101 Science Fiction Tropes For Writers (2022)

101 Science Fiction Tropes For Writers (1)


Writers can use this list of 101 science fiction tropes to add some Zap! to their writing.

Science Fiction is the computer geek of the fantasy genre.It is also filled with tropes.

(Video) 25 SCIENCE FICTION TROPES | Sci-Fi Tier List

What is a trope?

A trope is a commonly used literary device. It can be a cliché and it can be used well.

Science fiction tropes are everywhere. For example, ‘beaming up’ to the Enterprise in Star Trek is a trope used by the writer of the show, Gene Roddenberry, to save money on expensive space shuttle sets. It has become iconic and people would miss it if it were taken out of the show.

Suggested reading:

  1. A Complete Glossary Of Terms For Science Fiction Writers
  2. 5 Things You Need To Know To Write Science Fiction
  3. The 4 Pillars Of Science Fiction

How is it used?

Tropes are used as shorthand to explain complicated things. For example, Light-Speed is used to explain a complicated way of travelling through space very quickly. If you do this, you don’t have to waste words trying to educate your reader when you want to get on with the plot.

101 Science Fiction Tropes Writers Should Use

These are very common science fiction tropes used in successful books and series. I have taken them from TV shows you may know and 100-year-old books you probably won’t. Regardless, many of these are used every day to make the books and TV we all love to read and watch.

By reading these, you will be inspired to create your own work. You should add a twist to any old idea to make it seem new. But, old tropes die hard and that’s because they are too good to be forgotten.

  1. Faster than light is the bread and butter of all space travel in science fiction. Breaking the rules of physics is often the best way to get your character from planet to planet.
  2. Techno Babble is speaking in high-tech tongues and it solves any problem the crew is currently having. ‘Reverse the polarity, the Glib-Glops are weak to theta radiation!’
  3. All artificial intelligences are evil. Especially the good ones.
  4. Chekhov’s Egg is like Chekhov’s Gun but directed by Ridley Scott. If you introduce an alien egg to the story it must hatch and eat someone by the thirdact.
  5. Alternative universes want to invade our own.
  6. Alternative universes contain evil versions of your characters.
  7. Alternative universes warn your universe of a devastating threat.
  8. Travelling to distant stars is very difficult and takes generations.
  9. Travelling to distant stars is very difficult and requires Cryosleep to get there.
  10. Travelling to distant stars is very difficult and is done by AI and robots while the humans sleep.
  11. Someone always wakes up to early from Cryosleep. Asteroids are usually involved.
  12. A ship is found with people who have been in Cryosleep for thousands of years adrift in space. Because they crashed into the asteroid.
  13. A ship is found where people have forgotten how their technology works and must be saved.
  14. The people who wake up are evil, but seem nice at first.
  15. The people who wake up are the last survivors of a once great civilisation and impart wisdom.
  16. The survivors of the once great civilisation die from the common cold before telling anyone the meaning of life.
  17. Space travel is very easy and takes no time at all.
  18. Space travel is very fast, but is very dangerous.
  19. Space travel is dangerous because it passes through an evil realm filled with monsters.
  20. Space travel requires a navigator to have magical powers to plot a course. Possibly, to avoid deadly asteroids.
  21. Space travel requires a navigator to take drugs to see the future. These drugs only come from one planet. Everyone is fighting over them.
  22. Space travel needs a special kind of computer or droid to plot a course and it takes time to calculate.
  23. Ships travel faster than light speed through real/normal space.
  24. Ships travel though hyper-space which is another dimension.
  25. Ships use Warp gates to travel through wormholes.
  26. Warp Gates were created by a long dead civilisation.
  27. Humans discover these gates and have adventures through them.
  28. Aliens are kind, intelligent push-overs and humans are destroying their worlds.
  29. Aliens are evil, brutal godlike beings trying to enslave humans.
  30. Aliens want to eat humans.
  31. Aliens want to lay eggs in humans.
  32. Aliens want humans to help them with a problem they are too ‘evolved’ to solve.
  33. It turns out humans were the aliens all along.
  34. Humans were the aliens all along but they evolved into a different species.
  35. Humans use technology to evolve into a post-human civilisation.
  36. Humans use technology to ascend to a state of pure energy.
  37. Humans use spiritual nonsense to become beings of pure light and love.
  38. Humans use psychic powers to become one godlike over-mind.
  39. Humans once had these great powers, but lost them when the war with the robots/aliens happened.
  40. They now live under a god emperor keeping them from evolving too fast.
  41. The god emperor was an alien all along and the humans must rebel!
  42. The god emperor was a super-computer the humans forgot they made and they must figure out why.
  43. The super-computer had to do whatever the humans wanted it to do all along.
  44. The super-computer was keeping them safe from aliens.
  45. The super-computer was built to keep aliens safe from humans.
  46. Two species of humans evolve and are at war.
  47. They are fighting over ancient crimes.
  48. They are fighting over philosophical points.
  49. One is racist.
  50. One eats the other.
  51. One is technological and the other is super-religious.
  52. Space is empty and humans are the first species.
  53. Space is empty and humans start filling up the galaxy.
  54. Humans make aliens.
  55. They must fight these aliens. Possibly because they didn’t do a good enough job making them.
  56. Space is filled with aliens.
  57. Most are like humans with funny ears.
  58. Most are horrible eldritch monsters humans can’t even begin to understand.
  59. Turns out the humans are the real monsters. The aliens were just trying to save our environment.
  60. Humans and aliens hate each other and do nothing but have never-ending wars. Usually for the god emperor’s glory.
  61. Humans and aliens live together, drink together and have mixed species children. He becomes the captain’s pointy-eared best friend.
  62. Humans are less advanced then other races and are treated like children.
  63. Humans resent aliens for treating them like children and start a galaxy wide genocide using the aliens own technology.
  64. Humans work hard to be as advanced as the other species and become accepted as part of them. Perhaps in some sort of commonwealth?
  65. Space is full of Pirates.
  66. And Smugglers. The Important difference is that smugglers make better anti-heroes.
  67. Space pirates are a plague and the heroes must fight them.
  68. Space pirates are cool and help the rebels fight the evil Empire.
  69. Humans use nano-technology to make very small useful robots that can do anything.
  70. Oh, No! They became sentient.
  71. They want to replicate, consuming all matter they come into contact with.
  72. They want to be more human and build human bodies and start pretending to eat avocado toast.
  73. The humans defeat them using an ancient weapon left by a long dead race.
  74. The humans program them to be nice and become friends.
  75. Humans make copies of their minds.
  76. Humans clone themselves.
  77. Humans put their minds in the clones to live forever.
  78. Something goes wrong. Humans can’t have children anymore because of too much cloning.
  79. They must find non-clone humans to fix this. But that was thousands of years ago.
  80. They need time travel to fix this.
  81. They go through a wormhole/black hole to go back to the past.
  82. They recalibrate the deflector dish to emit tachyons to travel back in time.
  83. They can only send their minds back in time.
  84. Going back in time cannot change the future and they can do whatever they want.
  85. Going back in time means they have to be careful not to change the future.
  86. They change the past and come back to a different future.
  87. They must go back and fix their mistake.
  88. The space senate has blockaded all time travel.
  89. The heroes must get past the blockade in a stolen ship.
  90. The stolen ship turns out to be alive.
  91. It’s also pregnant and needs their help to save its child.
  92. The heroes must argue about the ethics of what they are doing until they are forced to take action.
  93. They turn out to be right and everything works out.
  94. They are wrong and they just helped an evil space wizard start a galactic civil war.
  95. The heroes spend the whole show arguing about ethics and nothing happens.
  96. The heroes decide that other races have different ethics and they should not interfere.
  97. They say ‘Screw their ethics. Ours are better!’ and interfere.
  98. This fixes the problem and the space people are happy with their new American constitution.
  99. The space people start a holy war to kill all humans.
  100. The space people and the humans fight until they have destroyed each other and nobody left alive remembers what happened.
  101. The war between the space people and the humans turned out to be a cold war allegory all along. They eventually make up over some red space wine and a plate of gross space worms.

I hope you had fun reading this list of science fiction tropes and that it gives you ideas for your books.

If you’re looking for more tropes, read:

  1. 101 Fantasy Tropes For Writers
  2. 101 Horror Tropes For Writers
  3. 101 Romance Tropes For Writers

Top Tip: Find out more about ourworkbooksandonline coursesin ourshop.

by Christopher Luke Dean (Secretly an alien from a long lost race of time travellers on earth to preserve the space-time continuum by writing listicals.)

(Video) The 101: Sci-Fi Tropes | Deep Dive Film School

Christopher writes and facilitates for Writers Write. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisLukeDean

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. Plotting Your Endgame – Why The Marvel Universe Is Like A Book
  2. Is Game Of Thrones Worth Your Time?

Top Tip: Find out more about ourworkbooksandonline coursesin ourshop.

  • Christopher Luke Dean, Featured Post, Genre, Literary Devices, Tropes

Posted on: 13th June 2019

(Video) 10 Overdone Fantasy Tropes (That Literary Agents Are Tired of Seeing) | iWriterly


What are the 7 elements of science fiction writing? ›

These elements are character, plot, setting, theme, point of view, conflict, and tone. All seven elements work together to create a coherent story.

What are science fiction tropes? ›

A trope is a commonly used literary device. It can be a cliché and it can be used well. Science fiction tropes are everywhere. For example, 'beaming up' to the Enterprise in Star Trek is a trope used by the writer of the show, Gene Roddenberry, to save money on expensive space shuttle sets.

What are the 7 tropes? ›

  • Overcoming the Monster. Hero learns of a great evil threatening the land, and sets out to destroy it.
  • Rags to Riches. ...
  • The Quest. ...
  • Voyage and Return. ...
  • Comedy. ...
  • Tragedy. ...
  • Rebirth.

What are the three major themes in science fiction? ›

As the 20th century dawned, many of science fiction's most common themes—space travel, time travel, utopias and dystopias, and encounters with alien beings—bore British postmarks.

What are the 5 key literary elements? ›

The 5 Key Story Elements
  • Character.
  • Conflict.
  • Plot.
  • Setting.
  • Theme.
11 Aug 2022

What makes great scifi? ›

A good science fiction work posits one vision for the future, among countless possibilities, that is built on a foundation of realism. In creating a link between the present and the future, science fiction invites us to consider the complex ways our choices and interactions contribute to generating the future.

What are some popular tropes? ›

The 12 most popular tropes in romance novels
  • Friends to lovers.
  • Enemies to lovers.
  • Forbidden love.
  • Secret identity/billionaire/royal.
  • Stuck together – 'trapped in an elevator'
  • Best friend's brother/sister.
  • Second chance.
  • Soul mates.

What are the 3 types of trope? ›

Types of Tropes
  • Irony: This occurs when words or events convey something different—often the opposite—of their actual meaning. ...
  • Oxymoron: This figure of speech uses contradictory words as a paired unit. ...
  • Paradox: A paradox is when one uses contradictory ideas to make a valid point.

What are some clichés to avoid in writing? ›

Here is a list of clichés you should avoid.
  • “The wrong side of the bed.”
  • “Think outside the box.”
  • “Loose canon.”
  • “A perfect storm.”
  • “Can of worms.”
  • “What goes around comes around.”
  • “Dead as a doornail.”
  • “Plenty of fish in the sea.”
31 Aug 2022

What is the most cliché story plots? ›

Love Triangle. The love triangle is one of the biggest clichés, and it occurs much often in romance novels, as well as in other genres that are sprinkled with romance, especially in Young Adult. However, this doesn't mean that you can't have a love triangle in your book – but if you do, you have to make it believable.

What is the most overused word in the world? ›

15 Most Overused Words (and Their Alternatives)
  1. Amazing. You can hear it in your head by just reading the word on a page. ...
  2. Interesting. This word is used so often that sometimes it gets difficult to understand what a person means when they say it. ...
  3. Literally. ...
  4. Nice. ...
  5. Hard. ...
  6. Change. ...
  7. Important. ...
  8. Actually.
12 Feb 2021

What is a lazy trope? ›

They'd rather relax and do nothing to help. This character will likely Refuse The Call when it comes, feeling that, whatever's going on, it's not their problem. Expect them to be very sarcastic as well. Advertisement: Expect such a character to be indifferent, uncaring, and, at worst, obnoxious or self-centered.

What are the 4 tropes? ›

Four Master Tropes
TropeGenre ('mode of emplotment')Ideology ('mode of ideological implication')
16 Mar 2015

What are common settings in science fiction? ›

Science-fiction settings tend to include space travel, new galaxies or futuristic times.

What are the criteria for science fiction genre? ›

Science fiction is a genre of fiction in which the stories often tell about science and technology of the future. It is important to note that science fiction has a relationship with the principles of science—these stories involve partially true- partially fictitious laws or theories of science.

What are the principles of science fiction? ›

SCIENCE FICTION is a fictionalized story wherein the setting and plot are centered around technology, time travel, outer space, or scientific principles, with or without the presence of aliens. Story elements are not found in the known universe and explained by scientific means.

What are 4 common elements of science fiction? ›

The classic elements of a science fiction novel include: Time travel. Teleportation. Mind control, telepathy, and telekinesis.

What are the 5 universal themes? ›

Some of the more common universal themes found in literature include individual struggle towards a personal goal, a person's struggle with humanity, falling in love, life cycles, karma, coping with tragedy, adolescence and discovering the world around us.

What are the 5 plots of a story? ›

  • Exposition.
  • Rising Action.
  • Climax.
  • Falling Action.
  • Resolution.

What every story needs? ›

There are five key elements to every story: plot, setting, characters, point of view, and conflict.

What is the most realistic sci-fi? ›

1/8 2001: A Space Odyssey

This list would not exist without Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. While some may say the film is boring and moves slowly, it is the original Sci-fi film that portrayed everything with as much accuracy as possible.

What is the highest rated sci-fi? ›

Feature Film, Rating Count at least 10,000, Sci-Fi, English (Sorted by IMDb Rating Descending)
  1. Inception (2010) ...
  2. The Matrix (1999) ...
  3. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) ...
  4. Interstellar (2014) ...
  5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) ...
  6. Star Wars (1977) ...
  7. The Prestige (2006) ...
  8. Back to the Future (1985)

What is the most powerful science fiction weapon? ›

Those weapons seem like kids' toys when compared to the most powerful force in sci-fi: The reality bomb. This bomb is equipped to wipe out the entire universe and all its creation.

How do you write tropes well? ›

The key to using tropes efficiently and creatively, without sounding cliché, is to use them in a way that shows that you're aware of their stereotypical usage, and either honor their tradition or play with them more creatively.

Can you write a story without tropes? ›

Due to the impossibility of writing a story without tropes, it is generally not to be undertaken except as an artistic challenge, and attempting to not use tropes is not necessarily intelligent writing; instead, an easier end toward intelligent writing is to take old tropes and use them in a new way.

What are common literary tropes? ›

Examples of Literary Tropes
  • Metaphor. A metaphor is a simple comparison—only you'll skip using “like” or “as” to make the comparison obvious. ...
  • Hyperbole. Deliberately over-exaggerated language is a favorite literary trope of children. ...
  • Irony. ...
  • Oxymoron. ...
  • Synecdoche. ...
  • Metonymy. ...
  • Litotes. ...
  • Antanaclasis.
7 Dec 2021

Is oxymoron a trope? ›

Oxymoron: A trope that connects two contradictory terms. Example: “Bill is a cheerful pessimist.” Periphrasis: A trope in which one substitutes a descriptive word or phrase for a proper noun. Example: “The big man upstairs hears your prayers.”

What's the difference between cliche and trope? ›

A trope is a tried and true story element that people like, and nearly every story has one or several. A cliche just means something has been used too much. It's often just a line or a way of saying things, and isn't necessarily a story type. The only thing they share is they are both commonly used in fiction.

Are archetypes the same as tropes? ›

Archetypes refer more to a role, whereas tropes refer more to a personality. So a 'mentor' archetype is a character who plays a role of guiding a main character.

What are some fantasy tropes? ›

Popular Fantasy Tropes
  • The Chosen One. A character is, for some reason, destined to save the world, the kingdom, the continent, and so forth.
  • Secret Heir to the Throne. ...
  • The “Pure Evil” Overlord/Ruler. ...
  • Antagonist-Turned-Ally (Redemption Arc) ...
  • Dark Warlock/Wizard. ...
  • Good vs. ...
  • The Reluctant Hero. ...
  • Pseudo-Medieval European Setting.
24 Feb 2022

What are character tropes examples? ›

Examples of common, often-cliched character tropes include:
  • The damsel in distress.
  • The chosen one.
  • The girl next door.
  • The femme fatale.
  • The mad scientist.
  • The trusty sidekick.
  • The dumb muscle.
  • The wise old man.

How do I stop cringe writing? ›

6 Tips to Avoid and Fix Bad Writing
  1. Read Out Loud. This is the first step to checking your piece for awkward writing: read it out loud. ...
  2. Shorten Your Sentences. One of the best ways to avoid awkward writing is to take out every unnecessary word, phrase, and sentence. ...
  3. Be Specific. ...
  4. Re-Word. ...
  5. Tighten. ...
  6. Delete.

What is an overused phrase that you should avoid in your writing called? ›

A cliché is an overused phrase or reference that has lost its impact after having been used commonly. Once meaningful – even impressive – the overuse makes these phrases irritating for the readers. You could say clichés are like stale bread that's caught mold.

How do you make your writing not cheesy? ›

10 Tips to Avoid Clichés in Writing
  1. Avoid Stolen or Borrowed Tales.
  2. Resist The Lure of the Sensational.
  3. Turn a Stereotype on its Head.
  4. Tell the Story Only You Can Tell.
  5. Keep it Real by Taking it Slow.
  6. Deliver Your Story From Circumstantial Cliché
  7. Elevate the Ordinary.
  8. Rescue Gratuitous Scenes From Melodramatic Action.
31 Jan 2012

What are the three 3 most important story elements? ›

You can use endlessly different story structures and styles, but each story or novel is going to boil down to three fundamental elements: character, setting, and plot.

What type of stories sell best? ›

Romance: Romance novels are perhaps the most popular genre in terms of book sales. Romance novels are sold in grocery store checkout lines, in monthly shipments from publishers to readers, and online, as well as via self-publishing services. Readers tend to be loyal to their favorite authors within the romance genre.

How do you start a catchy line in a story? ›

6 Tips for Writing a Great Opening Line
  1. State your theme. ...
  2. Begin with a strange detail. ...
  3. Establish your character's voice. ...
  4. Introduce your narrative style. ...
  5. Convey the stakes. ...
  6. Set the scene.
12 Nov 2021

What is the most disliked word in the English language? ›

Whatever. According to Marist Poll Results, the word “whatever” consistently scores as the most annoying word in the English language. People of all ages and backgrounds use the word. It is a common way for people to express their frustration with something they don't understand or can't explain.

What are the 5 major element of fiction? ›

  • The Five Elements. of. Fiction.
  • Characters.
  • Setting.
  • Point of View.
  • Theme.
  • Plot.
  • Plot.

What are common tropes? ›

What Are Character Tropes? The word “trope” refers to a common motif or pattern in a work of art. In the context of fiction, character tropes refer to common attributes or even entire stock characters.

What are the 10 features of fiction? ›

  • Protagonist. Main character. ...
  • Antagonist. The person or thing that works against the protagonist. ...
  • Conflict. The problem or struggle the protagonist faces.
  • Resolution. the solution to the conflict.
  • Plot. The event that occurs in the story.
  • Setting. When and where the story takes place.
  • Climax. ...
  • Theme.

What are the 6 literary elements? ›

Literary Elements are the foundational building blocks of all stories. Students will learn to identify six basic elements (setting, point of view, plot, character, conflict, theme), and to evaluate and analyze whether an author has used them...

What makes a good scifi story? ›

Any good book should evoke a sense of wonder in the reader; this is one of the defining tenants of science fiction and a primary reason why people are drawn to the genre. To dream of travelling through time, see other planets and meet alien species are all reason's why someone becomes a fan of sci fi to begin with.

What are the basic themes of science fiction? ›

As the 20th century dawned, many of science fiction's most common themes—space travel, time travel, utopias and dystopias, and encounters with alien beings—bore British postmarks.

What are some story clichés? ›

Here's a look at the most overused literary ideas.
  • The Love Triangle. One of the most common cliches in all of literature is the love triangle. ...
  • The Chosen One. ...
  • The 2D Heroine. ...
  • Abusive or Absentee Parents. ...
  • First Person Narrator Describing Himself/ Herself in the Mirror.


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2. The 101: Sci-Fi Tropes (Part 2) | Deep Dive Film School
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3. How Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Can Improve Their Craft
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4. How to Write Science Fiction
5. 660 Narrated Science Fiction Writing Prompts
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6. The Point of Cosmic Horror ( Writing Tips ) - Understanding Cosmic Horror | DanyalFryer
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