Tropes in Literature

In Taylor Holden’s novel The Sense of Paper, the image of paper binds together the lives of the main characters. For example, Charlie, a journalist who actively sought out dangerous places in the world, is now researching the different types of paper used by artists, information which she is using to write her own book.

Alan, an artist, prefers a particular paper for his work, which he uses to paint a picture for Charlie. He also puts her in contact with researchers in the field of art, who help Charlie understand the importance of paper.

This is an example of a trope, a literary device that is carried throughout a story, maintaining a crucial tie to characters and events.

Can you think of a story that you’ve recently read that aptly uses a trope? I suppose the Fifty Shades trilogy relied on the trope of sexual bondage as both reward and punishment.

Any other stories?

Have you ever written a story that contained a trope? If so, pull up that story and see if the trope helped or hurt the story. If it helped, in what ways? Is it possible for its meaning to be strengthened? Are there more instances in which the trope can be utilized?

What is you’ve never played with the idea of a trope? Now might be the time to do so.

Think of an object that has multiple meanings or usages. Create a character for each meaning. Now bring the characters together and see what happens.

This will not be an easy task. Many wonderful books are written without a single trope. But at least you will have played with the idea.

Have fun with this one.


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