In its original form, tropes are storytelling devices meant to convey a concept to an audience. The overwhelming majority of tropes on this site are specifically that: devices that can be recreated by an aspiring author who visits this wiki. Other tropes are about identifying how the audience reacts
to an event, and are often an unintended side-effect of the use of a trope. If common enough, there are separate tropes for the same thing from two points of view. Some tropes tend to blur that line where both the characters within the story and the audience react the same way to the use of the trope, which sometimes involves a Lampshade Hanging
In this wiki you will find the use of the comment "in-universe" by someone saying "This trope was used in-universe when..." and that is where a trope more often thought of as an audience reaction
is used within the story, i.e. its fictional universe. One such use is the Invoked Trope
, where the characters actively set up the trope in advance, though that happens more often with storytelling tropes
For an example, Suspiciously Similar Substitute
is more often a fan reaction to a replacement character. The reaction is often "You're mostly the same as the previous character, but you're not the one I remember and love." The series Star Wars: The Clone Wars
has an episode where R2D2 is lost in battle and Anakin is given a new (virtually identical) droid. He ends up having the same reaction and attitude as most fans have with a replacement character.
And there is also a distinction between what is used in the story and the reasons it was used in the story. For example, Elliot was transformed
with long hair
during Grace's birthday party
in El Goonish Shive
. The in-universe reason was to get Justin
, who likes playing with hair, to agree to come. The practical storytelling reason was because he would look just like Ellen
Word of advice to prospective writers. Despite what may be often believed, even without a lampshade
, writers should be aware of the tropes they are using and how people will react to it. What separates Good Writing and Bad Writing is how much effort there is put into cleaning up the way tropes are used. Do not neglect the In-universe reasons. Give them a Hand Wave
at least. Your readers will not forgive you if you don't.
Also compare Watsonian vs. Doylist
It's also known under a variety of other names, such as In-Story, In-Series, and In-Fiction.
And here are some tropes that are separated by In-universe and Audience Reaction — Real Life
(In that order):
See also In-Universe Marketing
(a closely related phenomenon), In-Universe Examples Only
(when tropes can only have examples and wicks in-universe).
On the wiki "In-universe" (or In Universe) is also a "magic word" you can you use to mark cases of in-story use of Audience Reactions
, that don't have genuine trope equivalents. Typing this (or better yet, using it as a pothole
, since the phrase usually sounds out of place, especially when dropped in a pre-written example) will disable the in-page YMMV
notification for that bullet and its lower level bullets.note Do not abuse
this feature, or we'll be forced to do terrible things to you, whatever universe you're in.