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Synonyms: plot device
See also: Genre, Slash Tropes, Story Tropes By Fandom, The Same Old Story, Trope Inversion, Tropes in Fanworks, TV Tropes
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In fandom, the word trope is often used to describe common plot devices, such as Aliens Made Them Do It, Fuck or Die, sex pollen, etc.

After the first fanwork is created in any fandom, traditional themes quickly follow. It takes no time at all for any fandom to develop its favorite tropes (often the same tropes, no matter what the fandom).

Here is a definition from TV Tropes:

Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. The word clichéd means "stereotyped and trite." In other words, dull and uninteresting. We are not looking for dull and uninteresting entries. We are here to recognize tropes and play with them, not to make fun of them.

In the 2018 round of Multifandom Tropefest, during nominations for the tagset, the moderator posted a clarification about what tropes actually are, stating that "for the purposes of this exchange, we are defining a trope as a common thematic element or plot or character device in some genre of fiction."[1] Scribblemyname goes on to separate tropes from genres or kinks:

Romance fiction is a genre and comes with a lot of subgenres, such as Regency, Highland, Romantic Comedy (romcom), etc. The romance genre and its various subgenres have a lot of related tropes you might find familiar. Some random examples off the top of my head:

  • Thematic Element: Fainting at Romantic Confessions
  • Character Device: Rake with a Heart of Gold
  • Character Device: Bodyguard Crush
  • Character Device: The Gay Best Friend
  • Plot Device: Mail Order Bride


In original fiction, there is an alternate universe trope, which is the characters fall into an alternate universe, glimpse one, get stranded in one, etc. Common to scifi shows, with the Mirrorverse in Star Trek being a classic example.

In fanfic, alternate universe is a genre. Subgenres include coffee shop AUs, hooker AUs, etc. Each of these comes with its own set of common or less common tropes and variations, subversions, etc.

  • Not a trope: Coffee Shop AU
  • Trope: Coffee Shop Regular Falls for the Barista
  • Trope: Coffee Shop Visitor Falls for the Barista
  • Trope: Coffee Shop Staff Matchmake Two Regular Customers
Kinks alas are not tropes. Rope Bondage, for example, is a kink but it is not a common thematic element of any genre, nor does it serve as a character or plot device. It appears frequently in erotica and smut, but so does coffee. There are many tropes that include being tied up with rope or coffee, but it is not itself a trope. BDSM Verse is a fanfic trope, however, and comes with many variations and subversions.[1]

Meta/Further Reading



  1. ^ a b scribblemyname, Nominations Clarifications Post #2 - 8/24/18. Accessed 06 September 2018.