5 Most Overused Science Fiction Tropes (and why it’s okay for you to use them)

One of my favorite meals on planet earth (or any other planet I’ve been to) is a great filet mignon with mushrooms and red wine reduction. What is better?  What is a more cliche romantic dinner? There is a reason it’s a cliche. Because it is amazing and loved by millions.

I want to pose the unpopular argument that tropes/cliches in writing can fall under the same umbrella. There’s a reason they are popular. Because people can relate to them or because it speaks to the humanity in us all.

1) All alien races are superior to humans.

First of all, even though this is often sited in this manner, the word ALL is unfair. Look at the piggies in Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead.

However, this speaks to our wonder and amazement as people looking into the stars. What kid hasn’t laid on the grass looking up wondering what else is out in that deep dark chasm called outer space?

How boring would a story about some backwoods, doesn’t-know-what-fire-is-yet species of extraterrestrials be?  That depends. Are you a great writer?

Either of these alien types are free to be written about. There’s a reason many authors write about the highly intelligent. We want to believe that someone out there holds the key to our immediate technological advancement. iPhone 25, anyone?

2) Aliens basically look like humans with different facial features or skin color, right?

Well, why not?? What guy is reading a scifi novel about conquering some far away world while wishing that they all looked like amoebas with soccer balls for hands? No one! We want to believe that if we find something out there they are enough like us to procreate or at least have a cup of Starbucks with! (There’s been at least four Starbucks on every planet I’ve visited)

3) The Messiah prophecy.

Alright, here’s where the pastor in me comes out. The reason we all like to read about “the chosen one” is because deep down inside of each of us there is a God-instilled desire to be saved out of chaos and be restored into order.

This story works in books like Dune, Ender’s Game, The Matrix, Harry Potter, LOTR, Star Wars (must I go on?) because on some level it speaks to us all. The key is learning to be creative and move past all the stories that have already been told and make it your own.

4) Alien Invasion.

From Independence Day to Home, stories of alien invasions are a dime a dozen. For so many readers, this is attractive because I believe it speaks to one of our greatest fears. We have built the world around us to suit our needs and play to our desires. What if some other race comes and takes over? What if they are unkind. What if they move us all to Australia???

This is a beautiful opportunity to show the human race coming together to fight for the common good. There is a way to do it uniquely. I feel as if all I ever do is refer to Orson Scott Card, but I love him. In Ender’s Game, (SPOILER ALERT) Ender is fighting against (unbeknownst to him) a species of aliens that once invaded earth only to find it occupied and moved on. Humanity was scared and believed that the buggers were out to destroy them. After 50 years of peace and no sign of aliens, we sent a fleet out to destroy the would-be invaders that actually had no plans to return.

There’s gold there. Find your gold. What is your story? If you believe that one guy can almost single handedly ward off an entire species that is armed to the fangs with weaponry I’ve never dreamed of, then sell me on it!  That’s you’re job.

5) The world as we know it has ended and only a teenage girl can fix everything!

This is tough for me to try to argue. Maybe, just maybe this one should be thrown out and stranded in a deserted solar system somewhere (I know just the place about 300 A.U.s past Cosmos Redshift 7).

I kid, I kid! Can this one still be done? I believe so. Divergent and Hunger Games may have beaten it to death. Revolution even took a stab at it. But, I believe the real problem with this storyline lies in the reader. It is difficult for the average reader to believe that a “little girl” could really save the planet. We have been so trained to believe that it has to be Arnold Schwarzenegger or Bruce Willis that we ignore the J-Laws of the world.

Here’s your challenge, writer! Make us believe! I believed that Katniss could do it. I believed that Triss could do it too!  Who is your hero? I’m rooting for an infant to take the next spotlight.

Remember, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to change someone’s life with your writing. An authors job is to create something amazing that will inspire and entertain. There are no real rules, just giant walls separating the north from wildling territory. Figure out how to breach that wall in a creative and imaginative way.

Winter is coming.


14 thoughts on “5 Most Overused Science Fiction Tropes (and why it’s okay for you to use them)

  1. A lot of the tropes seem to be based on the audience writing what would be needed for Hollywood to make it into a movie. However, technology has evolved and thus authors seem to feel free to write more non humanoid characters. That said, it also matters how you define humanoid. Is simply walking on two legs enough? Is it the four limbs? Anyway, great post and I’ll keep stopping by!


    1. Pretty great follow-up question about what it means to be humanoid these days. In The Brother Dust Universe, what we have playfully dubbed the Dustiverse, we have a race of insectiods. What makes them different from humanoids? No idea. Lol. Six limbs instead of four? Potential wings?

      I love the advancements we’ve made technologically. I for one, am all about movies going Hollywood. I love to see on screen adaptations of my favorite books—even if Ender’s Game made me wanna puke a little.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think that humanoid now just means a human in a costume could play the person? I’m not sure anymore. My series has rabbit like ‘people’ and monkey like ‘people’, in addition to bugs that have NO resemblance to humanity. Your universe sounds cool too, it if is a graphic novel does that mean it cant be read on Kindles?


      2. It started out as a comic, but after months of drawing, inking and coloring, the creative team’s busy lives got the best of us. It sat pretty dormant for a good year or so before I decided the story must live on. That’s when Aaron and I got together to novelize it. The book itself will be released on Oct. 31. It’ll be on Kindle as well. Brother Dust: The Resurgence is book one of several as well as the foundation for a series of short stories that’ll be released on our website and Wattpad within the next coming weeks.

        Super glad to have you as part of the family man! Love the back and forth. Feel free to comment on any of our posts. We love the communication.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Sure, sounds good… interesting ideas too…. I might pick your preacher brain later as I develop religions NOT from Earth. Could our understanding of Christianity exist on a planet where Christ wasn’t born, crucified, died, resurrected and died again? Would it simply be a separate monotheistic religion? Don’t know any preachers, so you might be it!! Blog post, STAT!!! LOL


      4. I’d love to be a part of that. I have often considered the possibility of other worlds that worship Jehovah God but through a series of different choices (I.e. No tree of the knowledge of good and evil) led creation in a direction where Jesus never needed to come down to save mankind. If the pure fellowship of Adam and Eve with God was never slanted or muddied by poor choices things would have been much different. The key for me as a believer is to take care not to walk that line of blasphemy. Just because Jesus didn’t need to do what he did for us on earth it wouldn’t make him less God.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. No, but could the religion as we know it have evolved? And is it blasphemous it you are merely writing fiction? Look at Orson Scott Card, he had a computer made by men as God (idolatry) yet he was a VERY religious man in his personal life.


  2. I love that you brought in Ender’s Game and the Piggies from the Speak for the Dead series.

    Things are cliche because they’re popular. That doesn’t mean they’ll stop being popular. The key has always been to present that cliche in such a way that it’s still enjoyable. Yes, we know that nearly all stories have their inspirations in something else. That doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoyable.

    Convince the reader that your cliche is entertaining. That’s the job of a writer.

    Thank you for sharing!


    1. Orson Scott Card is one of my favorite inspirations! I love everything about the Actual Ender’s Game world. He did such a great job creating and developing. He had plenty of cliche moments, but his superb writing and fresh takes on things made them enjoyable rather than boring and sterile.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the follow as well!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s