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.