Subscribe to my Telegram Channel,
and get new articles first!

7 Storytelling Tropes that we meet all the time and don't notice them

Author of the article: Tatiana Zhakova
Journalist, linguist, teacher of storytelling with 10 years of experience
In 2015 she created and promoted her project about Nizhny Novgorod,, after which she created a course called "Storytelling: How to Tell Your Story" based on it. Over 4,000 students have taken the course.

A linguist by education, she quickly masters new areas. Now she is actively studying screenwriting and storytelling in movies/serials, and writes about it in her project's blog.
Tropes are not only human archetypes, but also certain events, phenomena, and even inanimate objects that pass from movie to movie, from series to series, forming our media picture of the world.

In this article I would like to draw your attention to 7 recurring phenomena in movies that have become so familiar that we do not notice how they move from one picture to another, creating a familiar environment for us.
Big fancy house
A huge mansion with many eloquent details reflecting its inhabitants, future or former. If such a house appears in a story, it is usually one of the main characters along with the characters. And it plays a weighty role in the development of the action.

Very often it is a "stumbling block", a tidbit for which the characters fight. For example, in the book "Dutch House" by Anne Patchett and in the movie "Get the Knives. And in the first season of American Horror Story, the house itself decides who will live in it and who will not. This trope is interesting in the movie and the book "Rebecca," there it is as if he is still the personification of his deceased mistress. And in "And Fires Smolder Everywhere" the house is the main symbol of the meaningless life that the main character has built.

Writers and scriptwriters make great use of the trope of the Big Beautiful House to create an original detailed setting for their work, and it is often the house that gives the story its special flavor.
Big Bad
The same hero who makes the mess, and the rest of the characters have to clean it up. And you don't have to be Thanos or any other villain from the Marvel franchise (they are all the embodiment of this trope). It's enough to be the humble girl from Wednesday. If you know what I mean.

I especially like the title of this trope: there is a certain depth in the adjective "big" that is necessary to fully understand it. Usually the protagonist at the end of the movie engages in a struggle with this Big Evil: compositionally, this situation represents a climax, and I call it "The Battle of the Boss," as in computer games.

It's true that today's movies have gone overboard with the action and have the battle with the Big Bad almost every 10 minutes.
Noodle Accident
Something that happened in the past between the characters now affects their relationship in the present, but we don't know what it is. For example, Dominic's rift with his wife in "The White Lotus.

This kind of "incident" is very often the basis of intrigue, saying that one character is behaving strangely because something happened in his childhood, and only by the end of the story does it become clear what it is. Like Simon in The Bridgertons, for example.

What I like best about this title is the word "noodles."
Cool Car
Men love beautiful cars! And very often in movies we see a "car" that accompanies the main character in all adventures, and which "only Michael Jackson and I have".

Probably the most popular example of this trope is the movie Transformers, since in it the Cool Car not only accompanies, but is also the main character in the movie. Of course, we also see examples in all movies where the nimble protagonist catches criminals and fights evil, such as in the same "Bondiana".

The main thing is not to turn Cool Wheelbarrow into a murderously cool one, like in Stephen King's "Christina."
A School of No Studying
A very popular technique in teenage series, when the setting is school, but all the screen time the characters are not studying, but solving their personal problems. Even if at the beginning of the season the creators try to close some learning projects in the episode schedule, by the end the school is definitely just walls.

We see this in modern series like Wednesday, Sex Education, Elite, Riverdale, Very Stranger Things, and in more old-school ones like Beverly Hills 90210, Secrets of Smallville, Sabrina the Little Witch, etc.
Troubled past
A very cool technique used to introduce us to the characters.

The easiest way to explain it is through the legendary Staying Alive. First we see a bunch of main characters placed in unconventional conditions, where they have to cope with complexity together, and then we begin to discover, episode by episode, what their past was like. And it turns out that it's no coincidence that they all ended up in that place at that hour.

In addition to "Lost," this technique is well evident in the confusing "1899" and in the Russian "Call Center. The stories there are the most "miraculous" possible.
Chekhov's Gun
The trail, named after the surname of our great compatriot. In general, there are many tricks associated with Chekhov, but this one is the most famous. It goes like this: "If there's a gun hanging on the wall, it's bound to go off".

Conventionally, these are small frames, 2-3 seconds each, when we are shown some details of the plot, which then will play a decisive role. For example, the throne with the knives in "Get the Knives," the pencil in the heroine's hair in "The Method," the bookcase in "Interstellar," and of course the huge number of really shotguns and pistols that are given to the characters and we understand that for a reason. Like the revolver that Rhett Butler gave Scarlet, and the saber that Ashley left to Melanie.

Very often, when the screenwriter forgets to introduce the "gun" beforehand, we get a "piano in the bushes" feeling, saying that nothing foretold the denouement, and suddenly the hero pulls a gun out of the lady's purse, like Hermione pulls a tent out of her purse. But that's a bit of a different story.
Did you enjoy the review?

Have you noticed the use of these tropes and the unconscious association of movies/series through them?

Where else have you seen these seven techniques?