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These are the tropes which have been handed down from the ancients. These are the tropes our forefathers gave their lives to defend. These are the tropes we use and take for granted every day, oblivious to their true significance. These... are the Tropes of Legend!
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Here is a list of the most widely-known and oft-referenced tropes we have on this entire site. If you’re new to TV Tropes, this list will provide a good basis for understanding our… erm… unique vocabulary.
On the other hand, if you’re a veteran troper and you still aren’t familiar with all of these entries, this list might prove to be quite informative.
Most of the individual mediums have their own special vocabularies and tropes – see those sections for details. A few examples from each (Heel-Face Turn, Mary Sue, etc.) have propagated beyond their home subcultures.
See also Trope Overdosed (for the equivalent in shows), Omnipresent Tropes, TV Tropes Glossary, Canonical List of Subtle Trope Distinctions, Pothole Magnet. For Tropes Of Legend by sheer numerical weight, see Overdosed Tropes.
Buffy Speak: A fouled-up explanation of something by someone intelligent enough to understand it but not articulate/mature/educated/attentive enough to describe it, usually using overly simple language construction. A bit of a self-demonstrating title for the trope.
Darker and Edgier: The tendency of shows to try to give themselves a new feel that is darker and edgier. Usually involves trying to add more angst, more violence, or more rage from the characters, and putting them into more dangerous situations.
Dead Horse Trope: A trope that has been so overdone, analyzed, and mocked that its different varieties or parodies have had to be classified and given names. Most clichés are simply Discredited Tropes.
Faux Symbolism: Inclusion of various unnecessary religious, philosophical, and historical allusions with the purpose of lending an air of sophistication to a work.
Finagle's Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Due to itself, often mis-attributed as "Murphy's Law."
Five-Man Band: A stock heroic team with five characters whose characterizations and interactions with each other fall into different, balanced, and specific roles. Variations include the Power Trio, the Four Girl Ensemble and the five-temperament version of Four-Temperament Ensemble. The five-man-version consists of (though this can be varied):
Lampshade Hanging: When a writer acknowledges to the audience that a plot event is implausible or that they are using a trope. In the wiki, frequently used as a verb; i.e., "lampshading" or "lampshaded".
MacGuffin: A physical object, the pursuit of which drives the plot; but the purpose of the object is irrelevant to the plot.
Mad Scientist: A character who exploits science for fun and profit.
Magic A Is Magic A: The "Rules of the World," a set of rules and themes that make the whole universe believable as long as they're consistent. Breaking them can destroy the audience's willingness to accept the story.
Masquerade: Weird things exist, but for some reason have to be hidden from the general public. The story thus takes place in "the real world" but with a supernatural undercurrent.
Memetic Mutation: Things (usually phrases) that are repeated and parodied everywhere, to the point where they become fads. Mutation comes in when the aspect being repeated is not representative of the series or character as a whole.
Mind Rape: A mental trauma to the point where it's similar to rape.
Mind Screw: A confusing plot so wrought with symbolism and psychological drama that it's hard to say for sure what actually happened.
Redshirts: The expendable, anonymous foot soldiers whose only purpose is to add emotional gravity to the story by being casualties in battle. Frequently killed off to show that a situation is dangerous without having to put one of the main characters at risk.
Sealed Evil in a Can: A villain/evil force is locked away to prevent his escape. Usually breaks free.
Sequelitis: The unfortunately common occurrence that a sequel fails to live up to its predecessor.
Serious Business: A frivolous or commonplace activity that all the characters on the show take more seriously than they should, and which forms the premise of the show. Sometimes extended to everyone in the characters' "world."
Shout-Out: A nod to another property that the author enjoyed.
Stable Time Loop: When an event caused by a time traveller is integral or responsible for the time travel in the first place. Most commonly, a time traveller goes back in time to try and prevent an event, but ends up inadvertently causing it instead.
Story Arc: A series of stories which gradually moves a greater story along.
Sub-Trope: A more specialized form of another trope, but which is distinct enough to be its own trope.
Subverted Trope: A story sets up a trope to happen and then yanks the rug out from under the audience by doing something with it that is different from their expectations. (Often referred to as "subverted" or "a subversion.")
Take That: Whenever a work of fiction knocks something not liked by the author.
Techno Babble: Complex or intelligent-sounding explanations meant to convey the appearance of technical depth to the story universe, but doesn't have to make any sense whatsoever.
They Fight Crime: Got interesting characters? Need something for them to do? Something they can repeat endlessly?
This Loser Is You: The tendency for shows to make their heroes whiny, idiotic so-and-so's, since that's what they think viewers sympathize best with.
Title Drop: When the name of a work is spoken only once within the work, but in a particularly epic fashion.
Too Dumb to Live: The character who puts life and limb at risk by doing things that any sane human being would know better than to do.
Tsundere: Females whose temperament runs both hot and cold.
Understatement: Saying that, for example, the tropes on this page appear a few times on TV Tropes.
Unexplained Recovery: A dead character is restored to the status quo with no explanation whatsoever.
Up to Eleven: Reach the top, and go one step beyond. As in, "on a scale of 1 to 10."
Viewers Are Morons: The attitude often taken by producers, dumbing down shows or removing more complicated story elements to appeal to a wider audience.
Villainous Breakdown: The moment when a villain suddenly snaps and loses his cool, sometimes becoming extremely pissed off and/or sometimes going crazy, even Laughing Mad. Often done when the tables have turned on his plans.
What Could Have Been: Elements the authors thought about adding to the story but ultimately never did, usually with the implication that it would have been better had they included them.
What the Hell, Hero?: A hero is called on his morally ambiguous or directly evil actions by characters in the story.
In-wiki:Purely subjective tropes, or entries that concern the wiki itself.
Darth Wiki: The wiki's Evil Twin. As indicated by its white-on-black appearance, Darth Wiki is the home of venting, complaining, and tongue-in-cheek criticism that would be out of place in the actual wiki.
Sugar Wiki: Likewise, a section for mindless gushing and fandom, which is also not acceptable in the real wiki.
Alternative Character Interpretation: A different way of looking at a character's actions which results in a distinctly different impression of their nature. When taken to extremes, or when very little information is available about a character, this can become Wild Mass Guessing.
Fanon Discontinuity: When something that is canon is, for some reason—usually for being bad, out of place, or stupid—ignored by a large portion of the fandom.
Complaining About Shows You Don't Like: This is a big no-no here. Not that you can't voice your grievances about shows you don't like, but don't suggest a trope solely for this purpose - we already have a few designated places for that.
MST3K Mantra: i.e., "It's just a show; I should really just relax." A warning not to get too invested or emotionally involved in a work of fiction. It's not the end of the world; don't take things so seriously. Just roll with things and enjoy it.
Narm: A moment that is supposed to be serious, but becomes unintentionally funny.
So Bad, It's Good: Can mean two things. 1) A work which was intentionally poorly made, in order to be humorous. 2) A work that was created to be good, but garners a fanbase due to how ridiculous it is.
Squick: Something that makes you feel disgusted and/or nauseated.
Tear Jerker: A moment in a work sad enough to lead most viewers into crying.
Trope Codifier: The example that everybody else is copying, or at least copying a copy of.