Is Trope a "Four-Letter" Word?
Let's talk about trope, baby
For today's Write Tip Wednesday, I'm throwing way back to a guest post I did at The Hot Pink Typewriter with Olivia Miles. (You may know her from her recent Women's Fiction release One Week to the Wedding.) My advice still stands, and I'd love to hear your favorite tropes in the comments. (Read on!)
Originally posted at The Hot Pink Typewriter on 10/7/13
Is TROPE a Five-Letter “Four-Letter” Word?
When I first heard the word “trope”, I wasn’t sure what, in the romance-writing world, it referred to. Some writers believe it’s synonymous with cliché. That a trope is nothing more than a collection of overused ideas or situations, tired and done way too many times. (Some familiar tropes: Love Triangle, Marriage of Convenience, Accidental Pregnancy.) I don’t believe that tropes are tired or overused, by the way. Tropes can be a fun way to spark your muse’s interest, and they give you an easy, relatable way to describe (and market) your book. My first book? Sexy billionaire hero. My second book? Lovers reunited. In a few words, I can let you know what my book is about, and in a few seconds, you formed an opinion about whether or not you might like to read it.
When I first started writing, I didn’t give much (okay, any) thought to tropes. What I focused on was hot, sexy heroes and how to blend the one-two punch of emotion and humor into a manuscript. I wanted my writing to be fun, heartfelt, and happy. Since becoming published, I was surprised to learn that my books do fit into tropes even though I hadn’t labeled them on purpose. Tempting The Billionaire fits into the Boss/Employee and Billionaire Hero tropes. BUT. Shane August is no Christian Grey (not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Readers thought they had Shane all figured out. But Shane is an anomaly of a billionaire, and readers noticed. Several reviewers lauded the “fresh take” on the billionaire hero trope and noted they were “pleasantly surprised”. So, while I didn’t consciously file my book into the “billionaire hero column”, everyone else did. Was it a bad thing? Quite the opposite. As a debut author, that title, that trope got attention. What kept it? A fresh, surprising story that wasn’t what readers expected.
What’s my point? I have two:
1) Tropes in and of themselves aren’t “bad”
2) A bit of thought and good writing can take something that sounds old or tired and flip it on its ear
My October release, Hard to Handle fits into the tropes of Redemption, Reunited Lovers, and the Tortured Hero. Aiden Downey is a man who has loved and lost Sadie Howard, and still loves her so much it’s hard for him to accept that she’s the one who got away. How is my alpha motorcycle-riding Aiden different? For starters, he’s no bad boy. Aiden has sacrificed everything he had for his ill mother, and loves Sadie with a transparency and honesty anyone can appreciate. Sadie, my heroine, fits the plucky, determined mold, but breaks it because underneath that iron exterior of hers, she’s heartbroken and fearful.
Throw your character’s unique attributes into the mix with a tried and true trope, and what you end up with is a story that’s far removed from the same-ole, same-ole. Surprise and delight your readers, and you’ll find the path to their hearts.
Writers, when approaching your story, don’t be afraid to think in terms of tropes. Are you writing a secret baby? A bet? A couple stranded in a snow storm? Ask yourself this: What makes my story different? I believe it boils down to two things: your voice and your characters. The way you execute the challenges they face will make your story different from every other “secret baby” story out there, and give the reader a way to return to something familiar, but be surprised by it at the same time.
Do I have a favorite trope? I do, indeed. Reunited lovers/second chance stories grab my heart and won’t let go. I am an absolute sucker for the angst between long-lost lovers (or lovers who never were lovers), which is probably why Hard to Handle (and its prequel Can’t Let Go) are so close to my heart. Oh, the angst! The longing! And a happily ever after that (in my opinion) is so, so worth the wait.
Now, let's chat:: Do you have a favorite romance trope?