Writing The Outcast: 6 Freak, Geeks & Misfit Tropes You Never Knew

Friday 5 July 2019

Celebrating the release of season 3 of Netflix's hit show Stranger Things - I decided to summarise 6 Freaks, Geeks & Misfit Tropes that you've probably never heard of!

The following character tropes can be used for either your protagonist or antagonist, and show that when it comes to writing the high-school misfit, it doesn't mean you need to make them a walking, talking cliche of what we've seen many times before. 

There are NO spoilers for the third season in this post, but we will be discussing characters from the show so if you haven't seen any of the previous seasons yet, come back once you have! 

Also, if you want to read the pilot script for Stranger Things - you can find it at the end of this post. 

1) Beware The Nice One/ Beware The Quiet One

Example: Eleven

Sometimes, the sweeter, calmer, quieter characters bring about the worse consequences once they've been pushed to their limit. These consequences are more often than not - brutal and devastating. 

Often this extreme change comes as a shock to The Big Bad that they're facing off against. 

This trope is not to be confused with being a wolf in sheep's clothing - this trope is always a genuine good guy who submits occasionally to a rare and aggressive act. 

  • Subjected to extreme stress causes unpredictable action/reaction 
  • They constantly feel that their problems are ignored by other characters
  • Extreme situations can cause this trope to create devastating consequences.

2) Sugar-And-Ice Personality 

Example: Mike

This trope has two very clear and distinct sides - warm, open and caring, and distant, cold and shut off.

These polar opposite personality traits are usually triggered due to a traumatic event/ social awkwardness. 

This trope is usually shown as being shy, and that most other characters see them as cold and quiet - however, this is not exactly true. They are capable of showing deeper emotions, it just depends on the situation and characters they're involved with. 
  • They can be extremely cold and harsh when forced into awkward, uncomfortable situations
  • If subjected to a traumatic event, their warm side can disappear and they become emotionless and shut-down. 
  • Often these dual traits can cause this trope to give major mixed signals to others - specifically their love interests. 
  • They can be either a shrinking violet or confident - but their distinct and opposite sides are always there regardless. 

3) Trauma Conga Line

Example: Will

This trope experiences more trauma than any other. 

They are put in situations of constant loss - they will be put to the test and broken at every possibility. 

They either manage to rise above it, or give in and seek revenge on the circumstances brought upon them. 

This trope is endearing to audiences because of their trials and tribulations.
  • They either try to, or successfully rise above their continued traumas thrown at them.
  • At some point, sometimes permanently - they lose all motivation, hope and will to carry on. 
  • When broken they can turn vicious.

4) Team Mom

Example: Steve

They never hesitate to putting their life on the line. 

Team Mom is not a trope dependant on age OR gender. They are leaders, or at least considered to be by their companions/team. 

This trope is obviously protective of their 'kids' - their team. They are usually considered to be the heart of the group, the influence that pulls all characters 'into orbit' or 'regroup'.

They are of extreme value to other characters. Their absence is sometimes used as a reminder how valuable their presence and skills are - a challenge other characters have to go through to realise their full power as a collective team. 

  • They are the exact opposite of loners - they bring a group of characters together for the collective good. 
  • They are not usually the best at combat fighting - but when pushed they are a force to reckoned with. 
  • This trope can be ANY age or gender. 

5)  The Dog Bites Back 

Example: Max

This trope may be mistaken for a victim, but it's only a matter of time before they realise they have full potential to turn the tables!

The hunted becomes the hunter.

Their perceived flaws become their strength against the person/force/circumstance that had been victimising them. 

This trope can also assist the hero/protagonist by disposing of the villain/antagonist. 
  • The tables turn and the victim changes into a hunter. 
  • Their flaws become their strengths.
  • They help the hero by dispatching the villain/antagonist.

6) Mundanger 

Example: Billy

A trope most commonly used within a supernatural environment - whilst the main characters may usually be dodging ghosts, demons, monsters, a supernatural force - for a period of time, they will face the mundanger. 

The mundanger is a non-supernatural threat that is usually human.

This trope can often be a more immediate threat and danger to your hero/heroes. They border on the level of monster-threat which makes them all the more terrifying considering their humanity. 

They're unstable in some way (whether obvious to most other characters or not) and a willing participant in causing harm to others. 
  • A non-supernatural threat to your hero.
  • The same level of threat as a supernatural entity/monster.
  • Unstable and willing when it comes to harming others. 

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