TROPES – An Exquisite Rabbit Hole

alice falling

Writers: You will deeply love me and curse my name by the Seven Suns after this.

Unless you already know of… In which case, you are most likely well-versed in tumbling down this exquisite rabbit hole.

I can’t even put words to how amazing, inspiring, AHA!, and helpful this site is.

Looking to flesh out a character, or simply want to label one you already have?
Check out the Archetypes:

Hunting guidance on a specific genre, or just want to explore what’s out there?
Check out the Genre Tropes:

Need to amp up your dialogue? Give it some variation and tap into new flavors?
Check out the massive list of types:

Need a…?

Want to…?

Curious about…?

Stuck on a scene…?


My apologies in advance.

[But not really.] Happy tumbling.


Navigation pointers: The site’s main navigation is awkwardly positioned at the bottom of the far left column. Once you open a specific page, dozens of hyperlinks will be nestled within the text. PRO-TIP: Depending on your browser setting, clicking these may automatically open a new tab. If not, hold down [CTRL] as you click, to generate a new tab. Or a hundred…

The Plotting Wall

This was my writing nook earlier this evening: ambient, cozy, uber-organized & highly functional. But that focal wall behind my laptop was looking a bit empty. Too empty, in fact, with me being so close to beginning the first draft of Phreak Show. So I printed out some of my OneNote plotting info and turned that blank wall into this:

Now I have a visual reference for the major elements: call to adventure, refusal of the call, crossing the threshold, plot points, pinch points, mid-story twist, climax, etc . There are also setting notes, conflict opportunities, specific scenes, and random lines thrown into the mix. Over the next two weeks, these strips will move around, and probably triple in number.

I’m a very visual person. This set-up grants me a bird’s-eye-view of the story. When I begin the actual drafting, I will mark through each reference with a highlighter as it becomes part of the story. Maybe it’s silly, but I like seeing that colorful progress. It motivates me to keep going. I used this process for the first time when I wrote Freeborn. As I got into the thick of it, I knew I would use it for every future novel.

One tool I didn’t utilize with Freeborn, but am using with Phreak Show, is character cards. I created one of these for each of my named characters:

While I have all these in a digital file, I wanted to hang them right in front of my face—like an open photo album. Historically, Victorian sideshows had at least 10 attractions; more commonly, they had 12-15. Phreak Show has 11. That’s a lot of folks to keep up with. I’m counting on this set of cards to keep the characters fresh in my mind, make sure I keep their descriptions consistent, and remind me of anyone I leave out for too many consecutive scenes.

Every part of the writing process is fun to me. But this next stage, where I begin filling in the gaps & fleshing out the details, is one of my favorites. With the concrete, tangible scraps of paper in front of me, it really feels like something is being accomplished—like the story will take shape, that it is coming to be.

If you wanna stop by and have a seat on one of the settees, then consider this an open invitation. The coffee’s always hot. And if you’re nice, I might even let you pin something to the plotting wall. I know, I know! I get pretty excited about it, too.

{Sidenote: See that lovely hand cutout? It pivots like a mailbox flag. When it’s up, it means: Leave me alone. I’m writing. Only bother me if I need to back up my files real quick before bolting out of the burning building.}