Hey everyone! Obviously we all have preferences when it comes to what we read, but I'm one of those people who will read almost anything, and my book friends are often surprised that I enjoy most of what they recommend to me. When it comes down to it, the story/plot isn't the main drive for me... it's the writing. I love seeing how everything comes together, and if an author knows how to write, that's good enough for me.
But, of course, there are some tropes I find myself drawn to (and avoiding). I figured I'd chat about some of them since I've been falling into them recently! Many of these tropes are specific to the genre they're in (which also means I probably like the genre, i.e. - friends to lovers is obviously romance), so I'm going to organize by genre!
Friends/Enemies to Lovers
These are two of the biggest tropes in romance! They're both just what it sounds like - childhood friends, typically, grow up to fall in love with each other after years of denying any sort of attraction. On the flip side, enemies to lovers is basically the same thing, except they hate each other. This one is sometimes childhood bullies, but also I see it a lot as "poor girl hates rich guy but has to work for him." Honestly, I'm not that big of a fan of these.
I just don't like it when they know each other at the start of the book. The adult "enemies to lovers" is sometimes better if they're just meeting and instantly hate each other (who doesn't love that tension), but often I feel like this just isn't pulled off very well, especially if they knew each other as kids. Too much time has to pass, and it's just boring waiting for it to get where it needs to go.
I like the spark of when they just meet, and I like seeing how the author brings them together. I miss that when they already know each other.
This one is so controversial. Either you love it or you hate it! I see people talking about love triangles all the time. Personally, I really like them! I've written one myself in a series. I like the conflict and the tension here. But a lot of times these are written poorly. One of the relationships is often just a means to an end, getting the MC (main character) back to the original guy/girl. And usually, the third wheel is portrayed as less than the other person. Either just doesn't understand her, or wants to rush the relationship, or is shallow, etc.
I really think a love triangle can be done well, but the author has to give depth to both of the romance options. They both have to be romantic leads and serve a purpose in the MC's life. Even though it might be obvious the MC will go back to X person, the readers really should be on the fence about it (and while we're on the topic, #TeamEdward).
Maybe this isn't new, but this is something I've just become aware of! It's kind of similar to a Love Triangle, but ehhh. It's when there's one girl in a polyamorous relationship, typically. It takes the love triangle and matures it in new and interesting ways. I've only really read one book like this (because I didn't know it was going to be polyamorous when I picked it up), but I honestly enjoyed it more than I thought I would. In the one I read, she did end up with one person, but it was after she'd grown and learned a lot through being in love with two/three men. Her ending up with someone didn't detract from the shared relationship with the others.
I'm not against it, and I really should push myself to give more of these a chance. I just feel like they'd be really hard to do right, and I don't want to read something that eventually undermines polyamorous relationships, because they're valid.
SOUL MATESSSSSS. All right, you might be able to tell what I think about THIS. I love soul mates. Don't care what kind (magical bond, The One, imprinting (*wink), soul bounded, etc., etc.,), I love it. I've never meet a (well-done) soul mate romance that I haven't liked.
Soulmate books come in so many different types, and again, they have to be well-written. I don't like insta-love, so that's something you have to be aware of. I really think Stephanie Meyer missed the opportunity to write a good imprint romance with Jacob Black. She really should've done a spin-off focusing on making that whole thing NOT insta-love (and not on an infant, yikes).
My favorite of these is like, werewolf soulmates in paranormal books. Those tend to feed into forbidden romances too, so I'm all onboard. Paranormal romance books are a bit of a "guilty" pleasure, but there are so many that are super well done.
One of my favorite book series is a really good example of soulmates. A Discovery of Witches does a really great job with the balance between insta-love and in-depth, mature love all while framing the characters as soul mates (and giving it a purpose). Ugh, I serious love that series. Check out my review if you're curious about it!
To All the Boys I've Loved Before is a cute example of this trope, and a very popular one. I'm honestly not a huge fan of this, because I feel like it's unrealistic. Nobody, in real life, really ever gets into fake relationships. If anything, they just make up having a significant other. But I do think it works for younger books, like TATBILB (that acronym seems way wrong).
I also see this a lot in New Adult-esque romances, again back in that power-dynamic relationship story. He's rich, she's not. He demands that she act as his girlfriend for X reason (probably something to do with the media). I just don't enjoy it that much. It falls pretty flat because it spirals into enemies to lovers. It's just too predictable, and I don't think it's been revamped in a way that really works for me.
City Girl/Country Boy
Hallmark Christmas movies anyone? Big fan! Of those movies at least. In books... I guess I do tend to read a lot of "different side of the tracks" romances, but they're typically more "bad boy" type books, than like... geographical location. These are cute though, if done right. I do like when some event brings a girl back to her small hometown and she meets the new town doctor or motorcycle club president, etc. If they haven't met before, I'm in.
Just copy and paste my feelings about soulmates onto this one! There needs to be a GOOD reason as to why the romance is forbidden. Typically I don't like the over-the-top Romeo and Juliet my-family-hates-your-family versions of this. I really do like the nuanced, subtler kind of "we shouldn't." For example, in one of my books (read: WIPs), there's a pairing that's a little looked down on because they're not sure if he's using her to get what he wants out of life or not, and he has some mental health issues and she's the type of person who's always trying to take care of other people, to her own detriment. So her friend group really discourages her from getting involved with him, from falling in love with him, but obviously she does it anyway, and boom, tension, because we don't know what his motives are.
I love this trope when it comes to bad boy/average girl. Where it's more taboo than forbidden. Again, I think it needs to be nuanced and written well, but there are a lot of great examples of this. This is where things like mafia stories come in, and I'm a huge sucker for organized crime romances. This is another trope that's hard to find done well, but I do spend a lot of time looking for these. My top favorite Webtoon series, Midnight Poppyland, is what I would call "organized crime lite" because we never really see what they're up to, but it pairs Tora, a guy from a gang, with Poppy, an average woman just trying to get her life together. I've written about this comic multiple times, and it's a great place to start if you're interested in getting into comics! Check out one of my comic recommendation blogs!
I'm a big fan of sports books! I like sports in real life, and I like to see it play out on the pages as well. One thing I find for these, however, is that authors will sell them as "sports" romances, but then the guy never goes and plays the sport. Or, at most, he's "off screen" at practice. When I say sports romance, I want to be on the sidelines! I want his POV on the field, ice, court, etc. I don't want him being an athlete be a trick to just pull me into the book. Show me the game!
I feel like this happens because authors might not feel confident writing about the sport their MC supposedly plays, which is where I get annoyed. All it takes is some research to figure it out, otherwise don't write the book.
There have been so many moments where I've been inspired to write an MMA or boxing, etc., book just because I can't find a good one, but I don't know the details of those sports, and if I'm not going to commit myself to learning, then I'm not writing the book! I'll just read the Rollin On series another three times and get the feeling out of my system!
What I like about these kinds of books is that the main male character is normally determined and not usually seen as a brute. Or if he is, like with boxing books, he's got a softer side. It gives a little depth to the "bad boy" narrative. He's a bad boy because he hits people for a living, not because he's an asshole, and I find that refreshing.
The Chosen One
These stories are just so ingrained into everything now. Everywhere you look, there's a special "chosen one" and he/she is normally in high school. I just struggle with that idea. Realistically, wouldn't you want your chosen hero to be a fully grown adult with fully-formed decision making abilities? I mean... maybe that's just me.
I also see this in Middle Grade a lot too, which I think is better! Younger kids really do fit into the chosen one narratives and the actions stories about kids going out and kicking butt are perfect for younger readers.
The Reluctant Hero
This one pulls me in a little more than The Chosen One. I think we still see aspects of The Chosen One in a lot of books, but subverted by things like this. A reluctant chosen one, an unworthy chosen one, someone who's gone their whole life being ordinary and happy, only to have to give that all up for X, Y, Z. I think this works much better than the pitiful loser who's suddenly all powerful. It's more mature and tense, and I wish there was more of this in books!
The Evil Overlord/Good vs Evil
This is another theme that appears everywhere, and I'm not against it! There has to be duality in a novel, especially in fantasy, action-driven stories. When it doesn't work is when everything is black and white. Good vs. Evil. Overthrow the current government/king and everything will be better... it's just a little played out.
My favorite book series, Red Rising, falls into the good vs. evil trope (and the reluctant hero trope), but it's subverted over time. There's moral gray areas, the protagonist is not just a good guy. He's filled with the same darkness and desires of the people he's trying to overthrow... it's the WHY he's doing it that matters, it's the fact that, if there hadn't been a catalyst, he would've never ended up where he is (and now he's struggling with his nature, as are the people around him). That's the interesting part of good vs. evil. All the gray.
Quests & Heists
I think I like these more when I don't know it's a quest or heist book to start... Honestly, maybe I'm just not a big action book girl.. I tend to need like a romance subplot for these to be interstesting to me. But when I really think about it, I've read an enjoyed a lot of these.
There's been a lot of talk about heist books lately, namely because people compare every one of them back to Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Honestly, I think Brandon Sanderson when I think of heists, but maybe that's just me. I find that the reason I like these aren't because of the heists themselves, but because of the skill of the author when it comes to writing. Both Sanderson and Bardugo write beautifully, and their world-building is just amazing. I don't think a contemporary heist book would really be my thing (I know movies like that don't usually keep my attention).
I mean... is it really a trope or is it just an unproven fact?? There HAS to be aliens, and I'm all for it in books. Honestly, I don't really like the whole green, big head, dumb alien narratives, because personally I think there are really intelligent life forms out there who are keeping away from us FOR A REASON (namely, we're a disaster of a species). But I do really like stories that challenge that narrative (such as the movie Arrival - blanking book examples here!)
I find that a lot of sci-fi books just skip over the whole alien thing when their characters are out rooting around in space, and I feel like that's a good way to do it. I would like to see more portrayals of aliens in books, because I really enjoy them in movies and such.
Yes, we are back to romance! It's going in sci-fi though, even though it'd probably also fit in paranormal romances. I haven't found a lot of these that are done well, but there are A LOT of Kindle Unlimited alien romance books. Most of them are cheap rip offs of my favorite, The Dark Planet Warriors series and spin-offs by Anna Carven.
Obviously some authors take this to really freaky places, but I like the mix of forbidden romance and enemies to lovers you find in the more "chill" versions of these stories. Most of them are SUPER tropey and poorly written, which is a shame. I wish more authors stopped relying so much on the fantasy and really put the world into improving the sci-fi elements and overall writing style. If you've got any good recommendations for these, let me know! They're hard to find, and I tend to just go back to Carven's books.
This is another trope that I tend to watch more movies for rather than read about. That's because I don't really like it... I've yet to find an action AI movie or book that really breaks the mold. I'm sure there's some out there; I'm just not interested in really looking for them. Even though it's not an uprising book, one of my favorite series uses AI in a really interesting way. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan uses more of the AI sidekick trope, but the AI, Poe, exists for more than being a sidekick. He's a hotelier, in a union of AI hoteliers. The entire hotel is AI, which is super cool to me.
Otherwise I find any sort of AI in books basically played out. There's even AI romance and robot romance, and I'm just not a huge fan.
"I'm/she's not like other girls"
Tropes in Young Adult books are so hard to write about because they're all over the place. It's not just one trope in one genre, but a bunch of them tied together. For example, the "I'm not like other girls" trope feeds into all genres of YA lit: fantasy (she's the chosen one that's why she's so "different"), romance (he loves her because she's not like other girls).
This one is just so overplayed that it's hard to have anything else to say about it. And, as someone who grew up in the online writing/fanfic community, this girl is normally just the opposite of a Mary Sue... AKA a manic pixie dream girl. I feel like today's books are getting better about this and creating better women, so I'm not trying to harp on this too much.
Dead Parents/Missing Parents
Oh the tragic back story! There's always one. Often it's a dead parent, OR the parents are just conveniently uninvolved or oblivious (or horrible parents who don't care about their kids, fueling the "she's not like other girls" because she's just angry at the world all the time trope.
I LOVE books with involved parents, probably because earlier books and online writing didn't include them. My flaw is that I always tend to write fathers and no mothers... feeding into the missing parent thing, but that's actively something I'm working on! Or if the parents are absent, it comes back into the plot for a reason.
Jock & Loner/Geek Romance & Bully Romance
Jock and Loner Romance books are really similar to my sports romances that I adore, but just a turned down version with a splash of enemies to lovers. This is also often times a secret romance, which I'm not big on. It makes no sense to me.
As I've grown older, I also don't really like the idea of a girl falling in love with someone who's tormented her. But I think that only applies to when their kids, because I find myself reading a lot of adult/NA books where the guy is a complete ass, and I still root for them... that has to say something about me, but let's not go there. Typically the problematic issues are a two-way street AND there's a push to actively work through that, so it's a bit different.
I've pretty much outgrown the high school setting in YA, but I do like the loner/jock and mean boy trope when it's transferred over to college settings. That again becomes more a sports romance, but same idea across the board. A lot of times when this is pushed into college, it becomes New Adult, which I'm a fan of. Like Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire (which was actually the first NA book I ever read).
Historical Fiction Tropes
I mean, is it really historical fiction if someone doesn't get married? Depending on the place and time period... no. I personally love a marriage plot in the old days. Peoples entires lives revolved around getting married (for women at least), and I like to see all the ways that women adjusted to that fact. Depending on the book, I either root for or hope against the marriage, but as a romance person, I love a lightly arranged marriage, a convince marriage, a wrong-side-of-the-tracks marriage!
I really enjoy watching characters weed through societal expectations and fall in love with who they want to fall in love with. It's often a story about maturing and finding your footing in a very suffocating society. I mean... Peaky Blinders isn't a marriage story... but think of a Tommy Shelby romance... he's the one you're not supposed to fall for. I love books like that.
I love books that are able to infuse historical fiction with other genres. One of my more recent reads does this. Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Holmberg does this. The novel infuses outlawed and regulated magic into the London of 1895. All the same societal expectations are still there, but now they're plastered onto magic users as well. Class systems evolve to include those who can afford to study magic and those who can't. I recently reviewed the book!
The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare is another great example. It's a steampunk English adventure, filled with a race of people known as Shadowhunters. The race is descended from angels and serve to protect the earth dimension by killing demons. This series started in contemporary Los Angeles, but moves back in time with the Infernal trilogy to the 1800s, where we meet some of the ancestors of the first series. Magic and history blended together. It's one of my favorite historical fiction tropes.
There's a lot of talk about this right now in the historical fiction community. After Bridgerton dropped on Netflix, filled with actors of color in traditionally white roles, people had a lot of thoughts. In the books, all the characters are white (from what I can tell, since I haven't read them). The series creators decided to go a different route and show POC on screen, which I think is great. It's very Hamilton.
But the conversation right now is that plugging a diverse case into a white story isn't enough. Of course, people of color existed all over the world during all time periods, so it might be possible for there to be a black Duke in England during the time, but that's not the only story out there to tell. There needs to be more focus on traditionally black stories.
One really good example in super hero stories. Rather than taking a traditionally white hero and making them black on screen, why not tell the story of a canon black hero? The same goes for historical fiction. And this is something I need to be better about as well. People are telling these stories, but maybe they're just not getting the attention and/or the publishing they deserve.
I think we're all familiar with this one! This is huge in YA, but it appears all over the board. It definitely fits into the good vs evil trope that I talked about above, so I don't have a lot to add. I really feel like these are varied enough that there's good and bad in all the approaches. Good would be to have characters like Katniss Everdeen who are reluctant but backed into a hard place and characters like Darrow from Red Rising, who struggles with his own morality as he tries to overthrow the ruling class.
I'm not automatically drawn to this trope, probably because dystopian YA took up so much room in my teenage years, but I still really do appreciate it. Dystopian novels span the spectrum of literature and teach us a lot society.
Even though this sound like sci-fi at first glance, there are so many books with time travel that rely on magic too, putting this trope firmly in the miscellaneous category. I really love time travel, probably because I love historical fiction books. I don't typically read anything that travels to the future.
But books like Kindred by Octavia Butler, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and Shadow of Night (book two in the All Souls Trilogy) by Deborah Harkness... they all include amazing and different uses of time travel, from magic, to myth, and the unexplained. And each of them is from a different genre. Kindred s Literary fiction, Outlander is historical romance, and the All Souls Triology is fantasy and romance...
What tropes do you love? What did I miss?