Trope Versus Cliche

I like to tell writers about Romance Writers of America, which isn’t just for romance writers. You can learn a lot about the craft and make connections with agents, publishers, and other writers. Like Nora Roberts and Damon Suede. In a similar vein, I recommend Scribophile, an online community for writers. Almost the opposite of RWA, Scrib looks down its collective nose at Romance and some other genres. But there are a scattering of romance centered groups on there. Including my own Writers Who Love Romance.

On WWLR, we had a discussion about tropes that some readers hate. I was saying that tropes are what moves people to purchase a book, while cliches are the deal-breakers. I became aware of the 50 pages rule. If you haven’t been hooked by page 50, give the book up. Sounds like a plan.


022119 beach sunset
This is something of a cliche.


However, let’s be clear about what we mean by trope and cliché. Here’s a very clear explanation. And here, Adam Heine explains why we like tropes: Familiarity. Like when you go home for the holidays and your mom’s towels smell so much better than anything you can create. And your dad still talks about how the electoral college needs to be dissolved so that the popular vote carries the election.


022119 sunset kyak
This is a similar situation, but a fresh spin on the sunset and couple idea.


A cliché is when the wind whistled through the crack under the door, the couch upholstery was ripped to shreds, and you were dead wrong to visit because you can’t go home again. Finding a way to say these things that has never been said before is the goal of the good writer. Or should be.

022119 women cute

Now, tropes in Romance that I love include billionaire, secret baby, mail-order bride, friends to lovers, office romance, and second chance. And these adjust to sub-genres. In historicals, the billionaires become dukes, the secret baby may be about a separated couple, mail order bride becomes a governess, friends to lovers becomes ward and governor, office romance becomes school teachers who all find a happy ever after, and second chance pretty much involves a man who had to leave his love due to his title and family expectations, but now they have the means to get back together.

022119 mixed couple

Science Fiction Romance might have a fierce overlord, a million to one shot at reproduction, Mars Needs Women, ambassadors become lovers, ship’s crew become romantically involved, and shore leave on a planet where the captain has been before. Fantasy romance could involve a great wizard and her rival, a fertility spell, a daughter sent to appease the dragon, the general’s best soldier making a move on him, court wizard and the prince, and slaves escape and find each other again.

022119 office romance

In case I missed your favorites, here’s another list which includes more of my own favorites. Fated to be mated, that’s huge in my Romance lures. I’ve read a couple of reverse harems stories and those can be interesting, but I like one on one just a bit more. I’m not insistent on M/F romance, either. M/M. F/F. As long as it’s well written and pushes my emotions buttons, I’m good.

022119 two wolves

The possibilities are endless, the combinations stay fresh, and there are more readers out there than books to satisfy them. Read that again, it’s a very important statement. Readers are out there! Keep writing and don’t let anyone discourage you from writing your story, your way. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.

022119 indian couple

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