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Trope Distinctions: A-C
Part 1 of the Canonical List of Subtle Trope Distinctions. Items are sorted alphabetically by whichever trope is alphabetically first; if you're looking for a specific one, use the "Find" or "Search" function of your Web browser.


Accidental Innuendo vs. Innocent Innuendo vs. Does This Remind You of Anything? vs. Freud Was Right

Accidental Murder vs. Murder by Mistake

  • Accidental Murder happens when someone dies, but the murderer had no intent to kill anyone, the death was purely an accident.
  • Murder by Mistake is when someone dies and the murderer had intent to kill, but kills the wrong person for whatever reason.

Accidental Nightmare Fuel vs. Nightmare Fuel:

Achilles in His Tent vs. Deus Exit Machina

  • Achilles in His Tent: The Hero/The Lancer is absent from the big fight because of a disagreement with the rest of the team. He (usually) returns in time to save the day.
  • Deus Exit Machina: The Hero/The Lancer is absent from the big fight because he's otherwise occupied (with another enemy or he's just out of pocket for the day). Misses the fight completely as often as he saves the day.

Action-Hogging Opening vs. Action Prologue

  • Action-Hogging Opening is when the out-of-plot opening sequence to a show is more action-packed than the rest of the work.
  • Action Prologue is when the first part of the work's actual plot is an action sequence.

Actor Allusion vs. Casting Gag vs. Celebrity Paradox vs. The Danza

  • An Actor Allusion references another role the actor has played via plot or discussion.
  • A Casting Gag references another role the actor has played or real-life circumstances simply via choice of actor rather than outright mention.
  • A Celebrity Paradox references the actor themselves.
  • The Danza references the actor by sharing the same name.

Adam Smith Hates Your Guts vs. Karl Marx Hates Your Guts vs. No Hero Discount

Adam Westing vs. As Himself vs. Autobiographical Role vs. Celebrity Star vs. Character as Himself vs. The Danza vs. Special Guest

  • Adam Westing: Bob the Actor makes a good living continually playing Flanderized versions of himself or his most popular character for laughs.
  • As Himself: Bob the Actor is playing himself as a (believable) main character, inserted into (believable) fictional circumstances.
  • Autobiographical Role: A non-actor is playing themselves in the biopic of their life story/events.
  • Celebrity Star: The Special Guest completely takes over the episode.
  • Character as Himself: A fictional character is credited "as Himself" for laughs or to hide a spoiler.
  • The Danza: Bob the Actor is playing a fictional character also named Bob, but it's not actually supposed to be Bob the Actor.
  • Special Guest: When a celebrity or famous figure cameos as themselves for a quick joke or shock.

Adaptation Decay vs. Bowdlerise vs. Cut-and-Paste Translation vs. They Just Didn't Care

  • Adaptation Decay happens when In-Universe new works based on previous ones feature changes that dilute the source material's content.
  • A Cut-and-Paste Translation is when entire scenes or a storyline are changed from the original source in a "cut and paste" manner.
  • Bowdlerise is about either, and means to censor potentially offensive content because of Media Watchdogs.
  • They Just Didn't Care is when there was an obvious lack of care going into making a product.

Adaptation Distillation vs. Pragmatic Adaptation vs. Woolseyism

  • A Pragmatic Adaptation is when outright and necessary changes are made to the source material.
  • Adaptation Distillation is when outright changes to the source material aren't made, but the complexity of the source is simplified/streamlined in a successful way.
  • A Woolseyism is when outright but unnecessary changes are made to the source material, but those changes are good in their own right, if not better than the original. Also, it applies to translations only, not to adaptations from one medium to another within the same language.

Adventure Towns vs. City of Adventure

Affably Evil vs. Faux Affably Evil vs. Laughably Evil vs. Wicked Cultured

  • Affably Evil refers to villains who are genuinely kind, jovial, and friendly. If they didn't want to rule the world, they'd make a good friend.
  • Faux Affably Evil characters are villains who enjoy pretending to be Affably Evil, but are not actually.
  • Laughably Evil characters are villains who aren't trying to be funny, but viewers like to laugh at anyway.
  • Wicked Cultured characters are villains who are intellectual and, well, cultured.

Agent Peacock Vs. Real Men Wear Pink

  • Agent Peacock refers to a camp/effeminate male character who is badass at least in part because they are effeminate/camp.
  • Real Men Wear Pink refers to a manly character who has at least one feminine hobby.

Airborne Aircraft Carrier vs. The Battlestar vs. The Mothership

The Alcatraz vs. Cardboard Prison vs. Gilded Cage vs. Luxury Prison Suite vs. Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All vs. Play-Along Prisoner

  • The Alcatraz is a prison known for extremely high security and for being nigh-impossible to break out of; to do so would take exceptional effort and luck.
  • A Cardboard Prison is the polar opposite of The Alcatraz; it is lightly guarded and/or poorly designed and thus incredibly easy to break out of.
  • A Gilded Cage is when a character is being held prisoner in a place akin to a luxurious vacation spot, where the prisoner's needs are lavishly taken care of.
  • A Luxury Prison Suite is a standard prison where the prisoner is able to secure extensive privileges by bribing or doing favors for the guards and/or the prison management.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All is when someone is imprisoned but is able to execute schemes and maneuvers with little hindrance from imprisonment.
  • A Play-Along Prisoner could, at any point, escape from the prison, but is waiting for a particularly opportune moment, for whatever reason.

Alien Non-Interference Clause vs. Obstructive Code of Conduct

All Myths Are True vs. Crossover Cosmology vs. Fantasy Kitchen Sink vs. World of Weirdness

  • All Myths Are True means any myths in-universe are verbatim or slightly garbled accounts of actual past events (or, in the case of prophecies, future events).
  • Crossover Cosmology is about the Fridge Logic inherent when a setting is so chock full of different religions (which are all true) that their mutual exclusivity becomes problematic.
  • A Fantasy Kitchen Sink is a different matter; nearly every mythological idea or being from our world is real and lives in the story's universe — often with vastly different and contradictory origin myths. This can even include things that are more sci-fi than mythological (stuff like aliens, other dimensions, or super-science).
  • World of Weirdness goes one step further and dictates that basically everything within the realm of fiction itself is fair game, so you get things like Godzilla fighting Al Bundy over the keys to the DeLorean to get the Deathly Hallows from the trunk, all while Grey aliens watch with fiendish glee.

All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game" vs. First Episode Spoiler vs. It Was His Sled vs. Late Arrival Spoiler

  • It Was His Sled refers to any work which features a Twist Ending that was truly shocking when it was first presented, but over time lost its ability to surprise because it gets talked about too much.
  • All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game" is a specific case of this which refers to works which are hardly known for anything but their twist endings.
  • First Episode Spoiler: It's an event that starts the series, and as such is impossible to explain the series without spoiling it.
  • Late Arrival Spoiler is a fandom-specific variety of this in which promotional material for new installments of a franchise give away major plot developments of past installments, assuming that fans are already familiar with them.

Allegedly Free Game vs. Bribing Your Way to Victory vs. Real Money Trade vs. Revenue Enhancing Devices

  • An Allegedly Free Game is a free game that cannot be fully experienced without purchasing extra features, whether due to pricey DLC or unlockables or because necessary features are kept away from free users.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory is where, in any game (free or not), you can get additional but not necessary perks by paying for them.
  • Real Money Trade is where third parties buy or sell in-game items, currencies, etc. without the permission and often against the wishes of the game's developers.
  • Revenue Enhancing Devices are "extras" you can buy separately from the core game, which may or may not be required to experience all the content or be competitive.

The Alliance vs. The Empire vs. The Federation vs. Fictional United Nations vs. La Résistance

  • The Federation is a group of strong nations that work together for their own mutual benefit; a powerful enemy usually isn't necessary.
  • The Empire is The Federation's Evil Counterpart: a conglomeration of nations in which one powerful nation has absorbed the others by force; said nation is usually led by a powerful demagogue.
  • La Résistance is a small group that tries to foment rebellion against The Empire or corruption in one nation.
  • The Alliance is the evolution of La Resistance: a group of small nations that join together for their own mutual benefit, usually to stand up against The Empire.
  • The Fictional United Nations is halfway between The Federation and The Alliance. It's where The Alliance has a formal governing body but, unlike The Federation, is not treated as a single state and usually does not have a military of its own. It can also contain both good guys and bad guys.

Alternate Continuity vs. Alternate Timeline vs. Alternate History vs. Continuity Reboot

Alternate Universe vs. Another Dimension

  • An Alternate Universe is another universe that exists parallel to our own, in which some events happened differently.
  • Another Dimension is a place that doesn't resemble our world. It may have different laws of physics, for example.

Always a Bigger Fish vs. Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work vs Villainous Rescue

  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work is about a villain who shows up to Shoot the Dog or otherwise do something else that the heroes are averse to doing, emphasizing the evilness of the villains while keeping the good guys' hands clean.
  • Villainous Rescue is the Villain saving the Hero in a classical fashion; there's nothing evil about the act itself, just the oddity in who did it. What happens after is up for grabs.
  • Always a Bigger Fish is more closely related to Deus ex Machina. The forces involved, while they have been obstacles to the protagonists in the past, are indiscriminate enough in their malice that they'll go after whatever is currently menacing the protagonists.

Ambiguously Gay vs. But Not Too Gay vs. Have I Mentioned I am Gay? vs. Hide Your Lesbians vs. Get Back in the Closet

  • Ambiguously Gay is when a character displays stereotypical mannerisms associated with gays/lesbians, but it is unclear if they are actually gay or not and no one will discuss it.
  • But Not Too Gay is when characters are gay and acknowledged as such but when it comes to their love lives, they will show very little affection toward their partners or none at all.
  • Have I Mentioned I am Gay? is when characters are openly gay, but never get any sort of romance and their sexuality is basically an Informed Attribute.
  • Hide Your Lesbians is where characters can be seen as either gay or straight, and there usually is subtext suggesting the character may be gay but this will never ever be addressed.
  • Get Back in the Closet is when gay affection and love scenes are shown but are given higher ratings than that of heterosexual affection/love scenes, no matter how tame they are in comparison.

Amnesia Danger vs. Amnesiac Liar vs. Criminal Amnesiac vs. Easy Amnesia vs. Forgot the Call vs. Identity Amnesia vs. Laser-Guided Amnesia

  • Amnesia Danger is when a character has amnesia and is in a situation which would be trivially easy to handle if he could remember how to deal with it, but is extremely dangerous because he can't.
  • Amnesiac Liar is when a character lies, then has amnesia and is told the lie and accepts it as the truth.
  • Criminal Amnesiac is when a character has amnesia and is convinced that he is on the antagonist's side.
  • Easy Amnesia is an amnesia that was easily induced, for the sake of the plot, and sometimes can be reversed just as easily with no lasting effects.
  • Forgot the Call is when a hero of an epic adventure gets amnesia and ends up living a mundane life for a while.
  • Identity Amnesia is when the character having amnesia thinks they are a totally different person and has significant changes in his personality.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia is conveniently specific amnesia in which a character forgets only what is necessary for the plot.

Amusing Alien vs. Funny Foreigner

  • An Amusing Alien is an otherworldly character (relative to the rest of the cast) who's funny by any number of means.
  • A Funny Foreigner is a character of the same race/species as the rest of the cast who entertains the audience with their ignorance and odd behavior.

Anachronic Order vs. Meanwhile, in the Future

  • Anachronic Order: Events of the same story are presented in an order different from how they occurred in-story.
  • Meanwhile, in the Future: Events of different stories occurring at different times are presented alternatingly, as if they occurred simultaneously.

Ancient Conspiracy vs. The Masquerade

And This Is for... vs. Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking vs. Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick

Anti-Magic vs. Counterspell vs. No Sell vs. Power Nullifier

  • Anti-Magic is an ability or power to cancel/negate the powers of others.
  • Counterspell is a specific spell that stops another spell while it's being cast.
  • Power Nullifier is a tool, such as handcuffs or a room, that can negate the powers of the one wearing it.
  • No Sell is when someone is completely immune to a power or ability and thus can ignore it. The power works fine otherwise.

Anyone Can Die vs. Characters Dropping Like Flies vs. Kill 'em All vs. Rocks Fall Everybody Dies vs. Total Party Kill

  • Anyone Can Die means that no one in the cast is safe from dying, if/when called for by the plot.
  • Characters Dropping Like Flies means that a large number of named characters (not necessarily the main characters) will die.
  • Kill 'em All means that most of the story's main characters will probably die at some point.
  • Rocks Fall Everybody Dies: Same as above, but where the entire main cast dies in a tragic accident, all at the same time.
  • Total Party Kill: Same as above, except that the main characters are directly responsible for their own death.

Applied Phlebotinum vs. Green Rocks vs. Single Phlebotinum Limit vs. Magnetic Plot Device vs. Mineral MacGuffin vs. Minovsky Physics vs. Unobtainium

Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving vs. Chew Out Fake Out

  • Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving is when a character is not punished for his various misdeeds because he ended up doing something very heroic.
  • Chew Out Fake Out is when a character is not punished because his superior thinks his actions were hilarious.

Artifact of Death vs. Artifact of Doom

Ascended Extra vs. Breakout Character vs. Ensemble Darkhorse

  • Ascended Extra is where a character of relatively minor consequence is given more lines, maybe even a name and a Day in the Limelight.
  • An Ensemble Darkhorse is when a minor character is unexpectedly popular, sometimes moreso than the rest of the cast.
  • Breakout Character is when the writers notice the existence of an Ensemble Darkhorse and have said character become more important. This doesn't happen to every Ensemble Darkhorse, however: sometimes the writers don't notice or care about his/her existence. Also, Breakout Character often implies that the character comes to dominate the show, rather than just become as important as other main characters.

Ascended Fanboy vs. Audience Surrogate vs. Escapist Character vs. The Everyman vs. This Loser Is You vs. Unfazed Everyman vs. Promoted Fanboy

Ascended Meme vs. Meme Acknowledgment

Asian and Nerdy vs. Bollywood Nerd

Both are about intelligent and nerdy characters of Asian descent.

Ass Pull vs. Deus ex Machina vs. Diabolus ex Machina

  • An Asspull is a plot twist that's so poorly set up, it feels like the writer just pulled something out of their ass.
  • A Deus ex Machina is a resolution to a seemingly impossible situation that comes out of nowhere; it can still be set up with Chekhov's Gun and feel forced if too little attention is given to the set up.
  • Diabolus ex Machina is a Deus ex Machina that's there to make things worse.

Atomic F-Bomb vs. Cluster F-Bomb vs. Precision F-Strike

  • An Atomic F-Bomb is a very loud and sudden curse that shows extreme anger and/or frustration.
  • A Cluster F-Bomb is any work that's a general-purpose hotbed of foul language, or when a character has one or more pieces of dialogue that includes a lot of cursing.
  • A Precision F-Strike is a strategically placed and/or timed curse that adds extra emotional impact to a piece of dialogue, especially when such language is out of the ordinary.

Author Appeal vs. Playing To The Fetishes

  • Author Appeal is when the creator has a specific fetish and includes it in a work for personal satisfaction.
  • Playing To The Fetishes is when the author does not have the specific fetish but includes it in a work to appeal to a niche demographic.

Author Avatar vs. Descended Creator

  • An Author Avatar is a character who is based on the author, although may have a different name and appearance. The Author Avatar is a character like any other, and thus doesn't have Author Powers or is aware that s/he is inside a fictional story.
  • A Descended Creator is meant to literally be the creator of a work interacting with it. Unlike Author Avatar, this is almost always explicit. A Descended Creator will usually be omnipotent within the confines of the work itself.

Author Catchphrase vs. Catch Phrase

  • An Author Catchphrase is a quote or description reused across different characters in different works, where the only common aspect is the author/actor/creator of those works.
  • A Catch Phrase is a quote or description reused by the same character in a single work or series.

Author Filibuster vs. Author Tract vs. Writer on Board vs. Character Filibuster

  • Writer on Board is the most general term for when an author has something that doesn't make sense happening for their own purposes (usually an expression of political views).
  • Author Filibuster takes this one step further by actually stopping the plot dead in its tracks just to preach this particular point.
  • Character Filibuster is an Author Filibuster put in a character's mouth rather than prose.
  • Author Tract refers to a work whose entire purpose is to promote the author's viewpoint.

Averted Trope vs. Lampshade Hanging Vs. Justified Trope vs. Subverted Trope vs. Double Subversion vs. Zig-Zagging Trope vs. Inverted Trope

  • An Averted Trope is when no comment is made; the characters simply do not use, approach or address it. The trope only exists in the mind of the individual viewer.
  • Lampshade Hanging is when a work points out the use of a trope, but still uses it straight.
  • A Justified Trope is one where the trope occurs, but there is an in-universe reason for it.
  • A Subverted Trope is when it appears as if a trope is going to be used, but something else happens instead.
  • Double Subversion happens when a subverted trope actually ends up being used.
  • A Zig-Zagging Trope is when a trope gets subverted, then double subverted, then re-subverted; the process can possibly repeat itself.
  • An Inverted Trope is when the exact opposite of a trope is used. Sometimes lampshaded, sometimes not.

Author Appeal vs. Fanservice vs. Fetish Fuel vs. Pandering to the Base

  • Author Appeal is designed to satisfy a particular interest the author has; often a fetish, but not always.
  • With Fanservice, the intention is to please the audience.
  • Fetish Fuel is essentially Fanservice of the unintentional variety; the material isn't necessarily designed to appeal to anyone's kink, but it does, all the same.
  • Pandering to the Base is when the fans are intentionally given non-sexual treats.

Awesome, but Impractical vs. Cool, but Inefficient vs. Too Awesome to Use vs. Useless Useful Spell

  • Cool, but Inefficient: something appears advanced and exotic but isn't superior to the mundane alternative.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: something that really is superior, but has an extra cost, side effect or drawback that limits its long-term usefulness.
  • Too Awesome to Use: something that is both superior and useful, but its rarity strongly encourages you to save it for later so you end up never using it.
  • Useless Useful Spell: something only works when you don't need it, regardless of any value.

Ax-Crazy vs. Blood Knight vs. Psycho for Hire

  • Ax-Crazy describes a character that is violently unstable, and dangerous to anyone they come by.
  • Blood Knight is a character who greatly enjoys fighting, and some of them greatly enjoy the violence part.
  • A Psycho for Hire is someone that makes a career out of something that involves hurting people, largely so they can get to hurt people. Often overlaps with Ax-Crazy, with the former leading the character to become the latter.

Back for the Dead vs. Bus Crash vs. Character Outlives Actor vs. Dropped a Bridge on Him vs. McLeaned vs. Put on a Bus vs. Put on a Bus to Hell vs. Written-In Absence

  • Being Put on a Bus is when a character leaves the show but has plenty of opportunity for a return; it is just another bus ride back into town.
  • Being Put on a Bus to Hell is where being Put on a Bus was done in a particularly mean-spirited manner for the character.
  • A Bus Crash happens after a long absence, the character is killed offscreen.
  • Character Outlives Actor happens when the actor playing a character dies (usually after being Put on a Bus), but the character is not killed off- he is alive, just never shown on screen anymore.
  • Back for the Dead takes place when a character who had been Put on a Bus returns to the show and is then killed off.
  • McLeaned is when the actor portraying the character decides to leave and in their final/farewell episode the character is killed, in theory preventing a return appearance.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him is when a character is killed off in a particularly mean-spirited manner.
  • Written-In Absence is a casual remark saying that certain characters are not going to be around for this adventure, just to keep the party smaller.

Back Stab vs In the Back

  • Back Stab refers to the gameplay mechanic of doing extra damage when taking the victim by surprise.
  • In the Back is the dramatic usage of a sneak attack.

Bad Ass Back vs. Offhand Backhand

  • A Bad Ass Back belongs to anyone who can make a successful attack without looking, and can be done in premeditated combat.
  • An Offhand Backhand happens when the person who gets backhanded had thought that the person who backhanded him didn't know he was there.

Badass Bookworm vs. Genius Bruiser

Badass Bystander vs. Heroic Bystander

  • A Badass Bystander is a badass who happens to be there when bad things happen and decides to intervene.
  • A Heroic Bystander is a regular schmoe who doesn't have the power to deal with a bad situation, but puts himself in danger anyway, inspiring others.

Badass Longcoat vs. Conspicuous Trenchcoat vs. Trenchcoat Brigade

  • Badass Longcoat is about the article of clothing (including trench coats, dusters, greatcoats, Inverness capes, and other knee-length-or-longer coats), worn unbuttoned to make its wearer look cool. The way these coats flare and billow around the wearer is an essential part of the trope.
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat is about the article of clothing, worn buttoned to make its wearer blend in (though it often has the opposite effect, or it logically should).
  • Trenchcoat Brigade is about a stock character. Wearing a trench coat is one of their defining traits, but hardly the most important.

The Bad Guy Wins vs. Downer Ending vs. Shoot the Shaggy Dog

Bad Habits vs. Sinister Minister

  • Bad Habits is about a morally dubious character, usually a villain, posing as clergy.
  • Sinister Minister is about a villainous character who is genuinely an ordained or appointed clergy member.

Bara Genre vs. Yaoi

  • Both are stories about gay male relationships.
    • Yaoi is usually written by women for women; characters tend to be bishounen and romantic connections are emphasized. Sexual content, when present, tends to not be all that explicit.
    • Bara Genre is usually written for gay men and (usually) by gay men; characters tend to fit the Manly Gay mold, and sexual content is more frequent and more explicit.

Bare-Fisted Monk vs. Good Old Fisticuffs

  • Bare-Fisted Monk is when a character is really, really good at barehand fighting and can take on and defeat armed melee fighters.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs is when someone with no martial arts or fighting training beats the crap out of skilled opponent(s) just by throwing punches...it's essentially a bar brawler taking on and beating an MMA fighter.

Base Breaker vs. Broken Base

Bat Deduction vs. Conviction by Contradiction vs. Conviction by Counterfactual Clue vs. Eureka Moment

  • Bat Deduction: Conclusions about what happened based on insufficient evidence are treated as justified.
  • Conviction by Contradiction: Conclusion that someone is guilty based on a flaw in their alibi is treated as justified.
  • Conviction by Counterfactual Clue: Conclusion that someone is guilty based on circumstantial evidence from false premises is treated as justified.
  • Eureka Moment: Conclusions about what happened are inspired by completely unrelated events.

Batman Gambit vs. Gambit Pileup vs. Xanatos Gambit vs. Gambit Roulette vs. Xanatos Speed Chess

Batman Gambit vs. Cloning Gambit vs. Fake Twin Gambit vs. Genghis Gambit vs. Lysistrata Gambit vs. Memory Gambit vs. Party Scheduling Gambit vs. Poison and Cure Gambit vs. The Uriah Gambit vs. Wounded Gazelle Gambit vs. Xanatos Gambit vs. Zero Approval Gambit

  • A Batman Gambit is a plan designed to predict the opponent's moves based on the opponent's flaws.
  • A Cloning Gambit is a scheme wherein a disposable clone is used to believably fake the mastermind's death.
  • A Fake Twin Gambit is when a character pretends to be his/her own, nonexistent identical twin, for whatever reason.
  • A Genghis Gambit is a subtrope of Zero Approval Gambit in which someone seeking to unite a group of enemies creates a common enemy for all the factions to fight against.
  • A Lysistrata Gambit is when a woman threatens to withhold sex from a man (usually her husband) unless he does what she wants him to do.
  • A Memory Gambit is a plan which calls for a character to sacrifice his/her memories, with a specific trigger to get them back when it's convenient or advantageous to do so.
  • A Party Scheduling Gambit is when character A tries to sabotage character B's party by throwing a bigger party at the same time.
  • A Poison and Cure Gambit is when a villain releases a poison and then tries to sell the antidote.
  • The Uriah Gambit is a plan for a character to get rid of an inconvenient or adversarial underling by giving him an assignment that's sure to get him killed.
  • A Wounded Gazelle Gambit is when character A hurts him/herself, then frames character B for the act to get sympathy from character C.
  • A Xanatos Gambit is a plan that is designed to pay off for the planner regardless of whether it "succeeds" or "fails". The planner benefits regardless of the outcome.
  • A Zero Approval Gambit is a plan in which a character sacrifices his reputation/integrity/honor in order to achieve a long-term goal.

The Battle Didn't Count vs. Heads I Win, Tails You Lose vs. Hopeless Boss Fight vs. I Let You Win

Beautiful All Along vs. She Cleans Up Nicely vs. She Is All Grown Up

  • Beautiful All Along refers to when a character previously thought to be homely is suddenly shown in such a light as to make it apparent that she is actually quite attractive.
  • With She Cleans Up Nicely, it is not necessary that the character be thought of as homely; it simply refers to when a character who is usually depicted in a normal fashion is suddenly made to appear as glamorous as possible.
  • She Is All Grown Up occurs when a child character returns after an absence and, thanks to growing up, has become handsome/beautiful in the eyes of those who knew him/her back in the day.

Be Careful What You Wish For vs. Wanting Is Better Than Having

  • Be Careful What You Wish For: A character wants something, and has it granted by a wish. Unforseen consequences cause him to later regret making the wish.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: A character wants something and eventually achieves it. Disappointment sets in when reality fails to live up to the expectations.

Become a Real Boy vs. Pinocchio Syndrome

  • Become a Real Boy: Character wants to become more human, to understand what that means without actually giving up any of their gifts. Usually achieved through character building event or quest.
  • Pinocchio Syndrome: Character wants to become fully human, even (or occasionally especially) if it means giving up all their special abilities. I Just Want to Be Normal for non- or partial-humans. Usually achieved via Applied Phlebotinum or other instant change devices.

Bellisario's Maxim vs. MST3K Mantra

  • Both are about a certain level of forgiveness from the fans when watching a compelling story.
    • The MST3K Mantra is a caution against turning something into Serious Business. It is about the simple enjoyment of any work of fiction.
    • Bellisario's Maxim is from a more technical standpoint, it is assuming that a group of 10 writers can't squeeze in enough research to placate the millions of critical viewers. Also, they can't be expected to exorcise every single Plot Hole from a story (especially on a weekly basis).

Beneath the Mask vs A Darker Me vs GIFT vs Hidden Depths

  • These are psychological-personality oriented tropes that explain why first impressions can be misleading, and suggest situations where the audience's perception of a character might change. Tie in with Index with a Heart of Gold and More than Meets the Eye tropes.
  • Beneath the Mask states that people often hide how they really are and how they really feel about things because they are scared of what others might think of them or what punishment they could receive. Both power and anonymity remove said fears and show how a person really is. This trope also states that this hidden self is sometimes hidden even from ourselves. The hidden qualities might be anything, good, bad, or subjectively ugly, that the character is afraid to show.
  • A Darker Me is a subtrope of Beneath the Mask where the hidden self isn't radically different, only Darker and Edgier and/or less inhibited.
  • GIFT is a theory that tries to explain the antisocial behaviour of people on the Internet. This trope states that anonymity corrupts people that are otherwise normally nice, making them act like jerks, as opposed to Beneath the Mask that states that anonymity doesn't corrupt but only reveals what was already there.
  • Hidden Depths: This trope is about hidden skills and hidden backstory rather than about personality, though it may well result in the audience's perception of the character changing.

Better by a Different Name vs. Follow the Leader vs. Recycled In SPACE

  • Follow the Leader attempts to cash in on a popular work by using a similar premise and appealing to the same audience, but doesn't copy the work directly.
  • Better by a Different Name does copy the work directly, featuring similar characters and a very similar plot.
  • Recycled In SPACE copies the premise and characters, but puts a spin on it by adding a gimmick of some sort.

Better Than Canon vs. Fix Fic

  • Better Than Canon is when fanon is perceived to be better than canon, and start ignoring and rewriting the latter.
  • Fix Fic is an attempt by an author to fix perceived shortcomings in previous works. These may be fanfics, but they can also be canonical.

Beyond the Impossible vs. Serial Escalation vs. Up to Eleven

BFG vs. Hand Cannon

  • A BFG is a particularly large and unwieldy gun.
  • A Hand Cannon is a very large pistol, but not that huge.

Big Bad Duumvirate vs. Big Bad Ensemble

Big Damn Heroes vs. The Cavalry

Big "NO!" vs. Squick

  • A Big "NO!" is a verbal response to something that upsets you.
  • Squick is a physical reaction you have to something that unsettles you.

Bigger Bad vs. The Man Behind the Man

  • Bigger Bad is when there is a more powerful presence than the Big Bad in the story, but is largely disconnected from the main events as a whole.
  • The Man Behind the Man is when the supposed Big Bad is acutally taking order from someone else behind the scenes.

Bit Part Bad Guys vs. Mooks

Both of these are about small-time villains.

Bittersweet Ending vs. Earn Your Happy Ending vs. Pyrrhic Victory

  • A Bittersweet Ending is when the story's resolution is in the hero or heroes' favor, but at great cost — in other words, a happy ending with little or no actual happiness to it.
  • A Pyrrhic Victory is a battle with a Bittersweet Ending; it can occur at any point in a story.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending is when the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism is very carefully balanced — specifically, when a happy (or at least idealistic) ending is reached despite a significant portion of the story being on the cynical end.
    Note that these can and often do overlap.

Black Comedy vs. Gallows Humor

  • Black Comedy is a form of humor in which serious subjects are used as a source of comedy.
  • Gallows Humor is a form of Black Comedy in which the jokes are made from the perspective of the victim.

Black Eyes of Evil vs. Black Eyes of Crazy

Black Sheep Hit vs. Creator Backlash vs. Magnum Opus Dissonance vs. Old Shame

  • Black Sheep Hit: Musician has a big hit that is far removed from their usual style.
  • Creator Backlash: Creator detests their work despite its popularity.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: The work the creator considers their most important one is overshadowed by their "lesser" works.
  • Old Shame: Creator likes to pretend a certain work by them didn't exist.

Bland-Name Product vs. Fictional Counterpart

Blessed with Suck vs. Cursed with Awesome

  • Blessed with Suck is when you have an awesome power, but it comes with tons of drawbacks.
  • Cursed with Awesome is when you have a relatively sucky power, but it gets you good advantages.

"Blind Idiot" Translation vs. Either World Domination or Something about Bananas vs. My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels vs. Translation Train Wreck:

  • In My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels, Alice doesn't speak Tropish very well, so she says something hilarious and nonsensical like "My hovercraft is full of eels."
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation is when Alice says something perfectly sensible in Tropish like "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." Then Bob, who doesn't speak Tropish very well, translates it into something hilarious and nonsensical like "The vodka is good but the meat is rotten."
  • In Either World Domination or Something about Bananas, the above happens but instead of Bob translating it badly, he manages to narrow it down to two options: either "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" or "The spirit is willing but the flesh is full of eels."
  • Translation Train Wreck is when a translation in Real Life is so mangled that the result is gibberish, usually the result of the translators not actually speaking any of the language they're translating to.

Bokukko vs. The Lad-ette vs. Shorttank vs. Tomboy

  • A Tomboy is the supertrope to all of these.
  • A Bokukko is a girl's using male pronouns; how boyish/girly she is is not important. This trope can only occur in a work written in a language which distinguishes first-person pronouns by gender.
  • A Shorttank is a more sporty tomboy where the boyish qualities outweigh the feminine qualities; they often wear pants or shorts with a tank top.
  • The Lad-ette is the girl who swears, drinks and arm-wrestles with the best of the guys.

Bond One-Liner vs. Quip to Black vs. Pre Ass Kicking One Liner vs. Pre-Mortem One-Liner

Boobs of Steel vs. Buxom Is Better vs. Gag Boobs vs. Most Common Superpower

  • Boobs of Steel is when the strongest female fighter has the large breasts in a team or the whole work.
  • Buxom Is Better is when the female character is attractive to other characters because she has large breasts or is larger than other females in the work.
  • Gag Boobs are when a woman's large breasts are used as a sight gag or other comedic purpose.
  • Most Common Superpower is the tendency for just about every female superhero in the western superhero genre to have large breasts.

Bring My Brown Pants vs. No Dead Body Poops vs. Potty Emergency vs. Potty Failure

  • No Dead Body Poops refers to the fact that people will wet or soil themselves upon death or serious injury.
  • When a character has a Bring My Brown Pants moment, it's because something scared him so badly he wet or soiled himself in pure fright.
  • A character having a Potty Emergency is in desperate need of a toilet, but has not yet lost control.
  • A character who suffers Potty Failure was in desperate need of a toilet, but has lost control.

Brainless Beauty vs. Dumb Blonde

Bratty Half-Pint vs. Kid-Appeal Character vs. Tagalong Kid vs. Token Mini-Moe

  • A Bratty Half-Pint is that kid who is constantly finding trouble because they want to be a part of the team.
  • A Kid-Appeal Character (formerly the Bumblebee) is more of a marketing ploy, but the character can actually be a part of the team, usually the inexperienced one with youthful energy.
  • The Tagalong Kid is a little kid watching the heroism of the team with excitement.
  • The Token Mini-Moe is a kid who is usually part of the team, but mostly exists to provide moe appeal.

Breaking the Fourth Wall vs. Fourth Wall vs. Medium Awareness vs. No Fourth Wall vs. Painting the Medium

  • The Fourth Wall is the metaphorical invisible wall between the characters in a story and the audience. It's the default state of most fiction that the characters are unaware that they're characters in a fictional story.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall is when characters speak to (or in some way acknowledge the existence of) the audience or the author, thereby acknowledging their own fictionality.
  • Medium Awareness is when characters notice the conventions of the storytelling medium.
  • No Fourth Wall describes fiction where the characters break the Fourth Wall all the time.
  • Painting the Medium is when the author plays with the conventions of a storytelling medium in order to convey additional information to the audience.

Break Them by Talking vs. Hannibal Lecture vs. "The Reason You Suck" Speech

  • Break Them by Talking means any situation where one character tries to break another's will by claiming uncomfortable things that the other can't deny.
    • Hannibal Lecture is a subtrope in which a character being interrogated turns the tables on the interrogator with psychological manipulation.
  • A "The Reason You Suck" Speech generally involves more of a reminder of everything that is out in the open, and does not necessarily have a tactical or strategic purpose. (If it does, it's probably also an instance of Break Them by Talking at the same time.) It can even be done between people that are supposed to be friends or allies.

Brick Joke vs. Chekhov's Gag

  • Chekhov's Gag: About humor: a joke is set up, pays off, and is forgotten by the viewer, but then much later pays off yet again.
    • Example: Family Guy - In a cutaway about random Discovery channel specials, Peter watches an Animal Documentary-esque program about the hunting rituals of fire engines. Later on, at the very end of the episode, a feral fire engine ends up on their lawn for another gag. Basically a call-back gag.
  • Brick Joke: Not solely about humor. Plot related. A minor, insignificant, or seemingly concluded event occurs, and the viewer is meant to think it over and done with. The event then recurs much later on to effect the plot in an unexpected way. In some ways, it is actually a Call Back with severe plot significance.
    • Example: Early in the plot, John Doe steals something insignificant as a show to the audience of how much of a rogue he is, and escapes the police. Later on he is shot, and it's revealed he never got around to taking the thing out his pocket, so the bullet ricocheted off of it, saving his life.

Broken Aesop vs. Clueless Aesop vs. Family-Unfriendly Aesop vs. Lost Aesop

  • The message of a Broken Aesop is clear, but it just isn't supported by the actual events of the story.
  • A Clueless Aesop is straightforward and plain, but it fails because of how poorly the writers handle the issues being presented.
  • In a Family-Unfriendly Aesop, the message is questionable in and of itself.
  • A Lost Aesop is a moral that is presented in so confusing and contradictory a fashion that it is unclear exactly what the message is supposed to be.

Broken Base vs. Fan Dumb vs. They Changed It, Now It Sucks vs. Unpleasable Fanbase

  • Broken Base is when the fans of a work are heavily divided in their own opinions, to the point of having a Flame War on just about anything.
  • Fan Dumb is the critical fan who can end up being an annoyance because they are so set on their opinions.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks is about the fans being quick to judge a change in the source material as "Ruined FOREVER!"
  • Unpleasable Fanbase can cover all of the above, but is about how any effort to please the fans will fail because of differing desires.

Buffyspeak vs. Totally Radical

  • Totally Radical is a genuine attempt by the writers (or a character) to use modern (or period) slang, but comes off as fake because it is from the wrong period, or otherwise misused.
  • Buffyspeak is a writer avoiding the first trope by using made-up speech patterns that sound plausible but aren't an actual attempt to use Real Life slang.

Bulletproof Human Shield vs. Human Shield

  • Bulletproof Human Shield is when a character grabs another person to block or absorb incoming gunfire, and doesn't care if the victim gets killed in the process.
  • Human Shield is when a character (usually a villain) grabs another person to stop his attackers from opening fire, for fear of hitting the victim.

Bullet Time vs. Super Reflexes

  • Bullet Time is a visual effect to show that a character's senses are so heightened that he can react to things as if they were in slow-motion.
  • Super Reflexes is a Stock Superpower where a character can react to situations faster than normal; it may be depicted (visually) with Bullet Time, Slow Motion, or some other effect.

Bullying a Dragon vs. Do Not Taunt Cthulhu vs. Mugging the Monster vs. Underestimating Badassery

  • Bullying a Dragon is about knowingly picking on a superpowered person, despite or because of the fact that they have super powers, often ones that can kill you.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu is when you pick on a superpowered person and they respond by curbstomping you.
  • Mugging the Monster is when a criminal or otherwise bad person doesn't realize that they are picking on a superpowered person.
  • Underestimating Badassery is when a criminal or otherwise bad person believes they have some advantage that lets them believe they can get away with picking on a superpowered person.

Bunny-Ears Lawyer vs. Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass vs. Let's Get Dangerous vs. Obfuscating Stupidity vs. Obfuscating Insanity vs. Crazy Awesome

But I Can't Be Pregnant! vs. But We Used a Condom vs. Miss Conception vs. Surprise Pregnancy

  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Pregnancy occurs despite biological factors that should've made it impossible (age, injury, differing species.)
  • But We Used a Condom: Pregnancy occurs despite the use of birth control (which may or may not have been used correctly)
  • Miss Conception: Pregnancy occurs, with the woman either through ignorance or belief in Old Wives Tales, being unaware that she could get pregnant under certain conditions.
  • Surprise Pregnancy: Pregnancy and birth occur despite the woman being unaware (truly or willfully) that she was pregnant at all.

But Not Too Evil vs. Harmless Villain vs. Poke the Poodle

  • But Not Too Evil is a villain that Moral Guardians complain about because he is seen as "too evil" for the work he's in. He is sometimes toned down as a result of the complaints and sometimes not.
  • A Harmless Villain is an antagonist that was never intended to be a serious threat; they're most often found in funny shows and as comic relief if there is a more evil/harmful villain.
  • Poke the Poodle is an "evil" action that's not really all that serious. A Harmless Villain can poke the poodle as a joke, but sometimes something a serious villain does fails at looking evil and is also poodle-poking.

Butt Monkey vs. The Chew Toy vs. Cosmic Plaything vs. The Woobie

Call Back vs. Continuity Nod vs. Mythology Gag

  • A Call Back is a reference to the past of the characters in the scene that does influence their thoughts or actions in the current plot.
  • A Continuity Nod is a reference to the past of the characters in the scene that doesn't affect the current plot.
  • A Mythology Gag is a reference to some aspect of the universe or an earlier adaptation, but isn't a part of the past of the characters in the scene.

The Call Knows Where You Live vs. The Villain Knows Where You Live

Calvinball vs. Gretzky Has the Ball vs. New Rules as the Plot Demands vs. Unnecessary Roughness

  • Calvinball is when a game doesn't have any rules or the rules are deliberately changed from session to session, except for maybe one or two consistent rules purely to identify the game as itself (for example, Calvinball's One Hard Rule is "Calvinball must never be played the same way twice")
  • Gretzky Has the Ball is when the rules of real life sports or games are present erroneously (either by the character or just the work).
  • New Rules as the Plot Demands is when a game that exists in-series operates in a non-nonsensical, impossible, or self-contradictory way. There are presumed to be rules, but what those might be is completely lost on the viewer.
  • Unnecessary Roughness is when the players are shown to be violent in a way that would be against the rules in Real Life.

Campbell Country vs. Lovecraft Country

Camp Straight vs. The Dandy

  • A Camp Straight has pretty much all of the traits of the Camp Gay except for the homosexuality.
  • The Dandy is simply overly concerned with his/her appearance. This is usually what most people mean when they say "Metrosexual".

Canon vs. Fanon vs. Ascended Fanon vs. Fanon Discontinuity vs. Canon Discontinuity vs. Running the Asylum vs. Word of Dante vs. Word of Saint Paul vs. Word of God:

  • Canon: Material that is accepted as being in a work's continuity by both its creators and the fanbase.
  • Fanon: Material that didn't appear in a work but is accepted as being in continuity by the fanbase.
  • Ascended Fanon: Material that was once purely fanon but has been accepted by the work's creators and integrated into the canon story.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Canon material that is not accepted by the fanbase and is generally ignored by fanon.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Older canon material that a work's current canon disavows.
  • Running the Asylum: Material that was once purely fanon but has since become part of the canon continuity as fans become involved with creating a work.
  • Word of Dante: Fanon material that is widely, if not universally, accepted as being part of a work's canon.
  • Word of Saint Paul: Fanon material that doesn't appear in a work but is stated to have occurred by people close to the creators, such as family or co-workers.
  • Word of God: Material that the work's creators say happened but didn't actually appear in the work.

Canon Foreigner vs. Canon Immigrant

  • Canon Foreigner refers to a character exclusive to a certain adaptation of a previously-existing fictional universe.
  • Canon Immigrant is when a character originally created in an adaptation is later introduced in the original source material.

Canon Sue vs. Creator's Pet vs. The Scrappy vs. X-Pac Heat:

Cannon Fodder vs. Redshirt Army

Captain Ersatz vs. Expy

  • A Captain Ersatz is a character created to stand in for one that the author is not able or willing to use, usually due to legal issues.
  • An Expy is a character that is suspiciously similar to another character in another work, but not obviously supposed to be that character. This often happens within works by the same author as the previous character, but it can also be a Homage or Shout-Out by another author.

Cartwright Curse vs. Fatal Attractor

The Cassandra vs. Cassandra Truth vs. Ignored Expert

  • Cassandra Truth is any time when a great secret or danger is discovered by someone, but their warnings fall on deaf ears. Often attributed to children. It includes the following:
    • The Cassandra is someone whose warnings and predictions go dismissed and unbelieved because they're perceived as being unreliable, despite a nearly-infallible track record of previous warnings or predictions coming true.
    • Ignored Expert is an expert whose warnings and predictions go dismissed and unbelieved because the warnings are unpopular, despite their expertise and extensive knowledge of the subject.

Cassandra Gambit vs. Cassandra Truth vs. Sarcastic Confession

  • A Cassandra Gambit is a widespread release of true information through low-credibility channels. It may be intended to discredit the truth, or to disseminate the truth in a way that maintains plausible deniability.
  • A Cassandra Truth is meant to be believed, but isn't; it's a subtrope of Poor Communication Kills.
  • A Sarcastic Confession is a character stating the truth, with the intent of making it sound like an absurd joke and thus preventing the listener from believing it.

Cassandra Truth vs. Not Now, Kiddo

  • Cassandra Truth: A character delivers important news, but is not believed.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: A character is never given the chance to deliver the news.

Casting Couch vs.Sexual Extortion vs Scarpia Ultimatum

Casual Kink vs. Conveniently Common Kink

  • Casual Kink: A character's kink is unique among the cast but nobody makes a big deal out of it.
  • Conveniently Common Kink: A character's kink is shared by their love interest and possibly others.

Cat Fight vs. Designated Girl Fight

Cerebus Syndrome vs. Darker and Edgier

  • Cerebus Syndrome is when a light, comedic series gets more serious and dramatic as it goes on (but not necessarily darker).
  • Darker and Edgier is a series gets darker undertones over time or when a sequel/reboot/alternate continuity is noticeably darker than its predecessor(s) (but not necessarily more serious).

Character Derailment vs. Out of Character

Character Filibuster vs. Holding the Floor

  • In a Character Filibuster the author lectures the reader on a particular point (often political) by using a character to give a long speech.
  • In Holding the Floor the character must filibuster for an in-universe reason, usually to buy time or provide a distraction. The content of the speech itself doesn't matter.
  • The same speech can serve both functions, with the latter justifying the former.

Characterization Marches On vs. Character Exaggeration vs. Flanderization

Character Magnetic Team vs. Hitchhiker Heroes vs. Magnetic Hero

Charm Person vs. Compelling Voice

Chaste Hero vs. Celibate Hero vs. Asexuality

  • A Chaste Hero is ignorant of sex and oblivious to romance in general.
  • A Celibate Hero knows about them (in theory at the least) but eschews them as secondary to his goals.
  • With Asexuality, the hero simply isn't interested in sex or romantic love, period.

Cheaters Never Prosper vs. Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat

Chekhov's Armoury vs. Chekhov's Boomerang vs. Chekhov's Gun

  • A Chekhov's Gun is an object that is set up as unimportant, then used as a plot device, surprising the audience with actual significance.
  • A Chekhov's Boomerang is a Chekhov's Gun after it has been used, and the audience assumes it has no further importance, but is unexpectedly reused and surprises the audience with new actual significance.
  • Chekhov's Armoury is a lot of Chekhovs Guns in the same story.

Cherry Tapping vs. Death of a Thousand Cuts vs. Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu? vs. Finger Poke of Doom vs. Zerg Rush

  • Cherry Tapping is when an enemy is finished off with a weak attack.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts is when an attack consists of several individual weak parts that add together for a strong impact.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu? is when a weak individual defeats a much stronger one.
  • Finger Poke of Doom is when a relatively weak (or weak-looking) attack actually has a powerful impact on the target.
  • Zerg Rush is when a large number of weak individuals use their sheer numbers as a strength.

The Chessmaster vs. Magnificent Bastard vs. Manipulative Bastard

  • Many debates have surrounded these tropes.
    • The Chessmaster is someone who looks upon everyone as being pawns in a game; the chess metaphor is frequently used. They sit safely away in their evil lair and play everyone against each other.
    • Magnificent Bastard is someone whose intelligence and capability alone causes fear and respect in the heroes. Likely to be Dangerously Genre Savvy and will manipulate people to their advantage, but unlike the Chessmaster they are personally active in their schemes. As a result they usually have a much higher success rate than most villains and will likely have a large fanbase.
    • Manipulative Bastard is someone who can identify an emotional nerve within someone and then proceed to exploit that flaw to their own advantage.

Chewing the Scenery vs. Large Ham

  • Chewing the Scenery is when a character who is usually acted in a normal fashion suddenly starts acting like a Large Ham.
  • A Large Ham is a character who is almost constantly overacting.

Clark Kenting vs. Paper-Thin Disguise vs. Wig, Dress, Accent

Cliff Hanger vs. Sequel Hook

  • A Cliff Hanger is when the story is not concluded within the single movie or television show, which requires an additional movie or episode to finish the story. The worst case is Left Hanging, when that conclusion does not happen.
  • A Sequel Hook is when the story is finished, whether it be a Happy Ending or a Downer Ending, but hints are given towards a new storyline in the sequel.

Closing Credits vs. Creative Closing Credits vs. Credits Gag

  • Closing Credits are the credits that roll at the end of a show.
  • Creative Closing Credits are interesting variations on closing credits, as opposed to the classic "white text and black background."
  • Credits Gag is a joke that appears during the end credits

Coincidental Broadcast vs. Crystal Ball Scheduling

  • A Coincidental Broadcast is one that acts as a plot enabler - the characters act on the information that they have conveniently been given.
  • Crystal Ball Scheduling acts as a metaphor for events on the show - it doesn't have any plot relevance, but allows the writer to comment on the storyline without breaking the Fourth Wall.

Cold-Blooded Torture vs. Enhanced Interrogation Techniques vs. Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique vs. Torture Always Works

Colony Drop vs. Death from Above vs. Kill Sat vs. Orbital Bombardment

Comic Book Fantasy Casting vs. Hypothetical Casting vs. Ink-Suit Actor vs. No Celebrities Were Harmed vs. Textual Celebrity Resemblance

  • Comic Book Fantasy Casting is where a character in a comic or animation looks like a real person (usually an actor, musician or model) but clearly isn't meant to actually "be" that person.
  • Hypothetical Casting is where Word of God indicates a creator's preferred casting for a dramatic adaptation.
  • Ink-Suit Actor is where a character in an animated show or computer game is designed to look like the real-world performer who did their voice.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed is where a fictional character is clearly intended to be a fictionalized version or caricature of a celebrity, down to having a similar profession and/or a personality based on that person's public persona.
  • Textual Celebrity Resemblance is where a prose work describes a character by likening them to a real-world celebrity.

Combat Medic vs. Deadly Doctor vs. Martial Medic

  • A Combat Medic is a character who serves as a healer but has the ability to fight when needed.
  • A Deadly Doctor is someone who uses their medical knowledge and/or medical instruments to fight, kill, injure, etc. He is also more likely to be evil.
  • A Martial Medic is a martial arts instructor who can offer better medical care than a doctor.

Concept Album vs. Rock Opera

Confusion Fu vs. Indy Ploy vs. Strategy Schmategy

  • Confusion Fu is when a character is unpredictable intentionally, using confusion as their main strategy.
  • Indy Ploy is when a character improvises his plan of action as he goes along.
  • Strategy Schmategy is when a character has no idea what he's doing. (Different from Indy Ploy because here the character doesn't know how to improve his situation).

Continuity Creep vs. Continuity Drift vs. Earth Drift

  • Continuity Creep is about a series that slowly uses continuity to a greater degree.
  • Continuity Drift is about the continuity itself slowly changing.
  • Earth Drift is a subtrope where the continuity changes to be less like the real world.

Conveniently an Orphan vs. Orphan's Ordeal

  • Conveniently an Orphan covers the common narrative device of making the hero an orphan to provide them a particular heroic motivation, or to unroot them so they can go on some unrelated adventure. Generally the parents died some time ago, and the hero may not angst about them very much on-screen.
  • Orphan's Ordeal covers stories where the grief and other hardships associated with lost parents are a major focus of the plot. Generally the parents died more recently.

Conviction by Contradiction vs. Conviction by Counterfactual Clue

Cordon Bleugh Chef vs. Lethal Chef vs. One Note Cook

  • A Cordon Bleugh Chef is an otherwise skilled cook who has an unfortunate habit of mixing ingredients that should not be mixed. The result of these "experiments" is usually indistinguishable from that of the Lethal Chef.
  • A Lethal Chef is one who has absolutely no culinary skills. Their dishes go past merely bad and straight to "toxic"
  • A One Note Cook has one dish, or type of dish, at which they excel at making. Outside of that area of expertise, they're usually a Lethal Chef.

Corrupt Church vs. Path of Inspiration vs. Religion of Evil

  • The Corrupt Church is an otherwise legitimate ("good") religion that has become rotten under the surface, usually by corrupt individuals in the church offices or evil forces.
  • The Path of Inspiration is a church created for evil that disguises itself as a legitimate good faith, typically manipulating its followers into inobvious service of evil and setting itself up as a Villain with Good Publicity.
  • The Religion of Evil was created for evil and does not hide the fact that it's evil (though it may make itself hard to find in the first place).

Cosmic Horror Story vs. Eldritch Abomination vs. Lovecraft Lite

  • Cosmic Horror Story is the genre where the universe is a hopeless, horrific and meaningless place, often filled to the brim with obscenely powerful entities that could crush humanity like an ant and not notice, and it is only a matter of time before that happens.
  • Eldritch Abominations are strange otherworldly monstrosities from beyond; they do the crushing mentioned above.
  • Lovecraft Lite is a genre that uses many of the trappings of a Cosmic Horror Story, but is not bleak, hopeless, or meaningless. The evil entities can be defeated permanently; the good guys can win decisively; the world, and humanity, can survive.

Cowboy Bebop at His Computer vs. I Am Not Shazam

  • Cowboy Bebop at His Computer is about a news article that presents erroneous information about a work, often to the point where it seems they didn't read/watch the thing.
  • I Am Not Shazam concerns confusion over the title of a work and what it is supposed to represent within the work.

Crapsack World vs. Earth That Was and Earth That Used to Be Better

  • A Crapsack World is a horrible place where the pessimistic notion of "anything that can go wrong will go horribly wrong" almost always applies, and it corrupts its inhabitants into perpetuating that nastiness against each other. Many examples of Earth That Was are a Crapsack World, but they don't have to be.
  • Earth That Was and Earth That Used to Be Better are where humanity has abandoned or near-abandoned Earth for the former, and has started to for the latter.

Creator Backlash vs. Old Shame

  • Creator Backlash is when a creator hates one of his works in spite of its sizeable fandom because of factors outside of its quality.
  • Old Shame is when a creator hates one of his works because of its low quality; said work has little to no fandom.

Creator's Pet vs. The Scrappy vs. X-Pac Heat

  • Creator's Pet is the character much of the fandom hates but the creators like.
  • The Scrappy is the character much of the fandom hates.
  • With X-Pac Heat, it's not the wrestler no one likes, it's the performer.

Critical Research Failure vs. Dan Browned

  • A Critical Research Failure is if the error is obvious to any viewer with even the smallest degree of knowledge of that field.
    • So if a character steals the Mona Lisa, Raphael's most famous painting, from the British Museum, it is a Critical Research Failure on the part of the author. note 
  • Dan Browned occurs when a work is noticeably or prominently proclaimed to be factual but is, in reality, inaccurate or wrong.
    • If the author makes notable claims regarding the accuracy of his facts and the diligence of his research, and then describes the methods Leonardo used to prepare the canvas for the Mona Lisa, the author has Dan Browned the audience. note 

Cross Over vs. Intercontinuity Crossover vs. Massive Multiplayer Crossover vs. Mega Crossover vs. Fusion Fic

  • Cross Over is appearance of a show's characters in another show that is set in the same universe as the former show.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover is like Cross Over but the two shows present are not set in the same universe.
    • Note that this is the type often seen in webcomics (although it's generally referred to in those communities simply as a "crossover"), when two authors coordinate to create overlapping storylines — they each tell one half in their own strip, and the reader must flip back and forth, interleaving them to see the full story.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover is like Intercontinuity Crossover but with three or more shows.
  • Mega Crossover is the Fan Fic version of Massive Multiplayer Crossover.
  • A Fusion Fic is a Fan Fic in which the cast of one work is partly or completely replaced by the cast of another work, and the original work's plot plays out modified by the new characters' quirks.

Crosscast Role vs. Gender Flip

  • Crosscast Role has a male actor playing a female character (or vice versa.)
  • Gender Flip has a female actor playing a female character (or vice versa), but the character was originally conceived and/or written as a male.

Curb-Stomp Battle vs. No Holds Barred Beat Down vs. One-Hit Kill

  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The fight is swift, decisive, and completely one-sided. Usually done by the good guys.
  • No Holds Barred Beat Down: The fight is completely one-sided, brutal, and lasts as long as the victor wants it to. Usually done to the good guys.
  • One-Hit Kill: The fight only lasts one hit. More likely to happen to the bad guys.

Curious as a Monkey vs. Constantly Curious

  • Curious as a Monkey: A young child who tries to learn about the world around him by taking things apart and figuring out how they work.
  • Constantly Curious: A person, usually young, who tries to learn about the world around them by constantly asking questions.

Cute as a Bouncing Betty vs. I Call It Vera

  • Cute as a Bouncing Betty is about the tendency to give military hardware and weapons funny and/or cute nicknames.
  • I Call It Vera is when someone, for whatever reason, has enough of an emotional attachment to their weapon that they give it a name.


    Canonical List of Subtle Trope DistinctionsD-F
Live-Action TVAdministrivia/Hyphenated TitlesD-F

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