Stereotypes, Tropes, and Archetypes
What are the differences between stereotypes, tropes, and archetypes? What are they? How do writers use them? Let’s take a look at some vocabulary and how we define these terms to make sense of them for ourselves.
Stereotype (n): A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.To elaborate on this, stereotypes can be seen as sets of characteristics or behaviors that are commonly associated with one another, thus making it easier to intuit some of them if one or more is known. Stereotypes, though, are not literary. They refer to beliefs held about groups in reality, not types of characters. The literary cousin of the stereotype is the trope.
Trope (n): devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.If tropes seem a little too much like to stereotypes for comfort, that’s because, technically speaking, they are stereotypes. “A Trope is a stereotype that writers find useful in communicating with readers.” (x) However, because the word stereotype has become so stigmatized in society, we prefer to think of tropes as specific to storytelling.
You use tropes in your writing. It is nearly impossible to escape them. And that is okay.
Tropes are things that pop up repeatedly in media as cultural norms in storytelling—types of characters, settings, plot lines, etc.. Stuff like a case of mistaken identity where hilarity ensues.Tropes are culturally-based, which is what sets them apart from archetypes.
Archetype (n): a very typical example of a certain person or thing; types that fit fundamental human motifs.An archetype is a kind of character that pops up in stories all over the place. A trope is a character that puts that archetype in a cultural context.
"Stereotypes, Tropes, and Archetypes." W R I T E W O R L D. Web. 22 Aug. 2014.
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