The Point Is To Avoid Them

I saw a list of romance tropes on a popular, otherwise reputable blog the other day.  At first my thought was that the author/blogger was warning young writers against these tropes.  Disappointment: she was not.  Some of them were so-so, many of them were regrettable, some of them were downright awful.  I had to laugh to keep from crying.

I'm going to give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume she just found this list, alphabetized it, and posted it, because I certainly hope no established author in her right mind would willingly recommend young writers use tropes as a crutch.  We've all used tropes before, okay?  We all start there.  Then we look back and blush and try to hurry on as quickly as possible.  But please, don't recommend to people that these tropes are actually good things.  We're supposed to move on from them, not carry them with us.

Okay, I'm going to hit the highlights here.  You ready?  Be prepared to blush and laugh and cry and tear your hair out.  It gets good.

abduction to love: I think this is called Stockholm syndrome, and isn't it considered a bad thing?  Yo, Phantom of the Opera - what do you think?
accidental pregnancy: Somebody please explain to me (I am otherwise experienced in this) how you can have an "accidental" pregnancy. 
amnesia:  Ah ha ha, "50 First Dates," anyone?  How depressing is that...
antihero romance:  Unless you really know what you're doing, this is going to be lame.  Just because he/she is the antihero does not mean he/she is automatically hot/brooding/mysterious.  
arranged marriage:  Because we are so enlightened now and arranged marriages are a freak-show of the past. 
bait and switch: Yeah, that worked out well for Jacob.
beauty and the beast:  Again?
best friend’s lover:  Blurred morality.
best friend’s sibling:  Why is this a big deal?
best friends/ friends first:  Finally, someone is making sense here.
blackmail:  How does blackmail produce romance?
bodyguard crush:  Oh, grow up.
boy hates girl:  Yes, yes, I know, but try not to disguise the fact that they are going to get together because, let's face it, we all know they're going to get together.  That's how the stories work. 
boy meets ghoul:  Say what, now?  
boy meets girl:  Really.  Tell me something I don't know.  The book was listed under "romance," after all.
break his heart to save him:  Go ahead and try this one, it could be good.  There is immediate character interplay just in this one line.  This is the kind of love which has true grit: it's going to save him, even if it means he can't have what he thought he wanted.  It could be good.
bully turned puppy lover:  Because this is obviously what we should all strive for.

celibate hero:  What.
consanguinity: At first I thought we were talking about incest, but no, it's not that bad.
crazy love: What.
damaged lead finds happily ever after:  Because no one has ever written that before.
dark secret keeps them apart:  Or this one.
different worlds:  Or this one.
fling:  Oh yes, this is the best idea yet.  Shallow, biological attraction.  That's the heart of romance right there.
forbidden love/Romeo and Juliet:  I'm still convinced that "Romeo & Juliet" was meant to be a comedic satire on EVERYONE WHO WOULD WRITE THAT KIND OF STORY.
girl wants bad boy: Girl, go home.  You're too stupid to know what is good for you.
guardian/ward:  Everyone sees that coming.
guy wants cheerleader:  The hell why?
if I can’t have you, no one will!:  May or may not have used this one to some extent in "Plenilune."
imaginary love triangle:  I tried to use imaginary shapes in geometry class.  It didn't work.
impotent love:  Exactly why are we using the word "impotent" alongside "love"?
innocent cohabitation:  Yes, this is what naive young girls fantasize about, but real life does not work that way. 
instant/false sweethearts:  I - what? I don't actually know what to make of this one.
it happened in Vegas: Because that is always the precursor to a healthy romance.

long-term lovers: I know, they're such exotic creatures these days.
love reforms villain: Usually lame and frequently unrealistic.
love triangle:  I think most readers actually hate love triangles.
mad love:  How is this different from "crazy love"?  Is it actually mad?  Is it angry or insane?  I don't have enough to work with here.

men in uniform:  I'm sorry to disappoint you, but the militia has already left for Brighton.
mistaken declaration of love leads to love:  I actually sat here for several minutes trying to work this one out.  I've got nothing.
one night stand:  Are you serious right now?
one wants true love/other wants a fling:  Seriously?
oops! fall in love with the wrong person (which could ruin everything!):  Okay, wow, love is not a contagion that you can't avoid despite taking women's supplements and drinking orange juice every morning.  It's not something that "accidentally" happens to you.  Sheesh, I am so ticked off right now.
partners in crime:  Literally or figuratively?  Because crime is still crime, whether you love your accomplice or not.
passionate lovers:  As opposed to dispassionate lovers.
Plain Jane get the hottie:  Yay, Jane!  You go, girl!
playboy:  Encouraging the erroneous view that rich, profligate guys are totally hot and if you can just reform them of their ways, they will still remain mysterious, suave, and filthy-money-loaded.  
politics:  There is little romance in politics.  You are either a pawn or a prostitute or both.  

reluctant sex worker:  As opposed to an enthusiastic one?  Guess she won't get a good tip.
removing the rival:  But what if the rival was "the one"? What if they were both walking side by side and one of them gets struck by lightning?  What then?
rescue romance:  This has been done.
return to hometown:  This has also been done.
revenge:  Because that worked out so well for the Count of Monte Cristo.
road trip romance:  There's nothing more romantic than having to put up with the woman's tiny bladder on a long car ride.
rock star hero:  Money? Check.  Fame?  Check.  Good looks? Check.  Got yourself a perfect recipe for a cheap romance right there.
royalty:  Yes, just so long as you give me a male heir, otherwise we're through.
scars from the past:  Done.

secret baby- he doesn’t know she’s PG:  I literally do not know how to handle this.  Does "PG" mean "pregnant?"  Or does she need parental guidance?  And, you know, if she is pregnant, he's going to get wise to the situation sooner or later.
secret that can end everything:  I may or may not have testified against those French nobility.  You may or may not be an Englishman in disguise.
sibling triangle:  I was also afraid this was incest, but I think it's just that two siblings are crushing on some one other unrelated person.  This actually happened to someone I know and, trust me, it turns out super horribly for everyone.
sibling’s ex-spouse:  I'm going to be downright honest here and say that, since I do subscribed to what God has said, this is not an acceptable situation unless the spouse has died.
sleeps with everyone but you:  Then maybe there is something wrong with you.
sudden parent:  What the hell even?  Generally you get some warning, so, no excuse.
the one that got away:  Then obviously she has good taste.
time travel:  Super, super difficult.  Do not attempt unless you know what you are doing.  A good romance is hard enough to pull off without throwing time-travel into the mix.
tortured hero(ine):  Wow, that's a novel idea.  I've never heard that one before.
tragic love affair:  All affairs are, by nature, tragic.
tragic past:  Yes, by all means, let's cheapen real tragedy.

unrequited-love-switcheroo love triangle:  I cannot take you seriously if you use the word "switcheroo."
unwanted harem:  Now, this is just hilarious.  
virginal/innocent:  I know, right?  It's so rare these days.
wallflower noticed by the rakeYes, but did you remember to pick up the leaves?
In case you were wondering, yes, I really love romance.  Right off the top of my head, I can think of only two pending stories which do not include romance.  Romance is great!  Romance is sweet.  Romance touches us.  Romance is what we all long for.  So yes, I am making fun of most of these tropes - because tropes are generally stupid.  But also yes, I am completely in favour of romance.
Just not these.

13 ripostes:

  1. I'm so glad yesterday's conversation came to fruition in such a perfect way XD

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  2. *tears of laughter*

    OK, so I like to use tropes, but most of these might as well have THIS IS A TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE IDEA stamped on their forehead!

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  3. I pinned the original post in question with an intention of reading it later after skimming the eye-brow raising list. Oh my word though I am HOWLING in laughter and my roommate/sister is so worried about me right now after reading this!

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  4. Regarding "mistaken declaration of love leads to love": Tim Burton's Corpse Bride toyed with this, though I think in the end it sort of shied away from it. It's been a while since I watched it.

    Wicked (the musical) gives you the potential for it with Nessa and Boq but completely breaks it.

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  5. Oh, my.

    "Mistaken declaration of love" reminds me of a Kipling story where a man proposes to the wrong sister in a dust storm. I don't think Kipling read this list, though, because the chap was frantic when he discovered his mistake.

    If I ever see a book that does NOT have the phrase "dark/terrible/dreadful/big secret" or "secret from his/her past" in the description, that's score one for the book right there. If I ever see that book. I mean, I shall probably tie myself into knots trying not to use the word "secret" in my blurb if I ever publish a book in which a character has to a have a secret.

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  6. I have no words. How can anyone think these would be a good idea?

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. I was laughing so hard my sides hurt, but I couldn't stop reading because I couldn't wait to read what you said next.
    Every time you run a commentary on a list, you make me laugh until I cry. And I love your insight.
    :)

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  9. I had a similar (though probably not as strong) reaction when I saw the original post you're referring to. Tropes are dangerous to promote without proper instruction and discretion, and are generally only useful to know in order to avert, subvert or invert them. They certainly aren't ready-to-go recipes for a stellar plot! Still, it seems a bit cruel to spend an entire post on little more than mocking comments about someone else's blog post.

    I understand where you are coming from with this and I am glad you got a good laugh out of it (we all need a laugh sometimes) but I think you could have handled it more tactfully. I'm sorry if I offend, but having been the object of belittling conversations and mockery on many occasions (as I'm sure you have been as well, as I'm sure we all have) I couldn't not say something.

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  10. I laughed quite a bit over this! I recall picking up a writing instruction book a few years ago that had boiled down all books, in theory, to only twenty main plots. I think I could boil it down to one more with better success: Imitate life. The trouble with many of these examples is that they are very far-fetched. Yes, they are commonly employed in the romance market. I shelve romance books often at work that bear titles such as "The Sheik's Surprise Baby" and "Seduction of a Rake"...so obviously the stuff sells. The list is probably of great help to those who want to write escapist fiction.

    I've actually read some books this year that have used some of these situations and some of them I have enjoyed a great deal. I do hate love triangles with a passion, even though some plots require them...90% could be eliminated with benefit! I feel like a lot of these situations are from unhealthy choices, and can easily be crossed off the working list of a Christian author (one night stand? Reluctant sex worker? Sleeping with everyone else?) and find it sad that modern books often promote such situations as a way to find true love. Most of these scenarios are not God-honoring, though I have known a number of them to happen in real life. I love how you pointed out the most likely downfalls of each one. If I'd been the original poster (and now I'm curious who!) I would not have been offended by these.

    Thanks for an entertaining and helpful post!
    ~Hannah

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  11. I cried laughing. Thanks for breaking up my present wrapping with a good bit of humour. XD

    (Still, I like to think the poor author was innocent enough in her intentions, though perhaps not very thoughtful.)

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  12. I have actually read 'fall in love with the wrong person' done well. In Susan Warner's 'Diana'. Which is an old book. She still married the right person though. It turned out right in the end, despite being very sad at times. And it had a good theme.

    But I agree, don't write these.

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  13. I have to say, belittling is never a good thing. This is why I 1) did not link to the original post, 2) did not mention the author, and 3) have to assume that the author was not the original creator of this list, she only compiled it for readers. I can't imagine she would have done this intentionally!

    As for the general tone of the post, if I were to dial back the tongue-in-cheek, the impact of the absurdity of some of these situations would have been lost, and getting across to you the absurdity was my intent! I struggle with self-awareness in my writing, the ability to step back and see if a situation is reasonable or not, so I also wanted to let you all experience the thrill of taking a good look at what do and why, and seeing if it is worth mocking or not. I take myself too seriously most times, so here's to recognizing absurdity. XD

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