I'm including My Top 5 Tried and True Horror Tropes by Micol Ostow in a Weekend Writer post not because I think new writers need to know about horror. Though, of course, if you're interested in writing horror, you'd better. No, what interested me in this post is how she defines the difference between a trope and a cliché. "...there’s also a fine line," Ostow says, "between a “trope” or homage, and a cliché."
When you see people refer to "tropes," it's usually in a flattering way. I can't recall the last time I heard someone say something flattering about a cliché.
The big question (which may be answered in the workshop Ostow mentions, but we won't all be going to that, and it isn't until fall, anyway) is how does a writer make something like a haunted house, asylum, or possessed doll a trope/homage and not a cliché? I've often wondered, is a trope a trope if readers get it, otherwise it's a cliché?
So keep the cliché/trope issue in mind.