What is the Difference Between a Cliche and a Trope?

What is the Difference Between a Cliche and a Trope?

Hey Ho Bookaholics!

Welcome to the first Stoytime Wednesday, where I attempt to understand the difference between a cliche and a trope.

This confusion came about when I was reading Third Time Lucky by Karly Lane, a book that would never have thought to pick up if it wasn’t sent to me by Allen & Unwin; and I came across many many cheesy cliches and tropes. My favourite trope that appeard in this story was the get good to get back trope, where a charcater who was one shunned by the community comes back years later, rich and living a better life than everyone to rub it in their faces and take their property.

I found a very good explanation on the site dragonscanbebeaten.wordpress.comwhere he quotes Adam Heine who provides the best explanation of tropes and cliches, and how they’re used.

Adam explains that “a trope (in a story sense) is any plot, character, setting, device, or pattern that we recognize as such. It’s kind of everything, from the unassuming farm boy to the rebellion against an oppressive government to the wise mentor to the chase scene in which the car smashes through a pane of glass being carried across the street.” We distinguist tropes as things that make the story run.

“A story is not good or bad based on whether or not it has tropes. ALL STORIES HAVE TROPES. A story is good or bad based on how those tropes are used.”

Adam then goes on to identify what readers and viewers like and don’t like about tropes.

“What we like about tropes is familiarity (“Yay, ninjas!”), excitement (“Oo, the hero’s going to get all awesome on the badguys!”), and especially when our favorite tropes are twisted in interesting ways (“I did NOT see that coming”).

What we don’t like is when tropes are predictable to the point of boredom. That’s when a trope becomes a cliche.”

He continues on the article by explaining cliches, starting with the line “cliches are subjective.” Certain tropes can become seem ‘old and tired’ to one person but may be another persons favourite trope no matter how many times it has been done, it will never get boring.

So Adam asks the question everyone must be thinking: So how do you keep your stories from slipping past trope into cliche?”

Well here’s how:

  1. “Be trope-savvy. One of the things I loved about Avatar: The Last Airbenderwas how it was always aware of its own tropes. Sokka knew he was the comic guy, the plan guy, the boomerang guy, or “the guy in the group that was normal.” They knew they were being silly (and yet a little bit serious) when they came up with a name for their group or for the bounty hunter Zuko sent after them.* It worked because they showed you they were aware of their tropes, through action and dialog.

  2. Subvert the tropes. I thought Megamind was fantastic because even though it used all the superhero tropes, it never played them straight. It took one of the oldest tropes (villain captures girl, threatens hero, hero outsmarts villain), showed they were trope savvy (girl mocks villain’s threats as cliche), then twisted it (villain kills hero?!). And that was where the movie started. That sort of thing kept me guessing the whole time, even though I knew the ultimate end.

  3. Don’t bother. Seriously, the subjectiveness of cliches is one of the reasons you can’t please everybody. One completely viable method of dealing with this is to not even try. Use the tropes you love, put them together in ways you think are awesome, then find the people who agree with you.”

I hope you learnt something from this post and you’ll no longer missidentify a cliche by confusing it with a trope.

Please tell me in the comments down below what your most hated and most favourite topes and cliches seen in books and/or movies are.

Get better to get back trope in Third Time Lucky. .

Stay Happy, Healthy, and have a Lovely Day!!


Thank You so much for reading and I hope to see you all back here again Saturday 🙂

bree xoxo - What is the Difference Between a Cliche and a Trope?

I’m a Book Depository Affiliate! Get Free Shipping on ALL BOOKS Everywhere!

© Jasper+Spice 2017. All Rights Reserved. Please do not use without permission. This post was not sponsored and all sources were quoted and given full credit. Instagram @thebookishbree. Goodreads (jasperandspice). 

Leave a Comment


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave your thoughts and comments here :)