The Periodic Table of Storytelling
The Periodic Table of Storytelling, a non-exhaustive list of tropes compiled by James Harris from examples on the TV Tropes website.

Every story or narrative contains certain cliches, certain archetypal themes that occur time and again and whose presence defines a genre.

If, to give a ridiculous caricature of an example, a story features an alcoholic ex-detective renting a grungy office, whose hired by a glamorous blonde in furs and high heels to check on the wealthy husband she has a loveless relationship with, you know that’s a Crime Noir story.

In writing science fiction (or science fantasy, whatever the case may be), certain tropes are used, and again, the types of tropes determine the type of science fiction (space opera, time travel, cyberpunk, steampunk, parallel worlds, post-apocalyptic, etc).  In general, tropes have to be of a technological or pretend-technological nature for a story to qualify as science fiction rather than fantasy.   If for example, there are spaceships, it’s science fiction.  Dragons, it’s fantasy (however it is sometimes possible to have both and still be science fiction)

The following is a partial list of tropes that I use in one or another of my two science fiction projects, or that are commonly found in science fiction

  • AI
  • Bounty Hunter
  • City Planet
  • Cool Spaceship
  • Cyborg
  • Desert Planet
  • Drone
  • Dystopia
  • Eldar Race
  • FTL
  • Giant Spaceship
  • Greeble
  • Hologram
  • Imperium
  • Mech
  • Megacorp
  • Motley band of misfits
  • Nanotech
  • Ocean Planet
  • Singularity
  • Space Gods
  • Space Habitat
  • Space is an Ocean
  • Splice (manimal)



TV Tropes – a vast and highly addictive website, featuring just about every trope known to man, and then some.