Trope Talk: An Introduction

Eleven years ago, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month for the first time. As a push to keep me motivated and stay on track with my goals, I enrolled in a “support class” for NaNoWriMo offered by Savvy Authors (a great writing resource by the way.) This class would challenge me in a hundred different ways, but it taught me the most important lesson in writing romance.

One of the first assignments the instructor gave us was to identify the tropes we wanted to include in our novel. I was absolutely panicked.

Tropes? What the f*ck are tropes?

I went to college. I studied all forms of literature, dabbled in literary analysis, and poured over creative writing. I have my Bachelor’s Degree in English. But I had NO FREAKING IDEA what a trope was. They never taught me. How dare they leave me so ill-prepared?

This was my lightbulb moment.

When I started reading romance novels in my twenties, the word trope meant nothing to me. I knew there were certain elements in the stories that I really enjoyed. But I didn’t realize they had a NAME! Yeah, I was already accumulating a list of my favorite romance tropes in my mind before I discovered they were a critical part of the romance genre.

The truth is…tropes are everywhere! They’re literary conventions used by authors and screenwriters to target specific audiences. A trope is a plot device, motif, or theme that commonly appears in specific genres. Every genre has its own collection of tropes, and there are some that overlap genres. But most have very genre-specific attributes.

As consumers of media, we use tropes to recognize the material we’re drawn to. It helps us manage our expectations when we’re looking for a show to watch or a book to read. Now it all makes sense!

If someone says, “This book is a steamy, gender-bent spin on the Robin Hood legend with mutual pining, enemies to lovers, and hidden identity,” I’m going to buy it. Why? Because all of those elements appeal to me. It gives me a clear expectation of what to expect from this book. Can it be more clear? Yes. But with this one sentence, I can gauge whether it has elements I enjoy and be confident I will be satisfied with the story.

As a reader, I use tropes to select books that appeal to me. As an author, I use tropes to outline each book and as a solid marketing tool. Why?

Tropes. Sell. Books.

How do I know this? Because that’s how they hook me. I look for any mention of the tropes used in a book, especially the ones I am absolutely feral over. This is the most efficient way for me to wade through the thousands of books I see cross my feed every single day!

There are tropes I LOVE, but there are also tropes that I HATE. This is true for everyone. We’re all wired differently and have different tastes. So it stands to reason we’re drawn to different tropes.

Over on Twitter and TikTok, I’ve started some conversations about tropes and tagged them for easy findability. Most of the focus right now is on common romance tropes, but I’ll be expanding to include all genres over the next few months.

TikTok and Twitter Discussions, Search: #TropeTalk

I’ll also be posting updates here on my blog on tropes to help readers and authors embrace the Trope Life. Please leave a comment with your favorite trope. If you have questions, I’d love to hear those too!

Thanks for stopping by!




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