Romance Tropes: Find Your Favorite!

So I’m finally done with revisions (let’s pretend this will really be the last time I’ll revise that WIP, okay?). And, I’m thinking about writing a new book. And thinking about tropes.

Admittedly, I’m a tiny bit obsessed with them. Which is funny, because I don’t tend to write thinking about the common tropes. You might remember an old post about tropes, Tropes: Love Them, Loathe Them.

Anyway, today I wanted to give you a list of some of the most common romance tropes. These can be thought of as storylines / ideas / situational patterns that commonly show up in stories, romances in particular.  I searched for one before, and had trouble finding it, so evidently I didn’t enter the right sequence of words. This time I did, and I found a couple of other author sites that have a fabulous explanation (I’ve shared them below).

Bottom line: many fiction genres use different kinds of tropes that continue to resonate with readers, and somehow seem inherent to that “type” (or genre) of story. It’s what the author does with the tropes, their own personal spin, that can make the story something new and special, even if it makes use of tropes we’ve seen many times before.

  • Secret Baby
  • Reformed Rake
  • Friends-to-lovers
  • Best friends-little-sister-grew up
  • Teacher / Student
  • Billionaire boss
  • Taming the Untameable
  • Alpha hero
  • Enemies to lovers
  • Mistaken Identity
  • Opposite side of the tracks
  • Boss / employee
  • Friends with benefits
  • Unrequited love
  • One night stand turns into something more
  • Forbidden love
  • plain / average gets the hottie
  • opposites attract
  • marriage of convenience
  • offer she (he) can’t refuse
  • bad boy (or bad girl) with strait-laced
  • reunited lovers
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Cinderella
  • Big Misunderstanding (like Pride and Prejudice)
  • fairy tale re-tellings
  • mutual unrequited love
  • insta-love
  • fated mates
  • amnesia
  • second chance at love
  • secret romance
  • first love
  • rescue
  • stranded
  • eccentric family
  • virgin and the rake
  • wounded hero
  • nerds / betas
  • twins
  • twins/ look-alikes impersonating each other
  • woman pretending to be a man
  • blackmail
  • make-over
  • sudden inheritance
  • instant baby / parenthood
  • revenge
  • runaway bride
  • pretending to be married

For most romance readers (and writers too), we have some favorite tropes we return to, intentionally or not. For me, I can’t resist a good marriage of convenience. 🙂 I also really like the wounded hero, Beauty and the Beast scenario (where the Beauty is able to “tame” and help heal the Beast), and unrequited love (often with best-friend’s-sister-grew-up tied in.) There are also tropes that I’m not a fan of, like: secret baby, revenge, and friends with benefits. Still, I’ve read books (and written them) with these tropes, because sometimes it seems to matter more HOW an author employs them than the original trope itself.

On my hunt today, I also found two fabulous lists of tropes that I wanted to share with you. These authors also provide a bit more of an explanation for some of the tropes that are a bit less obvious.

Mindy Klasky has a very complete and fabulous list of romance tropes.

Amalie Berline also has a nice list, which she’s also sorted / categorized, which is an interesting and informative way to consider tropes.

So now it’s your turn: do you write considering different tropes, or do you only see how your story might fall into those tropes after the story is complete? Are there some big tropes I’m missing from my list? What are some of your favorites and least favorite?

Thanks for reading, and wishing you all a great week. Happy writing out there! 🙂

The Journey to Publication

Workshop Recap: Hooking Readers with High Concept

So I’m behind in posting … again. This is becoming a bad habit.  This week, since I’m still not ready for the post on art journals (I know, more bad habits!), I thought I’d give you the highlights from another workshop I attended.

This one was “The Happy Hooker: Hook the Reader with High Concept” by Vicky Dreiling.

So essentially, she talked about a few ways you could hook your reader and reel them in.

  • your cover as hook (often in the visuals, using strongly appealing visuals)
  • using tropes as hooks

The latter was of particular interest to me, since she provided the most complete list of romance tropes I’ve ever seen … and which I didn’t have time to completely copy down (my bad, I know.) Essentially, the idea was to use some of the familiar romance tropes – which the genre is often labeled “formulaic” for – but give them a new twist.

Some include:

  • secret baby
  • the bad boy (or bad girl)
  • matchmaker
  • marriage of convenience
  • marry a millionaire
  • sexy boss
  • dark secret

Also don’t forget the importance of character hooks, that is, playing on character archetypes which are already familiar in your readers mind, and helps automatically connect you with readers which – you guessed it – you can give a unique and new twist.

From there, once you know your unique “hooks” that will make your story – and possibly your entire author brand – stand out, make it easy for readers to find you.

  • link up with other authors
  • distill your premise down to 1-3 sentences that sell
  • position the next books to match the first without feeling too derivative.
  • give yourself a “hook” with a short, snappy bio.

And, hopefully soon, I plan to provide you with my favorite part of the workshop, or at least a link to it, of all those classic romance tropes. Just getting to play with those sounded like a ton of fun! 🙂

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.


The Journey to Publication, Writing

Tropes: Love them, Loathe them

Every genre has their tropes, and the sub-genres, too. I must confess that I wasn’t familiar with the term until recently, but I knew what it meant. Google and Wikipedia define it as:

A literary trope is the use of figurative language. For example, the sitting United States administration might be referred to as “Washington”. Since the 1970s, the word has also come to mean a commonly recurring literary device, motif, or cliché.

Here, you have some of the fantasy tropes according to someone on Wikipedia. Fantasy tropes and conventions.

The romance genre is a bit obsessed with tropes, as are the readers. When you pick up a book with say, the “arranged marriage” trope, you have some idea of what to expect. Paranormal fiction has its own tropes, like the vampire who refrains from drinking blood, the werewolf who wishes he were human, the “surprise! you’re paranormal” revelation, and many more.

Now, after reading a bit of discussion on tropes, I’m almost scared to tread into these waters, but I’d have to say that for the most part, I don’t mind tropes – so long as the author doesn’t let them become predictable. And yes, I sometimes avoid books when the blurb contains a trope I’ve had a bad experience with before.

Still, certain story ideas have become “tropes” (ie: almost cliché) because they somehow work well within their genre, whether we like them or not. Perhaps one author did them so well (like Tolkien with his Lord of the Rings), and it forever changed the genre. There will certainly be authors who will try to emulate him, and those who have just been strongly influenced. While certain tropes will rise and fall in popularity like the tides, some remain or return perhaps because of the potential “what if” fun they contain.

What if you were engaged to marry a stranger? This may not have just been hypothetical to historic noblewomen. Many did marry strangers. And perhaps as we look back at this, we try to understand them, to understand their history and experiences, and how it contributes to making us who we are.

What if you were turned into a werewolf and became an uncontrollable beast at every full moon? I can see how this would suck. And I want to know: so what do you do next? What’s your plan?

That’s the excitement of the story for both the author and the reader. How will we answer the lure of “what if”? What journey will we take the reader on? And sometimes, as when it comes to tropes, how do you respond to the trope in a new and fresh way? What possibilities lay inherent? Because each of us plays the “what if” game differently, what we expect – along with what we get, and what we want – are going to be different. Including our love and hate for tropes.

So, what do you think? Do you mind tropes? Ignore them? Intentionally go after them?

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a great week. Oh, and like the post? Why not follow the blog? Have a good one, and happy writing to you. 🙂

Some discussion on Romance and Tropes:

Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books: Romance Tropes by Heidenkind

Dear Author has lots of discussion regarding all kinds of tropes!