Please welcome guest blogger Janell E Robisch to the blog! Have you ever been reading a new romance novel and felt something familiar, a bit of déjà vu? The “stage” is different, the “actors” are different, and even the situation is different, but it still feels cozy and intimate, like your best pair of fuzzy slippers.
If this has happened to you, then you might be starting to recognize the tropes in your favorite romance novels.
What Are Tropes?
Tropes are everywhere, not just in romance novels. In writing, they are commonly used themes. They’re recognizable once you’ve read enough books or watched enough TV. Think of the “lovable, overweight cop,” the “suave, seductive vampire,” or the “bullied kid overcomes” plot. As TVTropes.org puts it, “For creative writer types, tropes are more about conveying a concept to the audience without needing to spell out all the details.”
The romance genre relies heavily on tropes. When we pick up a romance novel, we know we’re going to get our happily ever after, and hopefully, we’ll get a few recognizable themes along the way. As long as writers spin the tropes in new ways, as readers, we eat them up and come back begging for more!
Done right, tropes represent the familiarity of a well-worn pair of jeans with some pretty, new embroidery at the hem. Knowing a bit about what’s coming makes us giddy to see how our new favorite heroes and heroines will handle the challenges that are surely headed their way. And when our author throws in a new twist? It makes the story all the more delectable!
Tropes: The Good and the Bad
I talked to a few romance writers to get the inside scoop on their favorite—and least favorite—romance tropes.
Jenna Harte, author of the contemporary Southern Heat series, is a fool for love when it comes to second-chance stories. In the second-chance-at-love trope, a couple who fails miserably the first time around gets a second chance to make it work, this time forever.
Jenna says, “For second chance at love, I like the idea of destined love. That true love wins in the end. My all-time favorite is Persuasion by Jane Austen. I pay homage to that book in my second chance at love novel, Meant to Be.“
Author of Love’s Silver Lining, Becky Muth is also a fan of the second-chance trope: “There’s something magical about watching someone who has given up on love opening themselves up to fall for someone again—especially when there’s an HEA (happily ever after) waiting for them.”
Becky also fell for the fated-mates trope. In this trope, our two main characters are destined to be together. If it’s a fantasy romance, they may even be prophesied to be joined in “a love for the ages.” Becky is using fated mates for her new novel Love’s Serenade, which is “about a guitarist who tries to use his music to win his soulmate’s heart before she walks down the aisle with someone else.”
Another favorite, this time from Natalina Reis, author of Loved You Always, is the friends-to-lovers trope. Natalina adores this trope, “maybe because I believe that love will only last if there is also a strong friendship between the two people involved.”
Some authors have tropes that they avoid like Indiana Jones does a snake convention.
Jenna is not a fan of the secret-baby, or secret-child, trope: “I have a problem with a father not knowing about his kid. Often, there are circumstances, like they’re separated and can’t find each other or the aunt is raising the child and doesn’t know about the father … but I think it’s so sad for a father to miss out on knowing his child.”
Becky’s least favorites include revenge and unrequited love stories: “I lean more toward Hallmark than Lifetime movies, for example.”
Natalina abhors the gay-for-you trope: “It makes absolutely no sense to me. You are either gay, straight, or bisexual, and you don’t switch sexual orientation just because.”
But don’t let these “not-so-favorites” get you down if they happen to be your cherished besties. Even authors who swear up and down that they’ll never write a marriage-of-convenience or enemies-to-lover story sometimes find themselves doing just that, exploring how they can make those tropes their own and make their readers swoon.
Tell us your favorite (and least favorite) romantic tropes!
Janell E. Robisch is an editor, blogger, and fiction and nonfiction author. She blogs for writers at Wordy Speculations, and her fiction website is JElizabethVincent.com. She is on Twitter as @Fiction_Editor. Her first published short story appears in Skyline 2017 under her pen name, J. Elizabeth Vincent, and her second will appear in The Best of the Virginia Writers Club: Centennial Anthology 1918–2018.
I recently had the great pleasure of guest posting on Janell’s blog, Wordy Speculations. Check out my post on Cohesive Author Branding on a Budget as well as other great articles about writing, editing, and the author life!