Shannon’s Top 5 Romance Tropes

At the November LERA meeting, authors Jeffe Kennedy and Robin Perini gave a program on using romance tropes in any story. They led a lively discussion, referencing the trope list from RWA and using examples from classic books and movies. When somebody asked them what their favorite tropes are—Robin’s is woman in jeopardy, Jeffe’s is forced proximity, and both love marriage of convenience—it got me thinking about my favorite tropes. Some have my childhood imprinting psychology written all over them, while others came as a surprise.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, When We Left Cuba, and The Wedding Date

Love Triangle. I write them, I read them, I binge watch them. I’m pretty sure the reason this one appeals so much is that IRL, I’ve been on the losing side of more than one triangle, and boy, being on the losing side sucks. It’s a wonder I have an ego at all. When I consume stories of the reverse dynamic—one girl between two boys—I get the chance to experience vicariously how I wish it had been: that I was the loved one, and I had a choice.

Examples of the love triangle trope: The Hunger Games  and the Twilight series.

Forbidden Love. Growing up a mixed kid I was often subjected to the question/comment/expression of barely concealed disgust “That’s your real mom? She was with a black man?” So if there is any reason whatsover why a romance shouldn’t happen, particularly if it’s a societal taboo, I am 100% for it.

Examples of the forbidden love trope: When We Left Cuba and On the Island.

One Night Stand. Lust to love. What’s not to like? Finding someone you want to have hot sex with, then having said sex be better than you ever imagined, and with no games, no complications, no time wasted. Let’s make it last forever.

Examples of the one night stand trope: What Happens in Vegas and Liberating Lacey.

Fake Relationship. I only recently figured out that this is a trope I’m drawn to. I think it’s because the motivations for the fake relationship are ones I can relate to personally, such as saving face in front of an ex, or needing moral support for a requisite ego-crushing event. It also helps that there’s a baseline attraction to begin with and I get to watch it simmer into a boil over the course of the story. I also enjoy the way two people who otherwise wouldn’t have considered each other reveal sides of themselves they’ve never shown anybody else.

Examples of the fake relationship trope: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Wedding Date.

Tortured Hero.  Even better if both are damaged in some way and rescue each other. There’s this scene in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend where Rebecca keeps saying she just wants to be normal and I was like uh, boy, there’s me. I need to either find someone who’s well-adjusted enough to handle my craziness, or someone who’s just as screwed up as I am and won’t hold it against me. Plus, the sex in these scenarios is always intense and mind-blowing.

Examples of the tortured hero trope: Asking For It and Bared to You.

What are some of your favorite tropes and why?


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