"Trope [the word] refers to a conventional literary device or figure of speech in which elements within a story plot, setting, characterization, or 'behind the scenes' of a fanwork (or canon source material) are a common concept that audiences are already familiar with and can easily recognize. Tropes are related to the concept of clichés but are not actually the same thing, especially in that they are not necessarily overused to the point of being distracting. Rather tropes are significant or recurrent themes whose universality makes them a convenient conduit for familiar concepts." - Fanfiction Terminology
No matter how small a fandom might be, one can always count on finding at least one trope fic, if not dozens, hundreds, or even thousands more. The fact of the matter is, that trope writing is an inescapable aspect of fanfiction. One would be hard pressed to find a seasoned, or even moderate, fanfiction author that hasn't at the very least written one trope fic. Which is why, when exploring the world of fanfiction, one ought to become familiar with the most basic of tropes. The following review will not only list five of the most popular fanfiction tropes - but five of the oldest as well.
However, before moving on to the review itself, the reader should be made aware of the following terms prior to proceeding with the article.
Cannon: "refers to elements established by the original source material (TV show, book, movie, etc...) itself for either plot, setting, or character developments." - Fanfiction Terminology
Fandom: "refers to the fan-based community dedicated to a particular TV show or other cult-inducing medium, including movies, books, music, comics, and any other canon source material. The term "fandom" can be used to represent either the fans and the multitude of ways in which they follow and enjoy the original source material, or as a generic way of referring to the original source material that supports a fan-based community itself. Fandom includes both the internet presence and real-life existence, and is expressed in many ways including websites, mailing lists, archives, fanart, fanfic, Cons, etc..." - Fanfiction Terminology
The following is a list of some of the most popular tropes in fanfiction nowadays. No matter how small a fandom, it's likely you will find an example of at least one of these tropes - if not more. With them, I've included examples of fanfictions that fall into that particular trope category.
1. What If Fics examine the different possible outcomes of one action, one thought, or even one particular scene. For example, what if character B had stuck around after having an argument with character A, as opposed to running off? Or what if character C had walked in on the aftermath of the argument and set about consoling the distraut A character? Often times, the fics will go on to examine the domino effect caused by that one change. Examples include:
"WASN'T LOVE, LOVE By Ravenessa: Captain Hook decides not to wait until the curse is broken to reach the land without magic, his early arrival to our world will change everything, because the handsome pirate will appear in Emma's life earlier than expected, long before Emma gets to Storybrook. Captainswan. AU.
"525,600 minutes" By 80sUnLoveChild: Rachel left, she was gone for one whole year but now she is back. Some are happy to see her but boy is she not happy to see them. What has happened to our fabulous friends in the space of year? And who is going to play Mr or Mrs Fix-it?
2. The Fake Relationship/Marriage trope forces two characters to pretend to be either in a relationship, or even married. This can be the result of scheming on the part of one of the characters, or for the greater good of both characters. This trope is most often used as a device to force a pairing into romantic situations, which will eventually lead to the fake relationship/marriage becoming real. It's rather cliched, even where tropes are conscerned, and can be rather unrealistic if not set up properly. However, this particular trope does make for an interesting read if the author takes the time to think it through properly. Examples include:
"All in a Day's Work" By SandraDeee: By 9:00 a.m., she had broken a heel, lost her cell phone, and been the victim of a coffee catastrophe. By 9:30 a.m. she had "borrowed" the NSA mainframe. By 10:00 a.m., she was engaged to Oliver Queen. Really, it was all in a day's work. Plotty, fluffy fun with a side dish of heart. Part 7: The Making of a Queen