What Makes Us Love Tropes

As you all know by now, I’ve been reading primarily romances this year. As such I’ve been thinking a lot about the genre, and attending online bookish romance events when I can. One topic that kept popping up at these events were the different romance tropes and which one is superior. At first I thought that I would do a list on my favorite (and maybe even least favorite) romance tropes. But then, me being me, I began to overthink things, and I decided it would be much more fun to discuss tropes as a whole and what makes them so captivating! So that’s what we’ll be doing today!

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So first off, we need to start by defining what a trope is. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

We’ll be going by definition 1b in this post, where a trope is “a common or overused theme or device”. Now, I actually really like this definition because it addresses the fact that, yes, tropes can be overused. However, it also indicates that a trope is a literary device that can be used in a variety of different fashions. Both of these aspects of the definition are important, because to me, it highlights what makes or breaks a trope.

Now, every genre has its tropes. Fantasy has the “chosen one” and the “lost royalty” tropes. Horror/thrillers has the “haunted house” and I’m sure it has others, but I don’t read enough horror or thrillers to know them offhand. But I do know romance really well, and so the tropes I’ll be using as examples will be from this specific genre, even though my general points should apply to any genre’s tropes.

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So the first thing that I think is great about tropes is that there’s some predictability in them. For example, if I know a book has fake dating, I know there’s a good chance there are hilarious shenanigans that will ensue from having to keep up the charade, a high possibility that the “only one bed” trope will be thrown in as well, and that it will be lots of fun to see the characters go from faking their love to panicking about their actual, completely real love for one another. On the other hand, I know that most of the times I’m let down by second chance romances because the reason the couple separated in the first place is usually too much of a deal breaker for me to believe in the couple working through their issues well enough to last in a permanent fashion. Knowing the tropes and how they tend to fall out allows us to tailor the books we read to our specific tastes.

And yet, the next point I’m about to make is the complete opposite of my first point. Yes, the predictability is what makes us reach for a book with that specific trope. BUT! What actually makes the trope well done is how the author plays with the trope. How do they use it to mess with your expectations. How do they find a fun twist. How do they make something so commonly used unique. I know that for me, the best books make at least one trope stand out with the original take that the author implemented. This can be done by making a unique reason for why a trope needs to be used in the first place, or maybe it can be done by twisting one trope into another unexpectedly. Whatever it is, the thing that makes the book worthy of being recommended in a list of other titles with that same trope is how each author handled the trope differently.

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If I handed you a list of fake dating romances and in every one of them the couple gets together to spite respective exes, you’d get bored by book 2 or 3. But if each couple has their unique reasons for having to fake their relationship, the story feels more unique, even though the premise is technically the same!

That for me is the beauty of tropes. I happen to like specific tropes and such in my books. I mean, technically romance is one big trope of “and they all lived happily ever after”. However, even though I’m a fan of predictability, I don’t want to be reading the same exact story over and over again. Having different combinations and implementations of tropes is what keeps a genre with a very simple premise fresh and exciting for me!

What are some of the tropes in your favorite genres? Do you like tropes? What trope is your favorite? Is there any trope that you specifically avoid?

20 thoughts on “What Makes Us Love Tropes

  1. Oh yes I completely agree! I love some tropes too and even more when they’re used different and twisted into something unexpected by the author! And haha yeah rereading the same trope written the same way would be SO boring 🥱

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    1. Certain tropes are just the absolute best and I will hear no argument! And honestly there’s one book that I had in mind where certain tropes were turned on their head beautifully, so even though I didn’t love the story, I was impressed by the author’s creativity when it came to execution!

      Sometimes reading the same trope can be okay, but too many in a row would just ruin the fun for me!

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    1. Yeah, love triangles are a pretty hard trope to do uniquely, but I have seen it done well! I’ve read a few second chance romances, but I can’t think of any that I actually enjoyed!

      Those are some great fantasy tropes that you mentioned! I especially like the chosen one trope when there’s a little twist to it!

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  2. Great post! I totally agree that having a trope be twisted in some way to make it unique is fantastic but I also feel like I’m okay with the predictability a lot of the time depending on my mood (as a mood reader). I also feel like the characters play a big role in how I feel about a trope and whether I think it’s well executed or not! I love the fake dating, marriage of convenience, only one bed, enemies to lovers, and found family tropes (and all the shenanigans that are usually involved with all of these) 😍

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    1. Thank you! I totally agree, but I think that even with predictable tropes there needs to be some sort of difference with how different stories handle the execution to keep me interested. The twisted and completely unique take on a trope is something that I like seeing every once in a while, but it definitely isn’t required for every story with a trope I like!

      For me it’s the writing that makes a trope well done or not. There can be a trope I dislike, but if the author manages to pull it off it will be because of how well written the plot and characters are to make that trope believable and well-executed!

      Also, you just listed some of my absolute favorite tropes! But honestly, any romance trope that forces the couple to be in forced proximity and having entertaining interactions will always be my favorite! 💕

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  3. I absolutely hate the “she had everything she ever wanted, until…” trope! Especially when it comes to men and romance – blech. But someone who falls on hard times through no fault of their own… I get that; that’s fine with me, because they’re going to work to get themselves back on track in that book. Mind you, if their main way to do so is to find a man to rescue her, then… you’ve lost me!

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    1. Oh, yes! Some tropes definitely could disappear and I would not be bothered in the slightest! I also hate the “damsel in distress” trope. Especially when the heroine starts off as a Strong, Independent Woman TM, but then loses the ability to function as soon as a man comes in the picture. I’m fine with having a man to support the heroine through a tough time, but he shouldn’t be the one fixing all her problems!

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  4. I’m so glad that you defined what a trope is because the term gets misused and confused with cliches all the time and it kind of gets on my nerves whenever people say things like “it’s too tropey”. Every piece of fiction has tropes in it because they’re tools. That being said, I am a total sucker for a good friends-to-lovers story. Something about realising that you’re in love with someone you’ve known for a long time just hits me in my softest parts 🥰

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    1. Yes! That’s exactly why I chose to define it before discussing the term! Tropes are supposed to be common and recognizable. Like you said, tropes are a tool! There can be some overlap with clichés, sure, but a trope is a neutral term, while a cliché has negative connotations!

      Friends to lovers is a really adorable trope that I actually don’t see too much of! The most recent book I read and adored with that trope was People We Meet on Vacation! I thought the evolution of the relationship in that book was just fantastic!

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    1. Yes! I’ve seen love triangles done well once or twice, but more often than not they aren’t handled well. And I think there’s something just so much fun about enemies to lovers! Watching too people slowly realize that they no longer hate one another, and in fact have grown to adore one another is one of the most adorable things to read about!

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  5. This is SUCH an interesting discussion post!!! 💕 Because of the pandemic I have thrown myself into my reading and finally figured out what I loved reading and I didn’t realize how much I relied on tropes.Now that I’ve figured out what I love reading, I feel safer going for books with tropes I love even if it’s predictable because as you said, I’m always excited to see the how the author uses it and the reasons behind it! 🥰 I love slow burn, enemies to lovers, fake dating and marriage of convenience!!

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    1. Thank you! Yes! It’s fantastic when you figure out which sorts of stories you enjoy reading, and I definitely agree that once you know which tropes you like, that process becomes so much easier!

      I’m not the biggest fan of slow burn since I get impatient, but enemies to lovers, fake dating, and marriage of convenience cannot be topped!

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