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The ultimate writer's guide to the Final Girl trope

The image is of a girl who has Been Through It. I capitalised the first letters of been, through, and it, in order to really convey what sort of a time she's been having. She's done. She's over it. She's the epitome of the final girl trope.

What is the Final Girl trope?

The "Final Girl" trope is a popular narrative device in horror and thriller genres, where one character—usually a young woman—survives the ordeal of the narrative's antagonist and makes it to the end of the story. This character often displays intelligence, innocence, and resourcefulness, distinguishing her from her peers who fall victim to the horror. The Final Girl confronts the antagonist in the climax and typically signifies hope, resilience, or moral superiority.

Characteristics of the Final Girl trope

This trope explores themes of survival, purity, and the battle between good and evil. It highlights the character's transformation from a potential victim to a survivor or even a hero. The Final Girl's journey is marked by her ability to outsmart or outlast the antagonist, often leading to a final confrontation where she directly faces the source of evil or terror. The relevance of this trope lies in its subversion of traditional gender roles, presenting the Final Girl as both vulnerable and capable of overcoming extreme adversity.

Where did the Final Girl trope come from?

Coined by film critic Carol J. Clover in her 1992 book "Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film," the trope was identified as a recurring pattern in slasher films of the 1970s and 1980s. It has since become a staple of the horror genre, reflecting and challenging societal views on gender, violence, and survival. Its evolution has seen the Final Girl become more complex, often incorporating flaws and moral ambiguity, reflecting changing societal attitudes towards heroism and victimhood.

Genres & the Final Girl trope

  • Horror: Particularly prevalent in slasher and thriller films, where the trope originated.
  • Thriller: Used to heighten tension and focus on the psychological resilience of the survivor.
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy: Sometimes appears in speculative settings that include elements of horror or survival against monstrous entities.

Cross-genre Usage: While rooted in horror, elements of the Final Girl trope have been adapted into action, drama, and even comedic contexts, often as a means to comment on or subvert traditional genre expectations.

Examples of the Final Girl trope

  • "The Girl With All the Gifts" by M.R. Carey: Offers a unique take on the trope within a post-apocalyptic setting, blending horror with science fiction.
  • "Survive the Night" by Riley Sager: A thriller that plays with the Final Girl concept, exploring the psychological impact of survival.
  • "Dracula" by Bram Stoker: Mina Harker embodies elements of the Final Girl, facing off against Dracula with intelligence and resilience.
  • "And Then There Were None" by Agatha Christie: This mystery novel features a sole survivor who outwits a killer, aligning with the trope's themes of survival and confrontation.

How to use the Final Girl trope in creative ways

  • Avoiding Clichés: Give the Final Girl complex motivations, flaws, and strengths to create a multi-dimensional character beyond the archetype.
  • Innovative Twists: Challenge or invert the trope by altering the character's journey, the nature of the threat, or the story's setting.
  • Character and Plot Integration: Use the Final Girl's survival journey to explore broader themes relevant to your story, such as trauma, resilience, or justice.
  • Examples of Creative Use: A story where the Final Girl is aware of horror tropes and uses this knowledge to her advantage; or a narrative that begins after the typical "end" of a horror story, exploring the Final Girl's life post-survival.