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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Popular Tropes in Romance

Literary Trope:  a common or overused theme or device in literature.         

When I set out researching tropes, I was not prepared for the Pandora's box I was opening. There are so many tropes and sub tropes that you can get lost. Open up a tab on a H/h that s always fights and you will find more tabs on if the fighting is abusive, friendly, or because of a misunderstanding.

A book can have several tropes in it. The All Greek to Me, Secret Baby, Unplanned Pregnancy, and Hot Money cross paths often. Best Sex Ever and HEA shows up in all of them. Masochism Tango and I Hate You/I Love You are old friends. Love at First Sight, First Love, Absent Parents, HEA are classic in the YA genre. It is enough to make your head spin. I wanted to include them all, but that is just not possible.
       
I was surprised to find that I definitely have a type. I prefer my men to be alpha males and I love a good anti-hero. I do not like the man-hater, absent parents, or unfaithful trope at all. I invite you to read a sampling of the many, many, tropes and to see if you can identify your type. Enjoy!

Absent Parents
I find this in YA books more than the adult books. We know the H/h have parents. We just never seem to see them. The parents are not observant or interactive with their children except when the plot demands they swoop in to shut down the H/h's plans. In the Twilight series, Bella's father is a cop and yet he is clueless about 90% of the goings on around him. Parents are used a plot tools and completely forgotten at all other times.

Example: Charlie Swan, Twilight

All in the Family
Kissing cousins. Flirty Step-siblings. Marriage between former in laws. His brother is her sister's husband, if you can follow that. Historically, this is not an uncommon practice. If a woman's husband died, her husband's brother might marry her to prevent returning the dowry, aka double in law trope. It was common for royalty to be related. In a plot involving time periods of the past, you might see closer familial relations getting romantic. I have not read many of them because I think even the authors have trouble writing about first cousins getting busy together. I have read several contemporary books where siblings or cousins marry into the same family.

Example: Targaryen Family marries siblings to each other, Game of Thrones

All Greek to Me  
The hero or heroine is of Greek heritage. With the Greek hero, Often he is 100% Greek, lives in Greece but travels the world for his million dollar business.

Example: Toula, My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Anti-hero
The hero is a bad, bad boy. He's in a rock band, he's a biker, he's tattooed, any thing that might signal this man is not the clean cut, boy next door type. Sometimes his business is shady but it doesn't have to be for this trope. He isn't the traditional knight in shining armor. He is a good guy but hides it under a bad guy exterior.

Example: Severus Snape, Harry Potter

Arranged Marriage
The title is self explanatory. The couple is married because it was arranged for them to be. Arrangements are made at birth, at the age of majority, any time really. The dowry is negotiated, the benefits to the family is discussed (i.e. land, titles), a marriage contract of sorts is drawn up. Popular in historical titles. Mail order brides are a breed of the Arranged Marriage trope. Westerns and mail order brides go hand in hand.

Example: Buttercup and Prince Humperdink, The Princess Bride

Beauty and the Beast
The beast is ugly, but the heroine will still find him attractive. His attitude or appearance is what makes him a beast. There are two types of beast. The first is the beautiful beast, or an attractive man with an ugly attitude. The second is the ugly beast, the flawed physical appearance with an attitude that can be good or bad. The flawed physical appearance is either a curse brought on by his own hubris, similar to the fairy tale. It can be updated to fit the plot. Maybe he was a womanizer and was horribly scarred by a jealous lover before learning the error of his ways. The flaw can also be a badge of honor. He earned it in the war, saving kittens from a tree, whatever. He doesn't see it as a badge of honor, but his heroine will set him straight at some point.

Best Sex Ever
The "I never knew sex could be like this." story. Doesn't matter how many partners the H/h had before, they will both express that together is the best it has ever been. It couldn't possibly be any better with anyone else. Even the virgins will know that this is special and somehow tied to their love of one another.

Example: Jamie and Claire, Outlander

Bet Me
Men are at fault here more often than women. The bet is made when the men decide one of them will woo a particular female. Of course, along the way he will fall in love with her. Usually, right before she is heart broken to learn their relationship is all for a bet. The relationship can be the result of losing a bet. John Doe lost a bet so he has to take Plain Jane on a date. During the date he learns he likes Plain Jane, and the plot thickens. When women make the bet, oftentimes it is lighthearted and the men do not seem phased by it at all.

Example: Both romantic leads in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

Boy/Girl Next Door
The picture perfect person, appears to have it all together. They have married parents, siblings they are close to, a good job they acquired after finishing college, and nice friends. All they need is a house, white picket fence, 2.5 children, a the family dog to be the American dream.

Example: The Mary Sues of romance

Broken Beauty
Our H/h is beautiful but is beaten down. They have been abused, made to believe they are not worthy of love, cannot see that they are beautiful. They are hardened because of external circumstances.

Example: Joanna Mason, The Hunger Games

(Un)Divine Love
Angels and demons as a love interest.

Example: Gena Showalter has two series', one featuring demons of a sort and one with angels.

Doesn't Anyone Work?
Like the Absent Parent, the H/h's place of employment doesn't always get mentioned often. The H/h has money and a job but is never at their job. Do they have the most lenient boss in the world? When do they have time to work if they spend 24/7 doing everything but working?

Example: Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes

Experienced Gentlemen
Men are rarely portrayed as virgins. They have some, if not a lot of, sexual experience. They "know exactly what you want" in the bedroom as though they are trained by courtesans. They don't talk numbers. That would be skeevy.

Example: Even though Westley is devoted to only Buttercup, it is implied in Buttercup's Baby, that he is not a virgin. Odd when he was all about his one, true love in The Princess Bride

First Love
Another popular YA trope, the first love is the only love. Guy meets girls, they fall in love for the first time together, and all is happily ever after. Adult and New Adult books do not portray this or will specify that while they thought they had know what love was in the past, they were wrong.

 Example: Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe, Anne of Green Gables

Gretna Green
Elopements. Gretna Green was a famous place for people to elope to back in the day. The Las Vegas of its time.

Example: Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

Handsome Devil
You know he (or she) is trouble when they walk in the door. (Now you are singing Taylor Swift all day. Sorry.) Regardless of the knowledge that the H/h is bad news, the relationship will be pursued. The character will lament that it can only end in heartbreak, and it might for a while but this is romance so HEA is around the bend.

Example: Abby and Travis, Beautiful Disaster

Hate You/Love You
It has been said that you can only truly hate someone if you love them. I beg to differ, but that is the theme in this trope. They just do not get along. They want to strangle each other. They argue all the time. Why? Sexual tension. Once they realize that they are really in love they will find true happiness together. This trope can be hard to swallow. If there is a conflict that can be resolved then you can see them getting along in the future. She believed he stood her up for prom 10 years ago and they have been bickering ever since. In reality he couldn't make it because of some family emergency and was embarrassed to explain. The air is cleared, all is well. In the case of two people that just rub the wrong way, I do not see them going the distance. 

Example: Elizabeth Swan and Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean

HEA
Happily. Ever. After. What every romance novel aspires to. All the conflicts are resolved, the H/h are firmly in love, and the future looks bright.

Example: At the end of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the reader is told that all the protagonists are happy for the rest of their days.

Hidden Beauty
Remember in the movie "She's All That" when Lainey removed her glasses and was suddenly a knock out? It's a modern story of "My Fair Lady", which was a modern story of "Pygmalion". A transformation story. The H/h was always beautiful but until one person saw the potential and brought it out in them, it went unnoticed by the rest of the world.

Example: Sophie, Howl's Moving Castle

Hot Money
Money, money, money. One or both of the H/h has is in spades. The billionaire has been a hot new trend in romance novels that is seeing a lot of time on the shelves. The rich man/poor woman scenario follows a Cinderella formula. He sees her, wants her because he is used to getting what he wants, sets out to make all her dreams come true.

Example: Christian Grey, 50 Shades of Grey

Inter-species Love
The H/h are not the same species. The combinations are pretty much endless.

Example: Lora Leigh's Breed Series.

Love at First Sight
They meet and one or both H/h fall in love instantly. A whirlwind romance ensues, if both fall in love instantly. They will find that there are conflicts to overcome before they can be truly happy, but together they can do anything. If only one falls in love, he/she will set out to prove to the other that they feel the love too, deep in their heart. 

Example: Romeo and Juliet, Romeo and Juliet

Man Hater
Whether she was abused, saw her parents marriage fall apart, betrayed by a lover, etc., the man hater is done with the male population. Possible that this affliction cannot be undone, if the character is not the heroine. Maybe not done with sex, but they can swear off that too until they feel attraction to the hero.

Example: Miss Havisham, Great Expectations

Masochism Tango

Two characters are supposed to be deeply in love — despite being blatantly unsuited for each other. They are constantly screaming at each other or worse, and yet the characters insist they like each other. Very often, the only indicator of the characters' affections for each other will be their jealousy when the other shows an interest (real or imagined) in a character outside of their tango. Basically, there are two ways this trope can be played: either the writers really don't get that the pairing isn't working out, or the writers are fully aware and it's the characters who insist that their relationship is just great. 
Retrieved from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheMasochismTango

Example: Valmont and Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons


Marry Poppins
The heroine is the nanny, teacher, governess, babysitter, etc of children under the hero's care. Her maternal love for his children or wards makes her more desirable to the hero, i.e. the English governess in historicals. 

Example: Jane Eyre

Mea Culpa
Mea Culpa is Spanish for "I'm Sorry". The H/h has something to feel sorry for. They need to make amends in order for HEA to happen.

Example: Kat and Patrick, Ten Things I Hate About You (Modern retelling of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew)

No Girls Allowed

The opposite of the Man Hater. Our hero is not too keen on the ladies outside of the bedroom.

Example: Damon Salvatore, The Vampire Diaries

(Not) the One 
They spell trouble for the H/h. A character that is used to lead the H/h further away from being together. This is not malicious. They are looking for their own HEA, just looking in the wrong place.

Example: Harry Potter and Cho Chang, Harry Potter

Oh Baby!
There is a baby, unplanned or planned, secret or common knowledge. Books are easy to spot as the picture on the cover probably has a pregnant heroine with her hero caressing her stomach. The title has the word baby, is another way to spot these.

Example: Elphaba, Wicked

Out of This World
Typically more science fiction romance. Aliens, other planets, and space ships.

Example: John Carter of Mars

Reforming the Rake
Because a man that gets around A LOT makes the best husband? They has sown all their wild oats, and the wild oats of about 5 others. No more catting around, they are ready to settle down with the heroine as a model husband and father.

HERE you can find a book list of 40 titles for this trope. 

Robin Hood
Criminal with a heart of gold. Technically he is engaged in illegal activity but since it is for the greater good, it adds to his allure. 

Example: I think you can guess this one by the title.

Say Anything
If the couple if favored enough by the reader, it doesn't matter how outlandish the plot. The original tale of Beauty and the Beast is a great example. He is an actual animal. Shouldn't we be bothered by her romantic love for an animal? The power of love says that we aren't because they are perfect for each other and we want them together however we can get them.

Example: Twilight again for the win.

Second Chance
A good way to skip all the getting to know you and dive into the good stuff. The H/h already knew each other romantically, in the past.

Example: Robin Hood and Maid Marian, Robin Hood

Secret Admirer
Too afraid to express the feelings aloud, a love letter is sent. In the best case, the love letter is actually from one romantic lead to another. In the worst case, it is a prank.

Example: Much Ado About Nothing


Sheikh Chic 
There are so. many. titles. You can find a million romance novels with a rich sheikh is the hero. "hey also turn up a lot in Romance Novels along with older depictions of the Arab Sheikh where they are dark, brooding, passionate and ruling everything he surveys in his desert kingdom with the same tenacity as he takes the woman. Sheikh romance actually gave us the term "bodice ripper" due to the common kidnap-rape-love plots where the Arab can get away with being beyond normal constraints in how he treats the heroine due to his exoticness" 

Retrieved from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ArabOilSheikh

Shotgun Wedding
The forced arranged wedding. A lady is compromised or thought to be compromised in historicals. Very popular. In more contemporary titles, a baby is on the way.

Example: Taylor and Victor, Scarlet Heat  

Snow White
Young. Virginal. Pure. Naive. She is the classic damsel in distress material.

Example: Jane Bennet, Pride and Prejudice. 

Soul Mates or The One
That in all the world there is one person who is your perfect match, the other half of you that fits seamlessly.

Example: Hades and Persephone (wink wink*)

Star-crossed lovers
No matter how hard they fight to be together, it just is not in the cards. Something or someone will always get in the way of their HEA. 

Example: Catherine and Heathecliff, Wuthering Heights. 

They Do
The conclusion of a Romance Arc with a Happy Ending. The point where we are finally done with breakupsmisunderstandings and second thoughts. If the story is done with them, they live Happily Ever After. If it isn't, when the rest of it happens to them they'll have each other. Give them enough time, and they'll likely be Happily Married by then.

Example: Han Solo and Leia Organa, Star Wars

Unfaithful
The H/h are being unfaithful to one another or are being unfaithful to a love interest in an effort to be together.

Example: Anna Karenina 

Unresolved Sexual Tension
H/h are attracted to each other but are being kept apart. It is resolved at some point but this unresolved portion is what helps ramp up the reader for it to happen.

Example: All most all of them have this.

Virgins
Romance novels love a virgin. Heroes in romance novels really appear to get off on virgin women too. With an many virgins as there are running around in romance novels, one has to wonder where the experience gentlemen learned his tricks.


Wild Wild West
Any western romance novel


References
Romance Novel Tropes. Retrieved from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RomanceNovelTropes

Romance Novel Tropes. Continued. Retrieved from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RomanceNovelPlots

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