Morning, all! This week I wanna talk about tropes, and forgive me our non-romance readers, but this concerns romantic tropes, since that’s what I tend to write and read. 

When I was at RWA Nationals, I had a fun discussion with a group of other authors about tropes and the ones we love, no matter how many times they are done – as long as they are written well. 

First off, let’s define what a trope is.  According to Webster’s Dictionary, a trope is a “common or overused theme or device,” essentially, a cliché.   The word cliché has a negative connotation, but it’s hardly a bad thing, especially in Romance.  After all, there are no new stories under the sun; just a variance on how we present them.  And there are tropes that will draw me in almost every single time.  Maybe there’s a comfort level that pulls me in – I go in knowing, in general, what I’m going to get.  Or maybe it’s that I’ve read one book in a particular trope that rocked my world, and I’m eager to find something similar.

Still not sure what I’m talking about?  Here are some examples that have been done over and over again, yet readers still flock to them:

  • Marriage of Convenience
  • The Secret baby
  • The best friend/little sister romance
  • Werewolves, Vampires, Panthers (falls in love with human)
  • Dystopians
  • Arranged Marriages
  • Friends to lovers
  • Enemies to lovers
  • The love triangle
  • Billionaire boss/secretary
  • Ward/governess
  • May/December Romance
  • Mistaken Identity
  • Reunion/falling in love with an ex
  • Teacher/student

Some of these make us smile, others make us groan, and then there are the ones that make us do a little bit of both (can we say guilty pleasures?)

While most of these would work for NA, some of the most obvious favorites for this category would be the professor/student, friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, the sham relationship, and the love triangle.  And I love reading almost every single one of them, when done well. 

A great resource for seeing tropes that have been done, overdone, and explored way too many times, and also a tool for generating some fresh ideas is Television Tropes and Idioms, which is a wiki which considers itself “catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction.” Many of the women I talked to at Nationals cited this as a great source for generating fresh ideas by seeing what’s been done – just be careful, you can get lost in there for hours. 

So, what are some of your favorite tropes?  Are there any you just can’t stand?  Are there any you love to hate and hate to love?  Better yet, are you writing a story right now that has one of these tropes? 

I’d love for you to share.  Did I not list a trope you love? Please share those, too.  The more ideas, the better. 


Be sure to check out the post below for our new Featured Book of the Month.  

 And don’t forget, this Wednesday we’re having a NA pitch contest with editor Libby Murphy from Entangled publishing! Click the link to read the details and get those pitches ready!

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  1. Great post Jaycee!! I see the love triangle allllll the time, but I can't help but devour!!! I LOVE love triangles. Oh, and the bad boy and the good girl. Can't get enough of those :D

    1. Thanks! Love triangles can be annoying, but I still enjoy them. And who doesn't love a bad boy?

  2. I do like love triangle when well done, cause I've read some that were irritating ... when well done, then I'm taken ;)
    I like professor/student, friends to lovers, enemies to lovers ... oh, so many. Like you said, it depends more if it's well written, how it's approached, then I'm game for any trope ;)

  3. I read a lot of historical romances, so I see a lot of arranged marriage/marriage of convenience. I don't mind it, but it's nice if the author can put a new twist on it. (Ex:

    Why it's so common, I think, is that it puts the hero and heroine in a situation in which they must deal with each other and or in which intimacy is acceptable even though they recently met (partly values dictated by the setting).

    If you throw in a paranormal element, you can find many ways to build intimacy early on. I read a book recently in which a young woman with telepathic powers, including the power to take away pain, linked minds with a prisoner of war. Talk about immediate, believable intimacy! It drew me in right away and made me want to see those two end up together.


    Great post! :)

    1. That Whispers in the Dark sounds awesome, and I agree with the immediate intimacy! Thanks for posting!

  4. I love that site! You're right. It's easy to lose track of time there. :)

    1. I know, like we need more time-suckage. :)

  5. Good evening! Fellow Troper here, resident of TV Tropes.

    It's indeed a great (if addictive) resource. We even have a writer's forum of under-25 writers, with a couple writing stories that might fall under the NA category.

    Keep in mind that TV Tropes defines trope differenty, with it being "a story device or element of fiction". Meaning, any characterization, plot, gag, or even costume element.

    Basically, nothing's new under the sun--but that's not bad. We Troper writers pretty much decided that "writing with tropes" is a bad idea, and that writing without using lots of labels is less limiting.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Troper! That's something I think many of us can agree with (ie. Less limiting).

  6. "Trope!" (it's fun to say out loud) :D Fun!

  7. I know I am the oddball out of my Na sistas...but I LOATHE love triangles. Can't stand them. *takes love triangle and stomps on it, repeatedly. And then beats it with frying pan*

    One of my biggest complaints with love triangles is this: If the character is so torn between two people, then I doubt the reality of their emotions. Sure, people may crush on multiple people, but I really hate the "I LOVE so and so so freaking much but I also love other so and so so freaking much." To me, if someone really has that deep/strong of love as is often portrayed in fiction, especially romance, then I'm likely to doubt those feelings in love triangles. It makes me think, "hmm if you like x over there, maybe you don't really like Y as much as you think."

    The other reason I don't particularly care for them: they often aren't like that in real life. Usually, love triangles are more like "Girl A likes Boy B who likes Girl C."

    Ok, enough of that rant. I have a whole blogpost somewhere on my blog about this.

    Nice post, Jaycee!

    1. Thanks, LG. Yeah, even a hint of a love triangle sends my sister running in the other direction. You're not alone.

    2. I'm definitely with you on this, and I've blogged about it before too. I just don't get the appeal of having to choose between two people - dealing with feelings for one is enough. @_@ The only one I've read and enjoyed was because one of the guys didn't even realize he was in a love triangle. Long story, literally. ^_^

      But yeah, I usually don't like reading about love triangles, and I don't plan to write them. Having two people deal with feelings is difficult enough, adding a third just seems like a recipe for endless angst.

    3. New here, but definitely on this anti-triangle wagon.

      Igkelso, you said it better than i've ever heard it before: how do we trust someone who doesn't know for herself? I mean, I *really* don't trust a He who can't decide, so I don't trust a she, either.

      What I do think is important (being a she) is that the she at least has a legitimate alternate choice. I mean, she doesn't have to be smitten between two guys, but I think she should have a genuine choice, not like there's only one nice guy in the world.

      But she should totally be committed to the one she chooses.

  8. The May-December romance usually squicks me out, even in historical or classic books like Jane Eyre. One of the reasons I never finished Jane Eyre and have had no interest in attempting it again is because Mr. Rochester is old enough to be Jane's dad. Generally, I can only get behind it if the parties are both over a certain age. I had no problem with the on-again, off-again romance between Amber and Bruce in Forever Amber, which starts when Amber is 16 and Bruce is 12 years older, or between Scarlett and Rhett in GWTW.

    I like arranged marriages and marriages of convenience when it shows how sometimes the strongest, most lasting love bonds are formed when someone grows instead of falls in love.

    One I really don't like is the secret adoption. I'm cool with it being revealed that a character had a baby in less enlightened times and was pressured to give the baby away to avoid scandal. What I hate is when it's revealed that a character is really another character's mother instead of sister, or that long-feuding women are mother and daughter. I'm told this happened on The Young and the Restless, years after I stopped watching.

  9. And I totally *love* the TV Tropes site. I love how (frequently very clever) titles give you a vocabulary and handle for an entire concept.

    It's the cultural-shorthand version of being a word-geek. You find a deep affinity to anybody who speaks your language.

    What you are starting to describe here (with favs vs. squicks) sounds like an exercise Chris Batty encouraged in his NaNoWriMo guide (No Plot? No Problem!) where he urges writes to make two "Magna Cartas" naming specifically what is important to them. I did the exercise a few years back (on my blog if you wanna search Magna Carta), and find it is still true these years later.


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