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, Replacement Scrappy is 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 otherwise.
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):
- Actor/Role Confusion — ...But I Play One on TV
- All of the Other Reindeer or The Friend Nobody Likes or 0% Approval Rating — Hate Sink, The Scrappy
- Ambiguously Evil — Designated Evil
- Antagonist in Mourning — Alas, Poor Scrappy
- Anti-Villain — Designated Villain
- Ascended Fanboy — Promoted Fanboy
- Beautiful All Along — Unnecessary Makeover
- Brain Bleach / Screaming at Squick — Squick
- Break the Cutie / Broken Bird — The Woobie
- Broken Pedestal — Fallen Creator
- Butterfly of Doom / Protocol Peril — MST3K Mantra
- Canon Discontinuity / Theory Tunnelvision / Selective Obliviousness — Fanon Discontinuity
- Cerebus Retcon — "Funny Aneurysm" Moment
- Character Flaw Index — Bad Writing Index
- The Complainer Is Always Wrong — Fandom Heresy
- Cosmic Retcon — Retcon
- Culture Clash / Deliberate Values Dissonance — Values Dissonance
- Depending on the Writer — Alternative Character Interpretation
- Disappointed by the Motive / Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse — Unintentionally Unsympathetic
- Dude Looks Like a Lady and Lady Looks Like a Dude — Viewer Gender Confusion
- Dude, Not Funny! — Humour Dissonance
- Dumbass Has a Point / Hypocrite Has a Point / Jerkass Has a Point / Villain Has a Point — Strawman Has a Point
- Everybody Knew Already — Captain Obvious Reveal
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap! — Fridge Logic / Fridge Horror
- Failed Attempt at Drama — Narm
- Fan Disservice — Fetish Retardant
- From Bad to Worse — Harsher in Hindsight
- God Guise — Misaimed Fandom
- Good Is Not Nice / Rightly Self-Righteous — Jerk Sue
- Hand Wave — Rule of Cool
- Hatred Tropes — Scrappy Index
- Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue" — Mary Sue
- Impossibly Tacky Clothes — WTH, Costuming Department?
- Innocent Innuendo — Accidental Innuendo
- Innocently Insensitive — Unfortunate Implications
- Inspector Javert — Never Live It Down
- Internal Retcon — Orwellian Retcon
- Invincible Hero — God-Mode Sue
- Invincible Villain — Villain Sue
- Invoked Trope — Intended Audience Reaction
- It's All About Me — Protagonist-Centered Morality
- "Just Joking" Justification — Parody Retcon
- Moral Myopia — Moral Dissonance
- Monster Fangirl — Draco in Leather Pants
- Never Accepted in His Hometown — Germans Love David Hasselhoff
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! / Shoot the Dog — Why Fandom Can't Have Nice Things
- Nominal Hero — Designated Hero
- Passing the Torch or Take Up My Sword (depending on whether the character lives) — Changing of the Guard
- Replacement Goldfish — Suspiciously Similar Substitute
- Shipper on Deck — Shipping
- Shrouded in Myth — Memetic Badass
- Stylistic Suck — So Bad, It's Good
- Sucksessor — Replacement Scrappy
- Sympathy for the Devil — Cry for the Devil
- This Explains So Much — Fridge Brilliance
- This Is Unforgivable! — Moral Event Horizon
- Unexpectedly Obscure Answer — Moon Logic Puzzle
- Unwanted Assistance — Annoying Video-Game Helper
- Villainy-Free Villain — Designated Villain
- You Monster! — Complete Monster
- You're Insane! — Stupid Evil
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.