Lately I’ve noticed that a lot of people associate tropes with a book being unoriginal. They make stories predictable and are full of clichés. Are people who say this wrong? No, of course not, but they only have half of the truth. The thing is, whether you’re aware of it or not: if you read, you’ve been confronted with tropes more than once.
I have quite a lot to say about this topic so it’s perfect for the second episode of Let’s discuss! Last time we talked about the bookcommunity and how it influences us booklovers, which you can read all about here! I also wanna thank you for the amount of love this new series of mine already has gotten! Now, without further ado…
What are tropes?
If you don’t know what tropes are, I’m gonna try my best at explaining it. You may have heard of things as “enemies to lovers” or “the chosen one”, which are actually examples of tropes! But if you really wanna know what that means, I’d describe it as this:
Tropes are elements that are often used (or even overused) in literature. It’s a way to make a story flow better (in example: parents have died at a young age, which gives us some tragic backstory but is also an easier way to avoid plotholes) but also a way to add conflict to the story!
Because I’m really bad at explaining things, I’ll give you some more examples: love triangles, fake marriage, love at first sight, friends to lovers and there are just so many. Some readers may say that tropes are things that they’ve read about so often that they’re tired and bored of it. But that’s where our discussion comes in…
It’s not about the tropes, it’s about the execution
The first time you read about a certain trope can be really exciting but after a while it can indeed feel like you’re reading the same story over and over again. I’ve experienced this as well, believe me, and at first I thought that those were just tropes that I could never enjoy. But then I started writing and studying books more closely and I discovered something.
It’s not about the tropes that are being used, it’s about the way the author executes them.
Everyone can enjoy a certain trope, even if they claim to hate it. I always thought that I’d never be able to like a love-triangle but then I read The Infernal Devices and let me tell you…I love that one to the extend that it can break my heart. Does that mean I’m now big on that trope? No! I will always describe it as one of my least-favourite tropes, but that doesn’t mean it can never work.
As a writer I’ve learned that your story can never be fully original. You can’t avoid tropes thus you can’t avoid having some cliché elements in your story, but if you’re a good writer you have mastered twisting that “unoriginal” idea into something that is different. We’re so fixated on trying to have a novel without those clichés that we forget how much potential they have. After all, there’s a reason why they’re overused.
It’s been a month or two since I’ve discovered this and believe me, it has changed my reading life a lot. If you know which tropes you really like, it’s easier to find books that sound like something for you! And that works opposite as well! I know I’m saying that any trope can work for anyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t avoid certain tropes.
Say you read a book review that says, “there was a love-triangle that irritated me to the bone”, and you already know you don’t like love-triangles. It doesn’t seem like a good book for you then, but when a review of another book says, “This had a love-triangle and normally I’m not a fan of those, but this was so good!” perhaps you can try it too!
I hope you can see where I’m coming from and that this maybe even changed your view on tropes! Now, let’s talk about some fun stuff!
My favourite and least-favourite tropes
I’m gonna be very honest here: I’m a simple reader when it comes to this. About every fantasy reader will say this and so will I: I’m absolute trash for enemies to lovers. There’s just something about it, and it fits the whole fantasy genre so well (it’s also amazing in contemporary though!)! I love the yearning and the moment they realise are you kidding me, I can’t be in love with this idiot…and then full-on go in denial.
Enemies to lovers is the reason I wanted to write this blogpost because I’ve been noticing some things (yes, again). Readers who don’t like enemies to lovers often describe the trope is toxic and I can totally see where this is coming from. When not done well, this trope can quickly result in an unhealthy relationship and I’m absolutely not here for that.
However, there are so many enemies to lovers books out there that are so good and not toxic at all. Like I already said, it’s all about the execution. In my opinion, enemies to lovers should be a process handled with lots of care. If you give me a book where two people hate each other one moment and then kiss with having no chemistry or whatsoever? Yeah, not for me. But when you give me another book where the characters first hate each other but then start to secretly enjoy each others company and then deny that they’re developing feelings but then it gets to strong and they are so soft for each other I—I will die.
Another favourite trope I have is slow-burn (basically when the romance takes a lot of time). It kills me because I’m weak and I cry when a couple I like kisses either way, but when it’s slow-burn? I will cry when their hands brush because that’s how emotionally unstable I am. Yes, I’ve had mental breakdowns over characters touching hands, and what about it?
If you give me enemies to lovers with slow-burn though? I will die (again).
I just also realised that I’m also weak for estranged lovers getting back together or even estranged friends to lovers. And betrayal, that one just hurts but it adds so much and aaah, I’m so weak! Wow, perhaps this is why I’m loving These violent delights that much…
Some of the tropes I usually don’t enjoy are love-triangles (I just don’t vibe with it. It often feels useless and indeed predictable), forced marriage (I really, really hate the thought of this. It doesn’t matter how much they end up liking each other, I just hate the people who forced them together) and love at first sight (it makes me cringe and there’s often no chemistry). And the bad boy trope…definitely doesn’t work for me most of the time. There are probably many more, but those I have yet to find out about.
Tropes in my books (because why not)
I tend not to talk about my own writing on here because I don’t know if anyone’s actually interested in it, but my books also have tropes. I really hope I’m good enough at twisting them though because duh, I want my stories to be original and refreshing. I have four projects and I thought it’d be fun to just analyse which tropes I used for them!
My current project is definitely enemies to lovers. It’s a dark YA fantasy that has a lot of betrayal in it and it just hurts a lot. Seriously, I cried while outlining it…but maybe that’s because I’m emotional. There’s also slow-burn and it’s definitely a forbidden romance. Oh and the best thing in my opinion: it’s sapphic (girl x girl)!
Then a collaboration I’m working on is also a dark YA fantasy. There’s, again, lots of betrayal and sort of a chosen one, but actually more of a gifted one, I guess. It’s also gonna have found family I believe and enemies to lovers! It’s a really twisted story and literally no one trusts each other, so love that. Plus, there’s half a trope: the parents of the protagonist didn’t die when she was younger, but they do somewhere in the beginning of the story.
I also have a back-up story which I’m planning to work on after my main ones. It’s still a bit vague, but it has a dark leader and I’m definitely gonna put some found family in it too. In this one the parents do die at a younger age, like a year before the story starts.
And then lastly, a story I’m currently brainstorming and is really vague for that reason, is definitely gonna be enemies to lovers. But that’s about all I can tell!
This was so much fun to write again! I really liked thinking about things like this and noticing the patterns! Thank you so much for all the support again and for reading this, it truly means the world to me! Be sure to let me know if you’d be interested in me talking more about my writing, too! Now…