Tropes

Many genres of fiction include tropes. Most of us have spent some time on TV Tropes, browsing the various styles. A ‘trope’ is a situation to construct the plot around, and is used repeatedly by various authors. Romance is a trope-heavy genre, as is mystery and sometimes science fiction. A trope is described as ‘a commonly recurring literary device.’ Some readers love them because of their familiarity and the ease of predicting the outcome. Some readers hate them because they feel it makes the writing too cliche and unoriginal.

I can’t speak for other genres, but I know a bit about romance tropes. I also think there’s a difference between formulaic romance (which does exist and has its fans too) and tropes. Tropes don’t necessarily have to go hand-in-hand with formulas. The biggest ‘formula’ in romance is boy and girl meet, are attracted to each other, are torn apart by various circumstances, finally get together, fall in love, get married, and have babies. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, because it’s actually what a lot of couples do in real life! If you’ve married and had kids–you’ve pretty much followed the romance novel formula. However, a trope doesn’t have to be part of a formula.

Tropes are not themes, either. Themes seem to go in trends, I’ve noticed. For a while romance was all about vampires. Then billionaires. Then motorcycle club romances (I blame Sons of Anarchy). Cowboys, athletes, and Scottish lords have always been in fashion. But these are simply themes to which you can apply tropes and formulas.

Mindy Klasky has a great, extensive list of romance tropes here. Some of them are more popular than others. Some I like better than others. I would have to say my favorites are class warfare, fish out of water, and opposites attract–all situations where two people come from very different backgrounds but fall in love despite their circumstances. What can I say, I love a challenge! My Siren Song series follows this sort of trope, as the main character comes from a very different world and background than the other characters, and is thrust into things she doesn’t understand or like.

How do you feel about tropes and formulas? Do you like your fiction to follow a pattern and be predictable, or do you like things more off the wall and original? Do you think there’s some new tropes to be invented? Some that don’t get used enough?

By the way, I’m on multiple tours all this week! Pop over to this post if you want to find out where I’ll be and when. I update the links each day as the posts go live.

2 comments

  1. Romance with a mystery storyline are what got me into reading romance novels. Not that surprising considering how much I like the mystery genre.

    Looking over Mindy’s list, I have to say I’m a bit of a sucker for Tortured hero(ine), however bad writing can make that cingeworthy pretty fast, too.

    To be honest, most of the romance/erotica I read is fanfiction, in which my main focus is usually on the pairing. From there, I do have certain kinks i like, but they have to make sense for the pairing. (Arguably kinks and tropes are the same thing, but I feel like trope might apply to the story type, while kink would apply more to … sexual elements in the story?) So, while reading fanfic for a pairing with a height difference, I might enjoy some focus on that. However. if I’m reading a novel, where I’m more focused on the storyline, then I might not really care about the height difference.

    Does that make sense?

    Like

    1. Makes absolute sense! You know I cut my teeth on fan fiction too, so I totally get what you mean. The huge difference I find is that when I wrote fan fiction things came easy–because the characters were already built for me and I was playing in someone else’s universe. It’s a lot harder with original fiction because you have to make people give a crap about the characters whereas with fan fiction, people already come to the table with a love for the characters. So I understand to a point what function tropes serve–they help build a story around characters no one has ever heard of when they start the book.

      In a way it’s kind of like fan fiction, because you’re starting with some sort of template–in this case though, it’s the plot device, not the characters.

      Like

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