View Full Version : Your personal tropes

01-30-2012, 03:45 AM
So today I was looking back at a couple of the manuscripts I've written and realized that though I wrote them years apart, they both came from the same place thematically (MC dealing with death of a loved one as a primary emotional conflict) - though they're very different in direction, style and even genre. But it got me thinking. I think all of us, published and unpublished, have those themes we tend to come back to time after time in our writing, whether due to them just being of particular interest to us, or speaking to us on a personal level or stemming from something in our past...

So my question to everyone is, how often do you run across the same themes in your own work? Do you ever worry or feel derivative of your own work or redundant....even if you're not repeating characters or plot points, but just themes?

01-30-2012, 04:25 AM
I tend to have piece of sh*t husbands, whether turning them into ghouls, demons, or just plain losers. Either way, I always punish them!

01-30-2012, 04:38 AM
I tend to lean toward my favorite themes, but my eldest was the one who pointed out to me that my favorite trope characters were so similar they could be transplanted from one story to another with just a name change.

The Deadpan Snarker, and The Snark Knight seem to be my greatest weakness. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheSnarkKnight

I actually depend on the Silent Snarker trope for my cartoon series.

01-30-2012, 04:51 AM
Mine is a variation on The Fashion Villain Victim.

I cannot write characters that dress in heinous fashion. Nope,can't do it. Everybody dresses well. My son had to gently remind me that characters living in impoverished circumstances can't wear Gucci and the like.

The hell you say,young man! They can dress decently on a meager budget.

Devil Ledbetter
01-30-2012, 05:54 AM
Screwed up adult siblings inextricably entwined in each other's lives, for sure.

01-30-2012, 05:58 AM
Parent-child relationships keep showing up in mine. It's a problem, because I know that in YA (which is what I'm working on honing/pitching right now), parents often play a minor role.

lizbeth dylan
01-30-2012, 06:00 AM
Horribly, emotionally damaged.
Cuz I wanna try & fix 'em.

01-30-2012, 06:48 AM
Mother-daughter relationships, sibling relationships, opposites-attract romantic relationships. Everyone also tends to be a little too smart for their own good.

I think family themes show up so often because they never go away in our own lives. I've also heard that the first book anyone writes is always about their childhood. It's sort of a horrifying idea.

01-30-2012, 06:50 AM
I always way add in some poor bullied kid as one of my MC's. Bullying seems to always end up being a subplot of all my books.

01-30-2012, 07:57 AM
A trope in a lot of my work (not 100% of it, but most of it) is the character who is weaker or different in some way than everyone else. He'll be the mage who can barely use magic, or the fairy who can't fly.

01-30-2012, 08:24 AM
Smart MC always frustrated by being misunderstood by others. I learned it from Robert Heinlein's and Michael Crichton's novels and from the TV show Murphy Brown. The situation is not autobiographical, honest. Really. Why don't you believe me?

Also, that science and technology are Good Things, and that life gets better in spite of the efforts of so many people trying to make life better.

01-30-2012, 08:32 AM
Ooh, I love this topic. I think we all have our *things* that we write about over and over...

For me it's:

Commodification of the body. In various ways.

Child abuse (because I write horror and that's the most horrific thing, imo)

Recycling. :Shrug:


Often these things overlap in what I write.

01-30-2012, 08:53 AM
Personally flawed protagonists being forced, reluctantly, into positions of having to make major moral choices.


01-30-2012, 09:09 AM
Ooh, fun topic. I always write sort-of anti-heroes. Villain-heroes. He's the only one you can trust in the Big Problem Situation, but he's the scariest bastard in the room when you start to get to know him a little better.

I'm still developing my ideas about female characters, but right now I'm writing kind of Ugly Duckling women. They're strong and capable, but feel out of their element, like outsiders/misfits, lonely, vulnerable, until they get into a scary place where they find their talents and personality fit in perfectly.

Finally, I like to write shaman's journey type stories, which are not really like hero's journey stories. A lot of people wandering out to the raggedy edges to find themselves.

01-30-2012, 09:44 AM
I rather like visiting other worlds, personally.

No, I'm not talking about an idea or concept, I mean picking up a character from this planet and depositing them on another one. The "Fish out of Water" scenario magnified to the Nth degree.

And I can't wait to do it again.

01-30-2012, 03:49 PM
I write YA, and one of my personal tropes is broken, traumatised/emotionally damaged [usually male] characters. Probably because where I live, everyone's a bit old fashioned and it's frowned upon for a man/boy to show emotional weakness or anything like that. So i make up for the deficit ;)

01-30-2012, 03:50 PM
Most (not all, but most) of my characters have some kind of tragedy or trauma in their pasts.

Most (but not all) have lousy relationships with one or both parents.

And my biracial characters have a tendency not to know parts of their cultural background, which I suppose might be a reflection of my own lack of knowledge on the same.

I think sometimes tropes develop because when something is part of one's life, it's hard to imagine it ever being any other way. (I work on it though. My latest MC knows a lot about her cultural background and has a good relationship with both parents.)

01-30-2012, 04:20 PM
Noooo, not TvTropes. That's my entire day swallowed up :D

I always have one character, usually male, who's a loveable rogue/gentleman thief (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GentlemanThief) type. A dishonourable man with a disarmingly affable personality.

My main characters are usually strong women who are reluctant heroes, forced to confront their own apathy. They often have a platonic life partner. (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PlatonicLifePartners)

I have a strange fondness for throwing in love triangles, specifically ones in which all three participants are content to co-exist - a type 9 triang relation (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TriangRelations)(usually m/m/f)

01-30-2012, 08:50 PM
I had to forcibly restrain myself from clicking the TV Tropes links...

I definitely have some recurring themes/tropes, both in my romance and in my YA.

- Characters who have been emotionally abused (in both romance and YA)
- Overcoming abuse (to the point that one of my editors asked me to stop writing romance heroines who've been abused)
- Mothers who are either incompetent or absent
- In my YA, bullying is a constant theme
- Also in my YA, I've developed a tendency to write male MC's with younger, often autistic, sisters, to the point that one of my editors told me to stop it.

Some of these things come from my own life; I was verbally and emotionally abused growing up and in my first marriage, and my mother and I haven't always gotten on well, to be vague. My older child is a girl, not a boy, but her younger sister is autistic and the dynamic between them is intriguing to me (I'm an only child). And I think everyone who's ever been a teenager has some experience with bullying.

There are other things that tend to recur in my writing (wiseass male narrators is the biggest), and since I'm aware of the things that I tend to reuse repeatedly, I make an effort to write stories without those elements. At least sometimes.

01-30-2012, 09:00 PM
Dead mom, bad dad.

I've written two so far, although they're very different from each other personality-wise. I'm trying to impose a moratorium on any further use of the combination.

(FYI: My mom is alive and my dad is kind of weird but not bad).

01-30-2012, 09:01 PM
lap dancing... Yelp, even if fantasy on another world, lap dancing.

Renee Collins
01-30-2012, 09:22 PM
Impassioned revolutionaries. I have one in every book, though they're usually not the MC. They can be male or female, but I prefer male because mm-mmm, there's nothing sexier. ;)

01-30-2012, 10:04 PM
I often have main characters who become obsessed with something, whether it's another character or an item or an ideal.

Also, cheerful psychotics.

01-31-2012, 07:19 AM
There always seems to be a drug addict in my work, or somebody very close to addiction. Not necessarily the main characters, but still, they find their way in there. I'm not sure why, I suppose they just tend to be dynamic characters.

01-31-2012, 07:45 AM
Now that you mention it... death.

01-31-2012, 08:10 AM
There's almost always a generally good, moral, intelligent character who is forced by circumstance to make difficult choices, choices that clash with their values and ideals.

Also father-daughter relationships show up a lot in my work, which is interesting because I am neither a father nor a daughter.

01-31-2012, 09:25 AM
Common tropes for me:
-Lost parent/Tough relationship with parent/Trying to live up to parent's expectations or memory
(Do you see a theme? I should just go to therapy)

-Choosing the healthy, stable romantic relationship over one that caters to one's own pathology

-MC trying to make course correction in life from self-inflicted damage

01-31-2012, 10:53 AM
Villain Overkill Syndrome

My villains never just die by being shot or stabbed--They must be disintegrated by a fallen star, sucked into a vortex with the remnants of an evil god, or fall off the side of an airship into a dragon's mouth and be torn apart.

hmm... this may say something about the state of my imagination.


Manuel Royal
01-31-2012, 07:31 PM
Good subject for a thread, KalenO.

I guess I tend to write strong female characters, often in transitional phases of their life.

Also, now that I think of it, characters who are sort of sleepwalking through life, watching life as an observer, until an external or internal event makes them take part, and take action.

01-31-2012, 10:10 PM
Class, race, and gender and the power dyamics between them.

Mysticism and the dissolution of self and godhood.

Sex too.

Manuel Royal
01-31-2012, 10:57 PM
Mysticism and the dissolution of self and godhood.That sounds so much cooler than mine. Can I change my answer?

01-31-2012, 11:45 PM
Someone brought up in poverty who ends up screwing over some person that never really did anything wrong.

Mad scientists who turned mad because they lost their family in a horrible fashion.

02-01-2012, 12:32 AM
I can't think of any. Maybe I just don't think in these terms.

02-01-2012, 12:48 AM
I totally almost wrote a blog post about this yesterday. (Well, I wrote it, but then didn't post it because it sucked. >.<)

Buuut... older brother-younger sister relationships. Honestly, anything longer than a short, if I wrote it or planned to write it, it had an older brother-younger sister duo. At least one of them was probably a main character, if not both. I'm actually at the point where I'm freaking sick of this, but I don't know how to stop it--I don't make the sibling pairs, they pop up uninvited, honest! GAH.

Also, if there are parents, the mother is dead and the father is a horrible, horrible person. Or the mother disappeared or something. (I know where the dad thing comes from, 'cause that's straight out of life experience, but my mom is very much alive and--occasionally WAY too much--involved in me and my siblings' lives. Except when I actually want her to be. Like when it comes to learning how to be an adult. But I digress.)

Also, not really the same thing, but every time I *try* to write a romance, it veers very much off-course and ends up not very romantical at all. I have some suspicions for why this may be, but none that don't make me sound like a pathetic, lonely loser... which I kinda am, but I pretend I'm not. *whistles*

And, WHY do people insist on posting TVTropes links??? :cry: I HAVE NO WILLPOWER TO RESIST THE TROPES. AAAAARGH.

Charlie Horse
02-01-2012, 01:02 AM
Mother-daughter relationships, sibling relationships, opposites-attract romantic relationships. Everyone also tends to be a little too smart for their own good.

I think family themes show up so often because they never go away in our own lives. I've also heard that the first book anyone writes is always about their childhood. It's sort of a horrifying idea.

Oh. My. God. I'm a stereotype.

02-01-2012, 07:18 PM
The necessity of change and the importance of the new. That comes up again and again in my stories.

I thought I'd dodged it in my recently completed first draft, only to realize upon re-reading that I'd managed to stick it in there, just a bit more subtly than usual.

In my short stories, this usually expresses itself in terms of a character rejecting the new and refusing to change.

My short stories always seem to end unhappily.

02-03-2012, 04:56 AM
I just realized that I actually do have one. Sort of...

I do lots of only children and/or orphans.

Which is strange because I come from a close family of six (two parents, four kids) and the biggest extended family known to humankind*, and we regularly get together and hang out all the time...

Huh. Weird.

*by "big," I mean 15 pairs of direct aunt/uncles, over 100 first cousins, and 50-odd "adoptees" -- people who show up at family parties and just kind of don't leave...

02-03-2012, 05:07 AM
That even in triumph, esp in triumph there is always a personal cost. There is no free lunch.

Oh, and there's usually a dog or two somewhere in the book.

02-03-2012, 08:13 AM
I write about outsiders a lot. And weird but likable children (usually boys for some reason).

Also culture clashes. Class clashes. Old clashing with new.

And especially tough situations or differences that aren't going to change. That sounds pessimistic, but it's really played in a zen kind of way, unless it's one of my creepy stories.

02-03-2012, 03:27 PM
Mentally unstable male characters, troubled mother/son, father/son relationships, car accidents, corrosive partnerships, female characters who are emotionally broken but act tough. And favouritism between siblings.

The "tropes" that apply to me in actuality are the last ones....:Shrug: I need to fuel my horror stories somehow :D

AJ Valliant
02-05-2012, 03:49 AM
I'm not sure if this a trope or stylistic tendency, but I tend to have mundane protagonists that behave in a very grounded fashion in fairly surreal and fantastical settings.

02-05-2012, 04:01 AM
Dystopia. Whether it's erotica or a children's short story, its happening during a dystopia.

02-05-2012, 09:33 AM
Religion fucking with people.

02-05-2012, 11:01 AM
Love triangles, relationships that resemble them, and other dynamics involving three characters.

Characters who are non-human or superpowered, but have worldly and "mundane" goals.

Broken or dysfunctional families.

Mental illness.

Russian characters.

02-05-2012, 11:33 AM
Best friends, or even brothers, becoming mortal enemies
Betrayal and revenge
Testing loyalty
Love me some classic boy saves girl...sue me
Also love strong female characters who don't have to kick ass or be mouthy bitches in order to be strong female characters

02-06-2012, 09:17 AM
My favorite tropes seem to be:

Revenge - My favorite plot

Atonement - My favorite subplot

Loveable Rogue (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LoveableRogue) - I'm a sucker for them. And for pretty much all anti-heroes.

Power Of Friendship (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ThePowerOfFriendship?from=Main.PowerOfFriendship) - :) something has to balance out my Crapsack World (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CrapsackWorld)s

Survivors Guilt (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SurvivorGuilt?from=Main.SurvivorsGuilt) - A popular personality trait that can show up in either MCs or Secondary Characters

and Betrayal - a common ending

02-06-2012, 10:10 AM
Let's see. Tropes I commonly find in my writing include...

Bittersweet Ending (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BittersweetEnding) - the only kind I know how to write
Break the Cutie (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BreakTheCutie) - the fate of any of my protagonists not already dead-inside cynics
Breaking the Fourth Wall (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BreakingTheFourthWall) - I enjoy it
Broken Bird (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BrokenBird) - most of my female characters, and the male ones by the end
Contemplate Our Navels (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ContemplateOurNavels) - shut up, I like it
Dying for Symbolism (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DyingForSymbolism) - I admit it
Dream Sequence (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DreamSequence) - used extensively
Erotic Dream (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EroticDream) - the above are often this
Epiphanic Prison (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EpiphanicPrison) - good for mind screws
Flashback (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Flashback) - also used extensively
Guilt Complex (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GuiltComplex) - always fun
Hope Spot (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HopeSpot)
I Will Wait For You (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/IWillWaitForYou) - appears often, played straight as often as subverted
Just Before the End (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/JustBeforeTheEnd)
Love Hurts (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LoveHurts) - unrelentingly
Magical Realism (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MagicalRealism) - my favorite genre
Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MasculineGirlFeminineBoy) - pretty common of my main characters
The Masochism Tango (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheMasochismTango) - same as above
Mind Screw (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MindScrew) - one of my favorite tropes
Nameless Narrative (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NamelessNarrative) - most of my shorts
Postmodernism (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Postmodernism) - I use it
Sliding Scale Of Idealism Versus Cynicism (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism) - darkness and cynicism rule the world for most of my stories, but there is always a silver lining of love and hope and the unrelenting power of the human heart
Strange Girl (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StrangeGirl)
Tsundere (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Tsundere) - what the above are in my stories
This Loser Is You (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ThisLoserIsYou) - I do this to myself
Two Lines No Waiting (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TwoLinesNoWaiting) - I seem incapable of writing a longer work that doesn't intertwine at least two narrative threads, usually taking place in different timelines
Unreliable Narrator (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UnreliableNarrator) - always
The Unreveal (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheUnreveal)
Weakness Turns Her On (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WeaknessTurnsHerOn) - possible the only reason my heroes ever get laid

02-06-2012, 11:33 AM
Identity seems a common theme in the novels and short fiction I've written. Establishment of an identity, or one coming under threat - and variations of this in YA and/or SF and/or dark fantasy/horror guise.

02-06-2012, 04:26 PM
(http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MasculineGirlFeminineBoy)Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MasculineGirlFeminineBoy) - pretty common of my main characters


Yeah, I do this a lot too. I love mucking about with gender expectations.

02-06-2012, 08:50 PM
moral ambiguity. (is this a trope? I think so. If not, I'm making it one.) all the options suck. pick the least sucky.
bittersweet endings. it always happens.
death. people are ALWAYS dying. I just realized that both my WIPs are catalyzed by a parent kicking the bucket. whoops. I kill off the loveable characters, too. reader be warned.
love hurts. it really does.
traumatized/jaded/cynical main characters.
close relationships between sisters.
the anti-hero
culture clashes

ETA: Dammit, Kuwisdelu, after reading your list...
Dying for symbolism. guilty. as sin.
Guilt complexes. um. yeah
Cool big sisters. (I have to stop surfing that site.)
Tsundere (I'm stopping now, because it's getting depressing.)

Makeshift Bubbles
02-06-2012, 10:07 PM
Love triangles, love squares, love decagons ...
The main character and his/her subject of affection never end up together. Ever. Usually it's because one of them dies.
I'm also apparently a huge fan of anti-heroes.