TV Tropes: What They Are and How to Spot Them

tv tropes

A trope is a theme or device used in storytelling. They are usually common or overused. We can think of them like clichés, but on a greater scale. A lot of tv shows use tropes to help guide the audience through their story in a way that feels familiar and digestible. Knowing what tv tropes are, and how they can be used, will help in creating and shaping your own narratives!

How We Got Here/This is My Story

“You’re probably wondering how I got here” was a very common line to hear at the start of a movie or tv show in the 2000s. This trope starts the story in the middle of the action (also know as the climax). The scene then freezes. The voice of the character echoes the audience’s possible confusion of how they ended up at this scene. This is followed by the narrator bringing us to where the story actually begins.

I Am Who?

Who can forget that iconic moment when Hagrid tells Harry Potter that he’s a wizard. The ‘I Am Who?’ tv trope shows that who we think is an ordinary average person is actually a protagonist of great ability and extraordinary talent. Once this identity is revealed, the protagonist usually hears of some prophecy that they must complete thus kicking off the rest of the story. 

Boy Meets Girl – The Oldest TV Trope

One of the oldest and most basic plot line tropes. The events go as follows: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy regains girl. Of course, we can change out ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ respectively. But, at its essence this trope is about meeting, losing, and rekindling love. 

Genre Blindness

Often seen in horror movies, this when characters behave like they’ve never seen a kind of story like the one they currently find themselves in. This is why characters in horror movies go to investigate the creepy noises in the basement. Or, why the cast of comedy shows always find themselves having hilarious misunderstandings. 

Deus Ex Machina – The Convenient TV Trope

A Deus Ex Machina is when some new event, character, ability, or object solves a seemingly unsolvable problem in a sudden, unexpected way. The term is latin for “god out of the machine”. This tv trope is often used when writers have written themselves into “a corner”. Deus Ex Machina must be external to the characters and their choices throughout the story. 

All Just a Dream

Probably one of the most anti-climactic devices, “All Just a Dream” is when there is a twist at the ending that reveals that all previous events in the story were just part of a character’s dream, hallucination or some other escape from reality. Sometimes they wake to find an object from the dream lying next to them, posing the question: “Or Was It a Dream?”

Luke, I Am Your Father – The Ultimate TV Trope

This is the ultimate soap opera trope but it gets its title from a Star Wars film. In this trope, a parent-child relationship between two characters who were previously thought unrelated is revealed, usually with generous dollops of melodrama. 

About the Author

Lydia B.

Lydia B.