T is for Tropes

And so the A to Z Blog Challenge continues as we arrive at the letter “T.” And don’t forget that this is a blog hop, so be sure to visit the other participants at https://tinyurl.com/w54yupwe.

In storytelling, tropes are themes or elements that are commonly or frequently used, most often categorized by the fictional genres they tend to appear in. This can include character archetypes, plot devices, structures, and so on, and they can set a base from which authors can jump, putting their own spin and style on them to seem fresh.

Tropes are different from clichés, and this is a critical point that many authors misunderstand. Clichés are words or phrases that are overused (especially word for word) and are often out-of-date, insensitive, or just plain tiresome to a majority of readers. It can be hard to tell the two apart, so researching your genre of choice is key!

This is where many people get confused, and they end up seriously missing out when they do. Clichés are a bad thing, but tropes are a GREAT thing, and using them is strongly encouraged. One reason some people think tropes and clichés are one and the same is because they hear about certain tropes and don’t like them, potentially because they see it everywhere.

One trope example in fantasy is the Chosen One – where the MC is predestined to save the world or a society or something of the like. This is an important trope and one that many people specifically look for. But for those who dislike it, the trope may give them cliché vibes.

Every genre/subgenre has their own tropes that are important, and some people deliberately search out stories that include them. Authors frequently use these as tags or in their book descriptions so readers know they are included. Refusing to acknowledge tropes can be detrimental to marketing because the readers who might love your story can’t find it. Besides which, there are so many tropes that you are probably using at least one without even realizing it. So, use them to your advantage!

There are . . . so many. I’m not kidding. And I’m sure there are a few I haven’t heard of, and new ones develop over time. So while the trope lists I provided are by no means exhaustive, they will include the most common ones, along with very abbreviated descriptions for clarification.

Love triangle: main character (MC) is equally romantically interested in two other people who vie for their attention.

Enemies to lovers: the characters start out hating each other, but slowly fall in love

Friends to lovers: the characters start out as just friends but develop romantic feelings

Forced proximity: the romantic interests are forced to spend close one-on-one time together (like getting snowed in) so their love can blossom

Fake dating: one character needs someone to pretend to be their lover (for example, to please their parents), but they end up falling in love for real

Second chance: exes end up falling back in love

Secret baby: character has a baby without telling the other parent until they show up one day to break the news, then they fall in love after the initial complications

Forbidden love: the characters are “allowed” to be together for political, societal, or other reasons

Grumpy/sunshine: one character is always grumpy, and the other is always cheerful, so they balance each other

Sworn off love: one character refuses to ever fall in love—whether again or for the first time—because of some dramatic previous experience, but they end up falling anyway.

Used to be normal: character’s “normal” life turns upside down when they get turned into something else or secret, dormant powers surface

Secret identity: MC is hiding who/what they really are from others

Fated mates/soulmates: characters who were always destined to be in a romantic relationship, but they just had to find each other

Rejected mates: one character rejects their “fated mate” for any number of reasons, causing devastation

Antihero: grumpy or hardened MC learns to lighten up

Species vs. species: age-old hatred or wars between two groups (e.g. angels/demons or vampires/werewolves)

Gray characters: characters who walk the line between good and bad

Alphas: powerful, dominant (usually male) character who is in charge and highly protective


There are many more, but some overlap with romance because of the prevalence of the paranormal romance genre. And then you have dark paranormal romance, which have even more . . .

Don’t let tropes scare you off. Embrace them! With so many out there and many more evolving, you have plenty to choose from. Using them in combinations and with your own twists will leave you with a unique story that still connects with readers through their use of familiar elements.

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