Stories have existed for as long as humanity. From the particularly clever caveman who drew stick figures on a wall to record the details of his hunting expedition, through the oral traditions of Homer and the Torah and all the way to the bustling fictional haven of modern times -- fables, propaganda, history, escapist fantasy, personal little stories about the funny thing that happened to you on Friday night and how you met your best friend and the night your daughter was born -- rushing all around us, in loud conversations in bars and restaurants, in hushed confessions, yelled in the heat of argument, sent across the earth and back over network servers and phone lines. Stories matter.
The Trope Wiki is a wiki dedicated to stories -- or, to be exact, to the analysis of recurring themes in works of fiction. The word "Trope" originated in the greek tropos (τρόπος), meaning "turn", and its original meaning was "a turn of phrase". In that original sense, Metaphor is a kind of trope, as are Allegory and Metonymy. Over time, the word has evolved to mean any pattern or theme that indirectly says something meaningful by letting the audience fill in the gaps with connections, analogies and expectations.
What makes a good story? How does it draw you in? What is it about that novel that kept you up all night without you once realizing it, because you couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next; or the movie you saw fifteen times in the theater and stood first in line when it came out on DVD; or the television show you spend the whole week looking forward to? And, well, what makes a bad story? Those countless pieces of fan fiction you couldn't read past the second page -- what kind of essence was missing from them, really? What makes that co-worker who always forgets the punchline to the joke so annoying, what makes us tune out that uncle who's always going off on tangents until he loses his point completely, what makes us shift position in our chairs and look out the window and feel desperate to hear something else?
There may never be a complete answer to this question. The elusive "good story particle" may not even exist, and even if it does, it is beyond the human capacity of rigorous definition and on the way to comprehending it lie innumerable pitfalls. A good story is a mixture of hard work, inspiration, talent and, yes, experience at employing the tools of the storyteller's trade -- plot devices, motifs, themes and character archetypes; but you cannot understand a story by breaking it down to a heap of storytelling parts more than you can understand a painting by breaking it down to a heap of atoms. What you can do is look at those themes and patterns and make an effort to understand them in a way you didn't before -- what they are, why they are there, how they work, and how you can use them to tell a better story.
The Trope Wiki is here to explore those worlds and gain those insights.