Let’s discuss: Why tropes in books aren’t necessarily bad (and enemies to lovers doesn’t have to be toxic)

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…

Let’s discuss!

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 II 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…

24 thoughts on “Let’s discuss: Why tropes in books aren’t necessarily bad (and enemies to lovers doesn’t have to be toxic)

  1. I love your posts Alissa and the way you’re so genuine and honest when you write 🙂 I personally agree, I think tropes are necessary but the way the author develops that trope is what makes the difference. I’m also a trash for slow burn ahhhhh I’ve cried just after reading that two characters were holding stares and then slowly smile to each other ahhh I can’t do it.
    I loved this post! “It’s not about the tropes, it’s about the execution” 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. i totally agree with you that the execution matters a lot in the way the reader feels about a trope. i also love the love triangle in the infernal devices!! i found it so hard to choose between jem and will..even now, i’m rooting for them equally. also YES to slow burn romances – it’s agonising but the build up makes that first kiss more electric.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think that this is such an interesting discussion post! I really agree with what you said about the execution mattering much more than the trope. I find that a lot of the tropes I usually dislike are more because of the authors writing than the trope itself! Like I usually don’t enjoy love triangles because I find it too often one-sided, but I felt the EXACT same way about The Infernal Devices because of its execution!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you love!! I feel like lots of people read one book with a trope that’s badly executed and immediately think that it’s the trope they don’t like, so I definitely know what you mean! And aaah, one-sided love triangles just don’t make any sense?? But yes I’m all here for The Infernal Devices!!


  4. this post was so interesting because i never really put my mind in tropes that much, i dont really care about it, if i like it then good, if i don’t then i dont hahaha, i’m that simple. but your post made me think about that tweet i saw a few days ago, an enemies to lovers story can be good, i myself kind of like it, but it becomes a big nono when it becomes a story between an oppressor and oppressed character, that is so not cute.
    anyways, i really liked this post so thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I couldn’t agree more! I am completely with you when you say that the way a trope is executed can make it or break it… Sure, I have my favorites and least favorites, but there are exceptions! For example, I’m normally not a huge fan of love triangles either, but I liked the ones in The Hunger Games or The Daevabad Trilogy (although I wasn’t a fan of the one in The Infernal Devices at all 😅). And I usually adore the trope where a girl disguises herself as a boy to gain access to positions unavailable to women, but absolutely hated it in Arabella of Mars… So yeah, it depends!
    But slow-burn enemies to lovers is also one of my absolute favorites!! And I agree that there are so many books that do it in nontoxic way! Have you read Kristin Cashore’s Fire, for example? That’s one of my favorites 😍
    Also, I’d love to hear you talk more about your own writing!! That’s one of the reasons I started my blog in the first place – talking about writing and sharing it with others 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aaah thank you, I’m glad you agree!! I can’t believe it myself but I actually haven’t read The Hunger Games (but I will eventually!!) and aaah I can’t wait to read City of brass! I do get why some people really don’t like the love triangle in The Infernal Devices haha. And oooh I definitely need to read books like that, especially if it’s feministic haha, I’m all here for that!!
      Yes I know right?! And omg thanks for the recommendation, I will check it out asap!!
      And aawh, that’s so sweet!! I definitely will try to talk more about it, thank you! Good luck with writing and everything love!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Loved your post Alissa!! My favorite trope is by far ‘Magical Academy’, and I also like ‘The character shrouded in mystery who has a dark past, looks tough but is quite caring” trope!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. alissa!! i loved this post so much!! i love tropes in my book – in fact, i recently wrote a post listing my top 10 trope in YA fiction!! i completely agree with EVERYTHING you have said in this post, though!! i don’t really enjoy love triangles, or love at first sight either – but i think, forced marriage, if done well, can be a good trope! also YESSS!! i ADORE slow-burn enemies-to-lovers, and i will also cry when characters brush hands 😭 ahhh you’re not alone there!! i just love all the tension in the air, and i love how the mood changes and evolves between the two characters!! slow-burn enemies-to-lovers is definitely one of my all-time favourites!! i recently read serpent & dove, and omg it was perfect!! it was slow-burn enemies-to-lovers and i literally died!! do you ave any good recs for slow-burn enemies-to-lovers? because i NEED more books with a good execution of this trope!! great post! ❤❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. omg ahaana you are way too sweet! i need to check out your post, it sounds really interesting!! i’m also glad you agree, aaah, i do need to find a forced marriage that i actually enjoy hahah! slow-burn enemies-to-lovers just hits different, it hurts so much and you just want them to be happy and together and aaaah, it’s like exploding! i need to read serpent & dove again because i don’t remember ANYTHING from it, oops! and the first book i had to think off was red, white and royal blue or these violent delights (even though I’m still not done with it, lol!). i feel like I’m forgetting about some others but i’ll let you know!!

      Liked by 1 person

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