“I’m the One That’s Cool” is the third song Felicia Day wrote as an extra for her (now complete) web show The Guild. The Guild is pretty much my favorite thing from the Internet, and Felicia Day is one of my heroines (I had her sign the back of my iPad), so I love all the songs she wrote. They’re all very different songs, and they’re all great but “I’m the One That’s Cool” is probably the most interesting, because she’s commenting on the whole “geek is chic” thing, which she’s commented on before. That’s cool, and I could write a lot about that, but the important thing about this song for our purposes is her use of tropes.
Tropes are essentially building blocks that writers can “reasonably rely on as being present in the audience member’s minds and expectations.” Tropes are similar to cliché in that they give the audience a quick idea of what you mean, but tropes aren’t stereotypes, they have more value in that they still have a connection to something the audience actually recognizes. Tropes that get used too much and outlive their relevance become cliché.
So why talk about tropes? Because they’re useful, and this song is full of tropes connected to “geek” life and culture. Tropes allow writers to express things concisely, without having to resort to excessive exposition or explaining details. You know the idiom concerning jokes that, if you have to explain it, it isn’t funny? The same idea applies, the more time you spend explaining what you mean by something, the longer it takes to move on with the story. Check out TVTropes.com and see how others have identified and used tropes, and see where you can fit them into your own writing.