Every genre has their tropes, and the sub-genres, too. I must confess that I wasn’t familiar with the term until recently, but I knew what it meant. Google and Wikipedia define it as:
A literary trope is the use of figurative language. For example, the sitting United States administration might be referred to as “Washington”. Since the 1970s, the word has also come to mean a commonly recurring literary device, motif, or cliché.
Here, you have some of the fantasy tropes according to someone on Wikipedia. Fantasy tropes and conventions.
The romance genre is a bit obsessed with tropes, as are the readers. When you pick up a book with say, the “arranged marriage” trope, you have some idea of what to expect. Paranormal fiction has its own tropes, like the vampire who refrains from drinking blood, the werewolf who wishes he were human, the “surprise! you’re paranormal” revelation, and many more.
Now, after reading a bit of discussion on tropes, I’m almost scared to tread into these waters, but I’d have to say that for the most part, I don’t mind tropes – so long as the author doesn’t let them become predictable. And yes, I sometimes avoid books when the blurb contains a trope I’ve had a bad experience with before.
Still, certain story ideas have become “tropes” (ie: almost cliché) because they somehow work well within their genre, whether we like them or not. Perhaps one author did them so well (like Tolkien with his Lord of the Rings), and it forever changed the genre. There will certainly be authors who will try to emulate him, and those who have just been strongly influenced. While certain tropes will rise and fall in popularity like the tides, some remain or return perhaps because of the potential “what if” fun they contain.
What if you were engaged to marry a stranger? This may not have just been hypothetical to historic noblewomen. Many did marry strangers. And perhaps as we look back at this, we try to understand them, to understand their history and experiences, and how it contributes to making us who we are.
What if you were turned into a werewolf and became an uncontrollable beast at every full moon? I can see how this would suck. And I want to know: so what do you do next? What’s your plan?
That’s the excitement of the story for both the author and the reader. How will we answer the lure of “what if”? What journey will we take the reader on? And sometimes, as when it comes to tropes, how do you respond to the trope in a new and fresh way? What possibilities lay inherent? Because each of us plays the “what if” game differently, what we expect – along with what we get, and what we want – are going to be different. Including our love and hate for tropes.
So, what do you think? Do you mind tropes? Ignore them? Intentionally go after them?
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Some discussion on Romance and Tropes: