These basic plot tropes describe the overall goal/conflict of the story, which means that everything that happens in the story is for the sake of the trope. It is the protagonist’s main goal/desire. These are helpful for when you have a setting and/or character but no plot. You can use a trope that seems fitting to structure your story.
Notes: Sorry if my examples are not well-known. I just used what I’ve seen, but I’ve provided links if you want to know more about the examples. Also, the list is incomplete. I plan on adding more as I figure out more tropes.
Protection: Someone has a powerful object or skill which they must keep safe from enemies who want to abuse it and/or they must get rid of it. It’s usually something that is bestowed upon them and they don’t have much say in the matter.
- Natsume’s Book of Friends: Returns names to spirits because they can be used to control them and other spirits want this book.
- Lord of the Rings: Goes on a quest to destroy the ring and prevents others from getting it.
- Nabari no Ou: Has a powerful ninja technique that others want.
Searching: Someone is trying to find a powerful object or person before others who want to use it or destroy it (sometimes because it is the key to taking them down). They are searching out of their own free will but in a way are forced to because they need the object.
- The Scholar Who Walked the Night: Searching for a book that says how to defeat the vampire who secretly rules the kingdom.
- The Raven Cycle: Searching for the king Glendower who supposedly grants a wish when you wake him up.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Searching for the Philosopher’s Stone.
A character is on a journey (whether intentional or not) to figure out their identity and their place in the world. They usually are the loner type who doesn’t fit in (sometimes a delinquent) and someone reaches out to them, which causes them to open up and make friends. Sometimes it’s a troubled character who heals from their traumatic past via interactions with other characters who accept them for who they are. They may have a secret they are keeping from the others.
- All for the Game trilogy: Neil keeps his identity a secret while healing from his traumatic past by getting close to his teammates.
- Girls of the Wild’s: Jaegu gets over his fear of women by going to a previously all-girls school and interacting with many girls.
- Kids on the Slope: Kaoru figures out that he likes playing jazz and makes friends in the process.
A wronged character will do anything to get revenge. The wronged is usually an underdog and the wrongdoer is usually a powerful person. Sometimes the wronged doesn’t know who the wrongdoer is so a lot of the plot is the search for the wrongdoer. Often the wronged is torn between punishing or sparing the wrongdoer because they end up having a connection to the wronged (sometimes they are family).
- City Hunter: Revenge on the politicians for abandoning the soldiers they sent on a secret mission in North Korea, which caused them to get killed.
- The Time Between Dog and Wolf: Revenge on the leader of a gang for killing his parents.
- Iljimae: Revenge on the noble who killed his father and disgraced his family by framing them as traitors.
The character is solving a mystery, which is usually a death/murder. Solving this mystery often brings corruption to light. This can be a police-type mystery (like Law & Order), but this trope becomes deeper and more interesting when paired with unveiling the corruption of people in power by underdogs.
- Signal: Solving cold cases which reveals how they were covered up by the police.
- Arang and the Magistrate: Arang solves why/how she died, which brings to light nobles’ corruption and evil deeds.
- City Hunter and Iljimae also fit. The mystery is who the wrongdoer is and solving this brings corruption to light and allows them to finally get revenge.
A game is deadly or dangerous (or it starts out innocent and becomes dangerous). Only certain people know about and/or participate in this game. Sometimes they can choose to participate (in the beginning when it was harmless) but they always have no choice once it becomes dangerous (i.e. they can’t pull out unless they die). They usually have randomly chosen special abilities or weapons. The last person standing sometimes has the ability to control the game (they become the new game master).