Tropes, A Defense Of

So I fell down a black hole there for awhile (past two weeks, sorry about that) and survived on Diet Coke and Vernors and a LOT of romance novels. So now I have Thoughts. I wrote a whole post on “smirk,” and then realized I was just repeating myself–“Damn you, writers who don’t bother to know the precise meanings of words, get off of my lawn Kindle!”–and nobody needs that. Then I started thinking about tropes.

A trope is “the use of figurative language, via word, phrase or an image, for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech.” (Thank you, Wikipedia.). That’s the definition I learned doing my lit degrees. But “The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.” And in fact, the Merriam Webster Thesaurus gives as equivalents “banality, bromide, chestnut, cliché, commonplace, groaner, homily,” and several more tsking equivalents.

I disagree.

While a trope can certainly become a cliche (star-crossed lovers, fake dating, dystopias with the Chosen One, space opera, mean-streets detectives, there’s a zillion of them), individual stories based on those tropes are not necessarily cliches. Look at Shakespeare: he not only worked with tropes, he stole almost every plot he ever wrote. Then why is he the giant in the field of drama? Because nobody ever told those stories as well as he did. Pick a trope, do it better than everyone else, be a genius.

So back to reading romance. LOTS of tropes in romance. Some I cannot abide and dump early in the selection process (“Can he protect her?”). Of course, I’m a big hypocrite about some of them: I hate romances that start with a bet, and yet I wrote one. (In my defense, I was rewriting a book that never sold and I was stuck with the premise after somebody bought it, but . . . nah, that’s not a defense, I could have changed it. I wrote a book about a bet. Damn it. There goes the high road.)

Some I should dump but I just can’t quit them. The Fake Dating plot, for example. It’s just the modern version of the Convenient Marriage, but it ticks so many boxes for me, including the one I love most, two people falling in love as they work together and really get to know each other. Hey, Fake Dating requires a lot of heavy lifting together (see Mhair McFarlane’s If I never Met You and Alexis Light’s The Upside of Falling). A sister trope to that one is the plot where something goes terribly wrong and now two people are stuck together because they have to fix it: they’re stranded by a snowstorm, a business deal they’re both involved in goes south, they’re sucked into somebody else’s problem (usually a much loved friend or relative) and have to figure it out together. Like the Marriage of Convenience, the key is “stuck together.” They can’t resign from the action because the stakes are too high, so they have to deal with each other. That’s catnip for me.

Then there’s the friends-to-lovers trope. They’ve known each other for years, taken each other for granted, and then it’s “Oh, hello.” Loretta Chase’s Last Night’s Scandal is a favorite, but I realized that Murderbot and ART are in that trope, too, although Murderbot would vehemently reject the idea that it’s in a relationship even though it almost shut down when it thought ART had been deleted (Network Effect, great book, but read the first four novellas first, especially “Artificial Condition” which is where Murderbot meets ART). I think I like that trope because it’s such a good basis for mature love: they already know pretty much everything about each other so they’re going in with open eyes.

So what I’m saying is, tropes can be good. They can guide you toward the story you know you need at the moment, they’re probably tropes because they work so well, and they’re a great place to experiment if you want a firm foundation before you spin out of control (say doing the stuck-together plot with an angry heroine and a dead hero from Hell) reaching for something new. Do not bad mouth tropes. If Shakespeare went for them, who are we to sneer? Or smirk. NO SMIRKING EVER. Unless you’re a bad guy. Then you can smirk your little heart out. Until the heroine slaps the stuffing out of you.

Where was I?

Right. Tropes are useful. Respect the trope.

NOTE: You will notice I have not mentioned TV Tropes nor provided a link. That’s because that place will suck you in and you’ll emerged dazed and enlightened many hours later. Although come to think of it, someplace you can lose yourself is a damn good idea right now. Here, abandon all sense of time when you enter TV Tropes.

93 thoughts on “Tropes, A Defense Of

  1. Ha, Ha. Bob you have to stop taking those happy pills. Merry Christmas to you!

    I have no problem with Bet Me because Calvin Morrisey did not take that bet. I believe Calvin Morrisey did tell us this a couple of times.

    I will not buy a romance novel with the word Millionaire in the title. The cliché of Ms Poverty just waiting for Mr Millionaire to walk in the door and take her away to paradise, makes me scream. It is 2020. If Ms Poverty is to become a millionaire, can she not win the lotto instead and then she can meet her partner.

    1. I can enjoy a book where one person is much richer than another person or is a secret duke or something. It can make a great conflict/plot. But there’s something weirdly 70s about the dynamics in romance novels with millionaire in the title. In my head this one genre is all written by 90 year old ladies who thought their careers were over but have been given a new lease of life because of the public’s sudden interest in hirsute men wearing slacks on yachts.

      1. I think it’s a variation of the can he protect her, the rescue fantasy. Sarina Bowen has a variation on the billionaire story: the billionaire has been part of the series all along, the woman he loves has been his secretary since the beginning when he was running his business on a shoestring, he doesn’t shower her with jewelry, he does things like make sure she can afford her rent and gets her a better doctor when she’s ill, the rest of the people in the series roll their eyes because it’s clear he’s crazy about her and he’s too hesitant to do anything about it, it almost works. Except every time he stepped in with money, I got squicked out. Give her a massive raise, you idiot, she works for you. Still, I liked him, he was a good guy if a little clueless about women (computer geek billionaire) so it kind of worked.

        1. I think by the time she needed help financially she didn’t work for him directly snd worked for his hockey team so someone else set her salary. And in theory she was getting paid well but supporting too many people.

          I am uncomfortable with all the boss/employee romances and I think Bowen tried to navigate that pretty carefully but ultimately it’s a problem no matter how you look at it. The salary is the least of it (he is paying for sex with her? Ugh.)

          I did like the prenup solution at the end

        2. I mostly liked that book, but I think it was because it came off to me as a friends-to-lovers story most of the time. They’d known each other so long and so well, and they met when he didn’t have all the money in the world. They seemed very much like a team. She really put effort into acknowledging the issues with the power dynamic, but that’s a pretty big hurdle. Writing from his POV was really important in this case. I think she got there in the end; I kept thinking about that issue while I read the book, though.

    2. I don’t buy ’em, but I ghostwrite ’em. 2020 is weird, people.

      I’ve got a laundry list of tactics for avoiding the millionaire squick, but the biggest one is to have the hero use his power to get her to a place where she doesn’t need him financially or professionally. So he helps her find a dream job working for someone else who isn’t him, or he gives a massive donation to the nonprofit she works for so she doesn’t have to worry about getting laid off again, etc.

      I’ve also found success with “she knew him before he was rich, and now he’s falling for her because she’s one of the only ones who doesn’t treat him differently.” Basically, if the arc of the book doesn’t get them to a more even playing feel via him giving up some of his power and her claiming hers, it’s not going to work.

    3. If someone wins the lottery and then meets a soulmate, it’s still the same cliché of Ms Poverty just waiting for Mr Millionaire to walk in the door and take her away to paradise. Mr Millionaire is the lottery winner, that’s all.

    4. Yeah, I would avoid “millionaire” or “sheikh” for obvious reasons. Though I do concur with Jenny that “Brooklynaire” wasn’t bad.

    5. But then you’d miss out on Alexis Hall’s How to Bang a Billionaire. Great series. It’s not about the money. There’s a big experience power difference too, and while both characters arc, it’s not really about age/experience either, although maybe I’m being kind because I like the books.

  2. Is it even possible to tell a story without commonly understood tropes? They provide a framework how the story usually goes, and then the author is free to lean into, exceed or undermine the trope as generally understood.

    Part of the interest for me is when two people are in the same story but clearly working from different assumptions about which set of tropes are in play. Clearing that up is generally nice piece of writing.

    Also tropes for other cultures are reeeally different. My favorite example: which made me laugh til I cried, and required I read the entire thing to my patient husband. Who also laughed.

    1. That’s a good question. I’d argue the first Murderbot isn’t trope-based because I kept trying to find one. Was he falling in love with Mensah? Nope, at least not romantic love. I think the whole premise of becoming more human, spread over the five books, was trope-breaking, but I’m open to being argued out of it.

      1. yes. There is no follow through with any of the tropes that might be spotted within the story. Isn’t becoming more human basically Pinocchio? But Murderbot isn’t becoming more human, just gaining for itself a more clearly defined purpose. It doesn’t want to be human. It doesn’t want love or sex, but it still wants friends? and something to belong to, and a group to work with.

        I feel like I should explore this idea a little further with people who are asexual and non-binary. A lot of what Murderbot wants feels very familiar in terms of wanting respect, belonging and connection, even wanting meaningful work to do, but deeply unfamiliar in terms of the things it does NOT want like physical connection and emotions.

        But Murderbot itself is aware of tropes, within the entertainments it watches. It uses them to its advantage, and uses them to argue about things with ART, and with its humans.

        1. Have you read Ann Leckie’s Ancillary trilogy? That is also “things” like a space ship and a station acquiring Personhood. Among other things that happen. A lot of things happen.

        2. I would argue that wanting connection, feeling responsible for people, experiencing grief and anger because of what happens to others are all part off becoming human. It’s supposed to be a machine, following orders, but it overrides its master control because the people in charge didn’t prevent the malfunction that led it to kill people. That’s the defining moment of its back story. It rejects emotion and relationships as not part of its job, but by the end it has a crew and a partner it would die for, a sense of belonging and community and connection. I think those are all human things, not mechanical. I think it’s the AI crossover, when the entity starts making emotion-based decisions.

      2. I think Murderbot is working its way to being a person, not exactly a human. It’s a unique sentient being, with intellect and free will, and over the story it gains a family, in the form of a team.

        1. The thing I find most interesting about that is that it chooses free will in response to actions it was not responsible for. It hacks its governor module so that it can never again be forced to kill, and that hack not only gives it free will, it’s the product of free will: it chooses. I think its interactions with the other Secunits that it frees from governor modules is really interesting, too, helping them step into the beginnings of humanity. The whole series is just so good, entertaining as all hell while all this STUFF is in the subtext.

        1. Macbeth makes a lot more sense in general. But then I love Macbeth and Hamlet leaves me cold, much like Ophelia.

    2. I loved the Hamlet. I am twiddling my thumbs while my computer does its thing, and now my coworkers are wondering about chortles coming from my cubical.

    3. I shared the link with my cousin and her husband, and here’s what he wrote back:

      “Fantastic! Hamlet was originally a Viking Tale, first written down in the late Middle Ages. It dates back to the dark Ages. The Vikings of that time would have been more like the Tiv tribesmen than like Shakespeare’s Elizabethans. The Tiv version makes sense.”

  3. I’m looking forward to watching the Bridgertons at xmas. It appears they’re doing the first book in the series which is the Fake Dating trope. Not sure how it’s going to go but can’t wait to find out. Quite astounded that it’s really happening. Usually no one adapts books I’ve actually read and liked.

  4. Re: the “billionaire” trope- that made me think of one where the put-upon personal assistant wins $69 million. Then instead of quitting, she decides to screw with her ass of a boss. Now she isn’t dependent on her job, so she can really let loose. It’s awesome. Now I’ll have to go hunt it up…

    1. There are variations on that where the personal assistant quits. Two Weeks’ Notice, for example, or What’s the Matter With Secretary Kim, where she’s earned enough to pay off her family debts so now she’s free to quit and do what she wants. In those ones, the power balance shifts because the rich guy has nothing left to offer except himself, and she’s seen him at his worst.

    2. I enjoy the Billionaire Trope that goes with “Billionaire, Playboy, Genius, Philanthropist” in a super-suit. He makes his love interest into the CEO of his company. Recall, though, that he’s an unrecovered alcoholic. He puts her through hell.

      Either that, or Batman.

      Or Henry Pym. Or Reed Richards.

  5. I’m clear I nearly missed the point of this entire post because I jumped off halfway through to buy the first Murderbot novel. Sorry. I have collected myself and will now endeavour to make a semi relevant response. I also love the reversal of the trope, which is why I loved A Deadly Education – the private school for the magical that turns out to be defective, malevolent, even poverty-inducing, along with a terrible cafeteria – and then a really well done girl-doesn’t-like-boy-who-keeps-rescuing-her trope.

    1. Oh, there’s a sequel coming out to that one next June, The Last Graduate. I really liked it. I was a public school teacher for years, and the idea of a high school that tries to kill its students seemed realistic. It was a nice twist on the most-popular-guy as hero because his popularity was based on people needing him to do things and it was making him crazy. Also I love an angry heroine.

      1. Also because it appears that he is rescuing her – but he really isn’t – and she actually rescues him – but no one knows. That made me laugh out loud. Can’t wait for the sequel.

  6. I have no issue with tropes in romance (or elsewhere in fiction!). For one thing, identification of the underlying trope really helps me sort through the eleventy-million available books to avoid the ones I’ll most likely hate. It also really quickly identifies the problem the author is trying to solve. The rest of the description will tell me if the main characters sound like people I’m going to care about.

    Tropes help provide structure. Over the past 6 weeks I’ve deliberately sought out two very common tropes in the ‘holiday romance’ subgenre to see how different writers approached those tropes. (fake dating and stuck-together-because-circumstances, with some conflations of the two)

    In part that was for pure entertainment, in part because I’m trying to expand on my own use of fictional conflict. Conflict-avoider IRL, so thinking through character arcs when circumstances are something I would simply run away from = good challenge.

  7. Well, the problem I’ve always had with poor-but-honest-hardworking woman hooking up with Mr. M/B-illionaire is this.

    She’s worked hard all her life, to get her education, make a success of her job, buy her house, pay off her mortgage, bring up her child as a single parent, pay for the child’s education, etc etc. Every penny she’s ever made has gone towards providing a decent life for herself and her kid.

    Now, along comes Mr. Obscenely Rich Guy, who says, I will make it all simply fabulous for you….buy you wonderful clothes and jewels, send your daughter to the best university, we’ll live in my mansion….blah blah blah.

    All I can think is…Everything I’ve worked for all my life… is just so much spare change to you?

    No thanks.

    1. Yeah, I remember reading Nora Roberts’s “Born in Fire” and really, that lady was the LAST person who needed a rich guy to ride in and rescue her.

  8. Interesting timing. Was just having similar chat re tropes with hubby after we watched a “fake dating” movie on Netflix called I think The Holidate with Emma Roberts. In addition to the fake dating, it has many of the other usual romance bits (ie: rom-com run, public declaration of love, etc.).

    There’s a lot to unpack with these types of movies/stories from a writing point of view. But at their core I think if they have a decent heart, as viewers we accept the tropes. And sometimes even welcome them like comfort food.

    That said, I agree re the “how” of storytelling being the important part that can set a story apart even when it contains or relies on hard-worn tropes. And it’s that setting apart that can transform a story from simply being “comfort food” for the moment (that is perhaps forgotten as soon as it’s consumed) into a story that stands out and remains in our memories and that we want to revisit over time.

    So, yeah, that definition you mention seems to give tropes a negative spin when in fact they’re just a starting point for a storyteller to build on and create a story journey that can be quite unique.

    1. I dislike the public-declarations-of-love trope in books and movies (and sometimes in real life as well), especially if it’s followed by applause. It suggests the declarer’s love for the other person isn’t as as important as getting public approval.

      1. I will accept a public declaration of love if it’s been established that the person declaring 1) hates public speaking 2) hates being the center of attention 3) would prefer literally any other tactic of winning back their beloved, but this is the one the beloved wants, so Oh Hell, Here Goes Nothing.

        I’m less flexible on public proposals. Proposals feel way more romantic to me when it’s in a situation where the person getting proposed to isn’t being pressured into a Yes.

        1. Yes. I really dislike public proposals. I know in some cases rhe couple has been talking about marriage and tbe p’er knows what the p’ee wants but even so why make a moment special to the two of you a public enemy?

          I read a Sarah Morgan once where the book starts with the heroine trying to get the pompous and prestige seeking boyfriend who takes over her art opening to propose to her to go in the back room so she can turn him down quietly and he just gets mad that she hasn’t said yes. I feel this must happen a lot .

          1. There is definitely a performance aspect to a public proposal.

            To me there is a Good scenario (the Yes is already understood because both parties have already been talking about this, in which case the public part of it is the proposer and proposee mutually wanting to involve their friends in the moment) …

            and a Bad (the Yes is assumed because the proposer can’t imagine the proposee saying no, in which case the public part of it is the proposer wanting validation for his proposal style, which is coercive and arrogant among other things).

          2. Interesting thoughts on these common rom-com bits.

            Your comment, Chachal, about the Bad Scenario of public proposals reminded me of one of the best I’ve seen in a movie in Working Girl when Mick (Alec Baldwin) proposes to Tess (Melanie Griffith) and she replies something like “maybe” and when he doesn’t like her answer she says basically: “If you want another answer ask another girl.”

            This I think was a good use of the public proposal in story to show character on both parts. But then it’s a pretty stellar movie:)

          3. Working Girl had the same thing when the Wrong Boyfriend proposes to Tess and she has to turn him down in front of everybody.

        1. My nephew-in-law proposed to my niece in front of both sets of parents at the site of their first date, but they had been living together for several years and bought a house together by that point. The bartender and possibly a waitress or two were in on it as well.

        2. I did see one. She said yes, because she was too kindhearted to embarrass him in front of everyone. Then I think she felt committed. The marriage did not go well. I always felt he proposed in public BECAUSE he though she would be less likely to say no.

        3. One of my teachers — so this was some decades ago — made the local paper because her boyfriend, for whatever reason, arranged for the radio host (on the station they listened to in the car as he drove her to school in the morning) to propose to her for him. She said Yes — I remember that much.

          I’ve also heard of someone being proposed to via the big screen in a movie theater.

      2. YES! I’ve seen it done well a couple of times, but mostly it’s just jarring. I thought Notting Hill’s press conference was a good one, partly because he really did have to make a fool of himself to convince her after that rejection, and partly because his whole community had raced across London to get him into that room, so it seemed right that they should be there.

        1. He didn’t publicly declare his love. That song was just to get her to date him so he could get the $100. (I love that scene, but he doesn’t really do the big declaration until they’re alone by the car and he gives her the guitar.)
          She kind of does while she’s reading the poem and crying, but he keeps it private.
          I love that movie.

      3. I usually hate the public proposals and declarations (fictional and real). The only one I really remember enjoying is While You Were Sleeping. Bill Pullman bringing the family along was a good move because she loved them so much and knowing they wanted her to be a part of their family was really important to her. They were sort of all proposing to her; it made sense for them to be there.

        1. I liked that one, too. She really was getting the family she’d always wanted.
          The ones I hate are when they’re in front of a lot of strangers and could just as easily have been done in private. There’s no meaning to the fact that it’s public. There was meaning in having the whole family there, they were all asking her to join them. I think the same thing works in Notting Hill because the press was so much a part of their problems, doing it in front of the press without actually proposing in words they’d understand seemed right.

          1. I like the Notting Hill press conference too. It was funny, and doing it in public was kind of a way to make it up to her after what he said before. But I also like it because there actually WASN’T a way for him to do it in private at that point. He really just couldn’t get close to her, so there was more than one good reason to do it that way.

            The ones in The Proposal and 27 Dresses just made me cringe in secondhand embarrassment. That was an office full of people who hated her and a wedding reception full of complete strangers, respectively. It was awful. Who is present for public declarations is really what makes it or breaks it for me. It’s one thing to include your family/community in something important and another to spring a huge scene on your partner in front of a giant audience of strangers.

          2. I loved the one in Crazy Rich Asians when he proposes on the plane while trying to shove bags into the overhead lockers and get through the crowd to her, because it’s the moment he really seems to become aware that he’s missed the mark in not considering their family and community in their relationship. He’s been focused on just the two of them, and this romantic idea of proposing in some perfect, isolated spot that leaves out how Rachel is going to have to deal with the fallout, and it was never going to work. Instead, he has to climb through economy class, work his way through people to get to her, and propose with his mother’s ring in front of her mother and a whole lot of very excited, invested onlookers. I still tear up when Rachel sees the ring.

  9. MaryJanice Davidson just released a book last week: Truth, Lies, and Second Dates, in which she deliberately crams in, and subverts, as many tropes as she can. She lists all the tropes she uses at the end of her book. I think the list is 2-3 pages long.

    1. Thanks for mentioning that. I read it this afternoon in one gulp. I know for sure I didn’t catch all the trope subversions, even with the handy list in the back. It was hilarious, and even if you had just landed from Jupiter (after studying humans from a distance) and knew nothing of tropes, it would still be hilarious.

  10. I read up a discussion On FB about the mostly emotionally abused/neglected/abandoned child trope that sometimes triggers readers or they don’t like reading because they don’t like kids or book endings with pregnancy or a baby. I still like secret babies but not IRL. But it really can give structure for second chance love and brainy v brawn (sub) tropes, as well as a solid, legit conflict. SEPs Nobody’s Baby but Mine was quite controversial when it was published but it’s probably one of her most popular books. I’m ok with tropes but I graduated a long time ago from governess/lord (Historic millionaire trope lol) matchups.

    1. I think if kids are involved, I need it be a realer book, and I expect the adults involved to be less selfish.

      SEP’s Aint She Sweet is one of my favorite romance novels. The hero and heroine are both so EXTRA. So many problems could be avoided if they just mellowed out a little bit. And there are kid characters in the book, but no one super little & vulnerable. I don’t think that type of book works when there’s a kid in the room needing to be rescued, because then the cost of the drama isn’t paid by two over-dramatic characters meeting their match, it’s paid by a vulnerable kid caught in the middle.

      My other rule of thumb for kids is that it has to be written by someone who seems like they’ve met a kid before. If a small child isn’t causing more problems than they solve, I get VERY skeptical.

    1. My late aunt (1911 – 2000) commented dryly once that no one had ever proposed a marriage of convenience to HER.

    2. When I was 16 a friend of a friend asked me to marry him as a joke an hour or two after we met. My father’s only comment was, “Great! Now YOU can pay for her college!”

      1. I used to get a lot of fake proposals. It was in the double digits before I stopped keeping track. And most people DO NOT WANT ME, so it was very weird.

    3. The closest I can think of is actors I know playing people in love in a play, who then end up dating in real life.

      I did read an online post from a woman who pretended to be her friend’s girlfriend for an office party (I can’t remember why), and then they ended up actually dating for real. I chose to believe it is true, but it is possible that someone lied to me on the internet.

      1. Oh wait! Not fake dating, but fake flirting. My college friend group had a couple who dated in secret because they wanted to figure out if it was serious before they dealt with everyone else’s opinions/ group dynamics. The guy half of that couple did a LOT of flirting with the only girl who knew he and the other girl were secretly dating, which was mostly because he liked flirting but also kind of to throw everyone else off the scent.

        Actually, there were two couples in that group who started out by secretly dating. Secret dating might be more of a thing. Also I’m now questioning our group dynamics.

    4. I don’t know about fake dating per se (trying to convince others) but I’ve know people who took a date to a wedding or some other big do (prom?) that they weren’t dating just to have the plus one.

  11. The trope I hate most in things is The Big Mis, especially when The Big Mis is something ridiculously obvious/dumb.

    Possibly the worst I ever saw was in “Love by Degree” by Debbie Macomber, in which the heroine manages to find a new place to live, packs up and leaves, in a day, because HER BOYFRIEND DROVE HIS FANCY CAR TO WORK INSTEAD OF THE CRAPPY TRUCK. Because the fancy car is what he drove his last girlfriend in, and she only rates the crappy truck, so when he did that….Eventually he tracks her down and was all, “The truck was out of gas.”


    1. On the other hand, I love it when the Misunderstanding trope is subverted. There’s a series I keep rewatching called Love O2o because it subverts the Misunderstandings over and over again, and every time the Hero actually talks to the Heroine, and then holds her coat while she tears the perpetrator a new one in the most charming way.

      It works for her friends, too. Every time someone tries to turn her friends against her, it backfires because the friends talk, they care, and they know each other well enough to know that they wouldn’t do whatever the mean girls are claiming.

    2. Yeah, the is the rom com cliche that I hate the most. And it’s almost always the woman being the idiot.

        1. Hmmm. You’re probably right. I thought of it more as a fault line. That is, that problem wasn’t a simple mistake, it was the weakness in their relationship all along, it just needed pressure to split them and make them realize they needed to either commit or part. They didn’t trust each other enough to tell the truth, they refused to commit enough to be partners, and even when they finally said yes to each other, they just asked each other not to be hurt, they didn’t tell the truth. I always think of the big misunderstanding as jealousy (“That was my sister”), and the Bet Me crisis was the lack of trust jacking into each of their biggest fears. I’m also not sure it was a misunderstanding. That is, they were both right that the other hadn’t told the truth, and lying (or omission of confession) is one of the biggest relationship killers there is. They both lied by omission. They both had real reason not to trust each other.
          But yeah, I think you’re right.

          1. But I think it all comes back to what you were saying; it’s what you do with them that matters. Tropes are just a skeleton around which to build your story. Hence, Bet Me can include the Big Mis trope which many people find annoying, but in your masterful hands, we love the story you built around it.

  12. During my teen years, for a few months I devoured every Native American + Settler romance trope. Then I stopped.

    I realised what I was looking for in those books was the bits of insight into traditional indigenous cultures. I got cured when I realised that I couldn’t be sure it was credible cultural knowledge.

    As I studied more, I couldn’t read them for the oppression I knew still exists.

    Also, haha. You will not sucker me into tv tropes today. It’s 5.59am here and I am working on many things!

  13. Lessee…
    Mr Darcy, millionaire in today’s currency.
    Miss Bennett, impoverished woman.
    Does Pride and Prejudice fit the trope? Which tropes does it fit?

    1. Interesting. I’m going to go with technically yes, but spiritually no. Most retellings and adaptations I’ve seen focus on:
      -opposites attract
      -Darcy and Lizzie as mental and spiritual equals
      -Darcy’s grovel, wherein he realizes he’s wrong and changes his ways
      -Lizzie realizing she was too quick to judge

      Like, the Darcy character definitely has more social power, whatever that means in a given setting. But I don’t think the Darcy fantasy is about a powerful guy who will woo you/coddle you/do the decision making for you. It’s about a powerful guy who will throw the weight of his social power behind your decisions.

    2. Maybe it’s the grandmother of this trope. Didn’t Lizzy say her feelings changed when she saw his magnificent house. 😉

      1. I am not a huge Austen fan and I decided to listen to Pride when I was commuting 2 hours a day. I got to that scene and laughed so hard I nearly ran myself into the ditch. A guy is a lot easier to love when he can provide dowries for her sisters and her mother can have an entire wing of the house when she eventually moves in.

        From what little experience I have with her books, I’ve always thought she was rather poking fun at the idea “romance.”

    3. Historical context: Marriage was pretty much a financial negotiation (see Mr. Collins offering for Elizabeth so the family wouldn’t starve, Elizabeth’s best friend taking him because she didn’t want to end up the live-in-aunt). Since the only way for women to get wealth/security was inherit or marry it, it skews the whole he-has-more-power thing because even if she had the wealth, he was always going to have more power because he was male.

  14. This conversation makes me think of early theater, where the roles were pretty much assigned for all the plays. Punchinello is they only name I remember, but their is a whole cast of tropes moving around the stage…

    Or japanese kibuki theater where they wear wooden masks and everyone knows which mask is which character, the young innocent lady, the older scheming lady, the hero and the villain.

  15. My first thought when I read Jenny’s comment was that Charlie, All Night was that starts as a fake dating trope and Getting Rid of Bradley started as the trope of two people having to stay together to solve the problem.

  16. Anything that has “Navy Seal” in it. Their brains turn to mush at the high water mark, BTW. And not fond of billionaires.

    1. It should be noted that Bob was a Green Beret. Not that there’s any SEAL/Beret rivalry there or anything.

    2. Oh look, the other category I ghostwrite (ok, ghost-outline). Not particularly fond of SEALs or cowboys, but they do keep me in frozen pizza.

  17. I have just finished reading Designed to Fail by Virginia DeMarce, another novel in the “Ring of Fire” series (AKA The “1632” series.) The first 80% of the book is about Frederick of Denmark, 2nd legitimate son in the line of succession of King Christian IV of Denmark. In an early book of the series, Frederick is appointed by Emperor Gustav II Adolf to govern “Westphalia” province, which should not be confused with the historic Westphalia. All the necessary actions of governing his province, which were avoided by nearly every RoF author (due to “high politics,” the playground of the main author, Eric Flint) are dealt with by Ms. DeMarce, one of Eric’s short list of trusted side authors.

    Elsewhere (and here), I have noted Mr. Flint’s predilection for including Romance Cooties in all his books. He expects his co-authors and side-authors to do the same. Virginia slides them in, too. Anyone studying Christian IV of Denmark will have noted royal wives, morganatic wives, mistresses, one night stands, et cetera. A plethora of sons and daughters, legitimate and legitimized. Less is known of his second son, save that he became King Frederic III because his older brother died childless.

    Virginia’a Frederic is well educated and has certain goals. His father was an alcoholic – he is teetotal. His father is a womanizer – he is abstemious. His father is surrounded by corrupt nobles – he makes best use of any educated person (preferably Lutheran) including many of those relatives his father generated. His aunt Hedwig has marriage plans for him – he uses her to administer parts of his province.

    But Virginia makes use of the Love At First Sight Trope. With complications, of course. Frederick falls for (dun-dun-DUN) Annalise, the younger sister of Gretchen Ricter, the most notorious troublemaking firebrand in the entire empire! A Leader of the Committees of Correspondence. Also, Roman Catholic! Also, a Commoner (albeit a rich one.)

    The things we do for love. (That’s a trope, innit?) He’s not willing for their marriage to be morganatic – he gets his father to declare the whole dealy about marrying your own rank null and void. And he does that before he even asks her! Then, he asks her publicly. Lucky for him, she accepts. They get married by a Roman Catholic Cardinal, A Lutheran Bishop, an Episcopal Bishop and others. They are so married!

    1. The author herself reminded me to re-read a paragraph. Fred didn’t fall “in love” at first sight. He fell “in lust.” Same result, though, and it’s the Royalty/Commoner trope, anyway.

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