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Writing – Tropes



I don’t think I heard or understood the word trope until the last five years or so, so let me throw out a definition–though even a few tropes would define it really… A trope is a common (sometimes over-used) plot device or plot-line. If you’ve got an hour or two to kill, check out the site TV Tropes –loads of fun.  In romance books, you can spot a trope usually in the back blurb. Here’s a few:

Friends to Lovers or Enemies to Lovers

Secret Baby

Forced to Marry

Boy/Girl Next Door

Amnesia (I’m a total sucker for amnesia books…no matter how ridiculous the premise.)

Long-lost love

High school sweethearts

Reformed/Reforming Rake

Ugly Duckling

Wrong Bed

Love Triangle


and then there’s the one I would swear UP AND DOWN that I hate with the fire of a thousand suns…

The Big Misunderstanding

Although I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Love Triangles either.  I typically hate the Big Misunderstanding trope because I spend the entire book annoyed that a single conversation would have fixed everything (and, of course, ended the book.) (Okay, so I don’t always like the conflict aspect of stories.)  However, I would bet that if I skimmed through my favorite books that I’d find a few Big Misunderstandings here and there. Why? Because tropes are tropes because they’re common in real life and a literary device only feels like a prop if you can see the writer’s hand. If the story is built well, even your least favorite trope can be in your favorite book.

This came to mind as a blog topic because one of the things I was working on lately is at its core a Big Misunderstanding trope. It just sort of developed that way. I couldn’t tell you whether it works or not–it works for me, but I’m a bit biased.

So, what about you? What tropes are an auto-buy? What tropes do you dislike?  (There’s a ton more than I have in that list by the way.)

If you feel like weighing in, what short story genre would you like to be the next “free story” I put on here? Throw out a genre, I might just have it. (I have twenty something short stories to choose from.)

Oh, and if you read this whole thing to figure out why I had a picture of a zombie trying to break through a door and you’re still wondering what it has to do with romance tropes….

Not a thing. I just thought you’d like a picture to look at, and I sketched that out one day. *shrugs* Although, I suspect Undead Love might be a trope…

11 Responses so far.

  1. Jaime (Spider-Jaime) says:

    I like the forced to marry trope. It is always exciting for me to see how the author managed to pull something off that NEVER happens in real life. (Well unless you are in a culture that arranges marriages…then I guess it happens a lot.) You should have a forced to marry trope short story! Or at least one that goes with your cool zombie picture. I love how he covers his ears like that will help. Must be a loud zombie.

    • I once got in a discussion with a lawyer on Twitter about the Forced to Marry by a Will trope. She was saying that it’s ridiculous that such books even exist because they’re legally not plausible or even possible. I pointed out that Historicals probably were plausible…she gave me that point…then I admitted that I read contemporary books with that trope knowing it was ridiculous, but I love them anyway. She stopped following me. It was sort of funny. Sort of a “I can’t have this discussion with you” moment.

      There’s also the Fake Marriage trope that is somewhat an offshoot of that…as is the Marriage of Convenience trope. I like both of those too. *snickers* You know…now that I think about we’re a little weird in that we’re all “FORCE THEM TO MARRY! FORCE THEM TO MARRY! WOOOO! YES!” We would have been great for mobs in feudal society, Jaime. Just sayin.

      And there’s nothing wrong with that.

      Okay, there probably is.

      I don’t have a Forced to Marry story…well, sort of with Charlie in Charge…oh and the end of that one glove story–can’t think of the name. Both are Historicals, though.

      • LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. Wait. I do have a Forced to Marry plot…what could it be? What could it be? Oh. Wait. How about it’s Frosted? *headsmack*

        • Jaime (Spider-Jaime) says:

          You’re right! That’s hilarious! I didn’t catch it either! Oh Frosted you sneaky little novella you! Slid right under the radar.

          • Jaime (Spider-Jaime) says:

            Oh and love triangle is my least favorite. I don’t like the conflict it puts my stomach in knots. I actively avoid that plotline if I can.

          • I dislike genuine love triangles because the reality is that whoever gets tossed–their story drops out–but not in real life. In real life, the person not picked has to go on and scrape their way through suckage until they can move on–and maybe they’ll never move on. I don’t mind love/lust triangles–where one is true love–and the other is just instant gratification–right here–right now. But if the person is really “in love” or close to it with two people and it’s reciprocated. That. Just. Sucks. Dumping someone for someone else when you really care about them is not part of a happily-ever-after ending or at least not a happy-for-now ending. Not in any story that comes to mind anyway. So, I avoid love triangle books.

  2. Oh, hey, I’ll just tack this on to the discussion: Entangled editors and authors talk about tropes A TON. Why? Because romance readers LOVE tropes. They love looking at the back of a book and seeing something a bit familiar but still different. I didn’t realize how much I liked certain tropes as a reader until it came up frequently in discussions with Entangled folks. I think it’s because familiar tropes almost have the feel of favorite characters…we start reading knowing we already know something about the people involved…something we like.

    By the way, tropes are common in other literature too. I think it’s just easier to pick out tropes in romance back blurbs and, to some extent, plots.

  3. minnie says:

    Tropes are not necessarily bad things, they are just tools, it all depends on how you use them. Actually they have become tropes because they forever appeal to readers. There has to be something magical about them:). But using a beloved trope well is no easy job since they have been done for a thousand times, how to think of a new twist? Well, here is the test for writers. My favourite one is secret baby plus hero married or at least engaged.

    • No, they can become overdone and a bit of a fad and certain tropes won’t appeal to all readers, but I think tropes are awesome for picking a book I’m in the mood for. So, are you saying your favorite one is with the hero married to someone else or to the heroine? Or a bit of forced to marry and secret baby combined?

      I actually don’t like books that start with the hero in a different relationship…even if–and sometimes especially if it is just a sexual one. That’s a huge turnoff for me. (Which may be totally unrelated to what you’re saying but I’ve seen it a lot lately.)

  4. I’m In Love With My Best Friend’s Sibling is my favorite trope. Cannot resist it ever.

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