My Favorite Fiction Tropes

You know how movies always hit those same beats over and over again? Whether it’s the spoiled brat who gets his comeuppance, or the new girl in town with a dark secret, or even just someone who airlifts a piano and inevitably a baby stroller rolls beneath it, we seem to see the same patterns over and over again.

Sometimes they’re big and story-defining, and sometimes they’re just little moments, but these tropes help make the movies what they are, and today I’m going through my top six favorite fiction tropes.

1. Character A and Character B are totally in love with each other, but something terrible happens to them, and they’re both convinced the other person is dead. They end up finding each other, of course, after lots of angst and ire, and there’s always a lot of crying and kissing, and inevitably one of them must run through a crowded room to swoop the other one off his or her feet.(I was deciding between this and The Princess Bride reunion scene, but gosh golly I love David Tennant’s stupid giddy face in this one.)

2. Character A and Character B are totally in love, but Character A must break Character B’s heart in order to protect them from something awful. ("But no!" you want to cry. It’s only because they love you so much!) Alas, they break up, but as it turns out, nothing is worse than a broken heart and they eventually figure out each other’s noble but misguided plans and fight that awful thing – together.

(Above you can see both my boyfriends, Ewan McGregor and Young Leo, gettin they hearts broke. Poor babies, I don’t cry every time – really.)

3. Character A is hurt in battle but doesn’t realize until afterwards because they’ve been so focused on protecting Character B. When the battle is over, they do that little surprised stumble and realize maybe they’re not feeling so hot, look down, and all of a sudden, there’s blood everywhere. That is some top tier drama for me.

(Here we see guy-in-the-middle seriously injured, but on the mend. What you don’t realize yet is that guy-on-the-right is worried sick about him, internally bleeding, and unfortunately minutes from death.)

4. Character A and Character B have hated each other for the entire movie—just cats and dogs, these two—until they finally get into an explosive, public argument in front of everyone they’ve ever known and oops declare their love for one another at peak volume.(Were they just fighting immediately before this? Yes. Are they making out now? Thank god – yes.)

5. Character A has become a crotchety old as$hat in their later years and Character B is a young hotshot. They are forced to work together and heckin’ hate each other until the very end, where it turns out they were just what the other person needed.

(For the record, Cars would be one of my favorite Pixar movies except that Owen Wilson barely says “wow” even once, so it loses points for wasted potential.)

6. Two words: self-sacrifice. Character A is staring up into the jaws of death, grim and dripping above their heads and whoomf, Character B throws themselves in the way taking all the punishment, while Character A can do nothing but look on in horror.

(Yanks the heartstrings. Every time.)