How to Use

— May 13, 2011 (8 comments)
TV Tropes is a fantastic site, collecting every story trope humanity has ever done, along with examples. If you've got a spare month or two (not a typo), I highly recommend heading over there. If you've never been, let me give you some tips on how to use the site.

1) Let it depress you. Start with some trope you're writing, say air pirates. Follow the links to all the interesting, related tropes--especially ones you thought were original--like cool-looking airships or the villain's airborne fortress that threatens to rain cannonballs on the goodguys. Come to the realization that there is NOTHING original in your story AT ALL. Quit writing.

2) Let it encourage you. After you've quit writing for a few years, realize that nobody ELSE is original either. That makes unoriginality okay (within reason). The goal in fiction is not originality, but to take what's been done and make it fresh and interesting again. To make it YOURS.

3) Let it inform you. Now that the tropes are no longer soul-crushing, find your favorite trope to see how it has been handled before, how it's been subverted, and how famous the examples are so you know what you can get away with. Come up with subversions of your own, or mix it with other tropes in new and interesting ways.

4) Let it inspire you. Stuck for ideas? How about the origin story of a Judge-Dredd-style adventure hero and his possibly-insane sidekick facing an evil tribal circus in the African jungle. If that doesn't work, just hit the TV Tropes Story Idea Generator one more time until you find something you DO like! And if it sounds too lame or familiar, just add ninjas (or samurai or pirates or mecha or whythehecknot all of them). Because it's AWESOME.

Are any of you even still reading this, or did I lose you like 15 links ago?

Enjoyed this post? Stay caught up on future posts by subscribing here.


  1. I'm still here, but only because I have learned, well, the painful lesson that you NEVER, EVER, EVER CLICK A TVTROPES LINK, EVER, if you have work to do that day.

    It's one of the few things I can think of that's so good it's bad (or rather, it's dangerous.)

  2. I think I've done all four, most recently #3 as I scoured tropes to see how my story would fare standing up to what has-been-done. Only I was kinda hoping for a guide on how to navigate it. I don't so much care for the new formatting. #TVTropeAddict

  3. Step 1: Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

  4. Oh oh, you are playing a dangerous game here, *linking* to TVTrope. Must. Resist. Clicking!!

    I love that post. XD I've definitely done all four steps, and in the order you put them. There's so much information on TVTropes!

  5. @JJ: You are a wise woman.

    @Susan: I don't think there is a guide to navigate it. I think you just have to take a year's sabbatical and dive in.

    @Amanda: Ha! Too true. But it's so good!

  6. How long did it take you to put in all those links? lol.

    I haven't tried this site. I'll have to check it out ... and prepare to be depressed for a few years. :)


  7. I think this went up before I found you, but: you're my hero.

  8. I have to admit I've never even ONCE checked out TVTropes. I'm always in the middle of writing something and I know I'll be influenced (probably in a bad way) insanely easily. So I've avoided it. At all costs. BUT it sounds like a really awesome site...