By Cora Kenborn
Billionaire. BDSM Dominate. Marriage of Convenience. Love Triangle. Sports Hero. Motorcycle Club. Stepbrother. Forbidden Love. Secret babies. Frenemies.
You know them, you read them, you love them, you hate them; sometimes you love to hate them. Maybe even sometimes you want one of them to die a slow and painful death, never to return again to a single page.
But what are they?
Tropes. Simply put, they are recycled clichés the romance genre uses to get the main characters to their happily (or a recent trend, “not-so-happily”) ever after. As authors, we spent countless hours trying to keep our tropes fresh and unique—adding that special spin or “oomph” all our own to make it stand out above all other tropes in romance land.
Webster’s Dictionary defines trope as: a word, phrase, or image used in a new and different way in order to create an artistic effect. While, that may be true in some cases, with “new and different” therein lies the problem for most. You can keep changing the upholstery on your living room couch, but in the end, it’s still the same decade old beige couch when you peel back the covering. The same concept applies to tropes.
A few days ago, I had this conversation with another author friend. We discussed which romance tropes needed to be handcuffed, gagged, bound, set on fire and put out to burial at sea. In other words, as authors, we were tired of writing it, reading it, and hearing about it. In the same breath, we wondered, once we lit the fuse and set that ship out on its final cruise of destruction; which underused trope needed to brought into shore, dusted off and christened with a bottle of champagne?
Okay, we might have been drinking, but let’s move on.
The next day, I posted this same question on my Facebook author page, expecting to get a few responses, and hopefully couple reactive discussions. Imagine my surprise when my post blew up with over 115 responses. As writers, we are very verbal people. That point was proven on my status. The results were both predictable and surprising.
This was my original posting:
Out of curiosity: What romance genre tropes are you tired of reading? Is there one particular that needs to take a backseat for a while?
Overwhelmingly, the response I received was that the Billionaire could take his “I’ll do whatever I want, when I want, how I want, because I-made-all-this-money-though-I’m-never-at-work-but-I’m-so-good-my-company-runs-itself” storylines and shove them straight up his bank account. Over 75% of the responses were completely over the trope. They weren’t just done with it; they were stick-a-fork-in-it, done with it. Especially the brooding “closet-dominant” billionaires who like to school their secretaries, interns, boss’s daughters (you fill in the blank here) with the wondrous ways of the riding crop. BDSM is a valid genre, but when combined with the billionaire butthole, the consensus is he needs to be locked up in his playroom have the key thrown away.
Also a heavy hitter on the “get off my e-reader” list? Weak heroines. I’m talking the damaged, damsel in distress main characters who have lost everything, stripped of their independence and can’t seem to tie their own shoes without a man showing them how to make “bunny-ears” with the laces. Most of the posters wondered if this heroine needed the hero to chew her food for her and feed her like a baby bird as well. Because, obviously, being SO wounded, the poor girl can’t lift a fork to her own face. They want to see Queen Beyoncé, not Princess Buttercup, and they need her to fix her own life. If the man wants to lend a hand and stand beside her, well there’s a good romance. But, carrying her bridal style everywhere because her dainty feet are too delicate to touch soil doesn’t work.
Also on the ‘Elsa’s Greatest Hits’ List of “Let It Go” tropes? Stepbrother love. Most were over the concept and found it still to be as un-stomach-able as Princess Buttercup’s chewed up baby bird food. Surprisingly, honorable mention award also goes to the motorcycle club trope. I’ve read my fair share of them. Some are really good…some, eh, not so good. But, after Sons of Anarchy, all I can see is Charlie Hunnam anyway, so I think I may be a lost cause. If lovin’ Jax Teller is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.
On the flip side, the tropes discussed that some felt were hugely underused were a diverse cornucopia of yum-yum goodness. While they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, they just might be someone’s hot chocolate. The main one mentioned was well-researched historical romances involving Scottish men in kilts and pirate/Viking romances. Now, I’m not one to run to my e-reader for the newest historical; it’s not my thing. But, if there happened to be a twist put on an engaging story with a fast paced plot and the hero looked like a Viking warrior? Oh, be still my Nordic heart. You had me at Heill.
While the quintessential love triangle didn’t fare well in popularity, polyamory and the need (or lack of need) for a HEA was heavily discussed. It seemed to be agreed upon that if done properly, a polyamorous love triangle would work depending on the story surrounding it. Although with my ADD, I may get confused on who’s putting what where and my mind would just create a mental game of naked Twister and give up.
Honorable mentions for under-utilized and most wanted tropes included; musicians, billionaire women, more frenemies, women who aren’t beautifully perfect in every way portrayed as confident, sassy and sought after, and oh…did I mention pirates? YAR.
So what are my personal played-out tropes? I’m not a fan of the typical love triangle. I like a woman who can make up her mind and knows what she wants. Stringing men along isn’t something I like to read. I’ll also have to be a lemming and go with the crowd on this one. I’m done with the Billionaire Butthole.
However, if he would like to fly his private jet to parts unknown, open up a tiki bar because he’s tired of the corporate rat-race, and fling liquor bottles around like Tom Cruise in Cocktail, I’d be all over that twisted trope.
Because, who could resist a Billionaire Butthole in a Hawaiian shirt?