    • “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells: When an inventor travels to distant future epochs, adventure ensues.
    • “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon: A nurse is transported to 18th-century Scotland, thereby causing great turmoil in her life.
    • “11/22/63” by Stephen King: A man travels back to prevent the JFK assassination, which could, consequently, change history.

Other Genres Using Tropes to Create Original Stories:

  1. Coming of Age:
    • “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee: When Atticus Finch defends an accused man, Scout Finch’s learns life lessons.
    • “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger: Holden Caulfield’s teenage angst leads to unexpected consequences.
    • “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky: When a high school freshman becomes friends with a group of students his journey ensues.
  2. Bildungsroman:
    • “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë: When Jane becomes a governess for Mr. Rochester, she grows from an orphan to a strong, independent woman.
    • “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens: Pip’s development from a poor boy to a gentleman is another classic.
    • “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith: Francie Nolan’s life in early 20th century Brooklyn.
  3. Fish out of Water:
    • “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett: When a young girl meets a crippled boy, a strong friendship forms.
    • “Legally Blonde” by Amanda Brown: Elle Woods navigating Harvard Law School, which leads to fun antics.
    • “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams: Arthur Dent’s Space Adventures which then take readers on their own adventure.
  4. Rags to Riches:
    • “Cinderella” by Charles Perrault: This tale of transformation and fortune will always be a classic, underscoring this universal theme.
    • “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling: When an underprivileged boy grows to be a powerful wizard, he must defeat a dark lord.
    • “Slumdog Millionaire” by Vikas Swarup: A poor boy’s rise to wealth and fame, which has interesting consequences.
  5. Redemption Arc:
    • “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens: Scrooge’s transformation from miser to benefactor, therefore showing a complete turnaround for the hero.
    • “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo: Jean Valjean’s journey from convict to saintly figure in another complete turnaround.
    • “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini: Amir seeks redemption for past wrongs, which is a heartwrenching story.
  6. Gothic Horror:
    • “Dracula” by Bram Stoker: A vampire terrorizes Victorian England.
    • “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley: When a scientist’s creation turns monstrous, what can he do to stop it?
    • “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson: A chilling ghost story in a mysterious mansion.
  7. Found Family:
    • “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo: A group of misfits forms a tight-knit team, which strengthens them.
    • “The House in the Cerulean Sea” by TJ Klune: An inspector finds a family among magical orphans, leading to a riveting story.
    • “Guardians of the Galaxy” by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (comics/film): When a ragtag team of space adventurers set out to prove themselves, they have fun adventures.

Leave a comment with more examples!

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