Infographic: A Periodic Table Of Storytelling Tropes

[1] Source: John Brownlee, A Periodic Table of Storytelling Tropes, Fast Company, Infographic of the Day, February 5, 2014.

You probably won’t recognize these storytelling elements from creative writing class.

Dmitri Mendeleev
Dmitri Mendeleev

The design of Dmitri Mendeleev’s Periodic Table of Elements has been used to catalog many things besides atomic structures, from cocktail recipes to heavy metal bands. A new use of it has been created to characterize all of the elements of storytelling in a tongue-in-cheek infographic put together by Design Through Story Telling‘s James R. Harris.

The Periodic Table of Tropes [1] might be a better name for this interactive visualization: Although each box on Harris’s Periodic Table contains one storytelling element coupled with an atomic number, you probably won’t recognize many of these storytelling elements from creative writing class. Rather, the Periodic Table of Storytelling is filled with elements such as “Idiot Hero,” “Getting Crap Past The Radar,” and “Xanatos Gambit,” spread across groups that range from archetypes to metatropes.


Ghostbusters-MovieThese categories are so weird because they have been automatically culled from TV Tropes. This wiki started off as a way of cataloging some of television’s strangest plot devices and characters, but has expanded over the years into a celebration of storytelling  in general. It’s amazing how well these esoteric elements combine into recognizable story molecules. For example, 5 Man Band + Mad Scientist + Sealed Evil In A Can + Hilarity Ensues = the plot of Ghostbusters (see image below).


Check out the Periodic Table of Storytelling here. You can buy a print for creative writing inspiration for around $30 at DeviantArt.

[Image: Ghostbusters]

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