Thursday, November 25, 2021


Tropes are conventions, or familiar plot lines or set-ups, that are instantly recognizable to readers, because we’ve seen them so often that they’ve become commonplace. They’re recurring themes that work as a ‘shorthand’ to help authors, readers and booksellers identify what a story is about. 

Aren’t tropes a bad thing? 

 I’ve heard a lot of writing advice (mostly from literary writers) that tropes should be avoided, as if they’re somehow a bad thing. That might be true for literary fiction, but in genre fiction tropes are unavoidable. Yes, it's true that tropes can seem cliched, but every genre has its own tropes, and it would be impossible to write without them. What would a suspense story be without the trope of the ‘ticking time bomb’? What would a cosy paranormal mystery be withiut the friendly ghost or amateur sleuth? Not only are tropes unavoidable in genre fiction, but they’re actually a good thing! 

Why are tropes important? 

Tropes are excellent marketing tools. Look at almost any book description and you’ll see them used as a quick way to convey the book’s contents. We all recognise what a Cinderella story will be about, or a best friend’s brother story. And for many readers, a favourite trope is enough to make them auto-buy a book! 

In Romances with limited word counts, tropes are a quick way to introduce a concept to readers. We’re familiar with the concept of fake engagement, forced proximity, secret baby or friends to lovers tropes, so we don’t need to have every detail explained to us. Harlequin even uses tropes in their titles as a quick guide to identifying the type of story you'll find between the covers. 

The other reason that tropes are a good thing is that they work. In the words of, “Tropes get used again and again because they speak to us on some deep level and connect with our experiences, fear, and hopes.”

As a reader, what are your favourite romance tropes?

Image by Bingo Naranjo from Pixabay