In the past, I've talked about a few different tropes that I don't like to see: things like love triangles, surprise incest, and dead pets. Some of these tropes are personally upsetting. Some are a bad idea in general: i.e. while some writers can pull them off, the inclusion of these concepts usually has a negative effect on the story. Others are just overdone.
I'll to continue sharing my thoughts on bad tropes, but today, I'd like to talk about the ones that I like. Most are romance tropes, because I am a sap, and as always, there are exceptions to the rule: these tropes can be done badly or in a cliche way. But, usually, I love it when writers play with these ideas. Check it out!
Girl Pretends to Be a Guy to Game the System
Obviously, I want ours to be a world where this would never be necessary. I want our society to be one where women don't have to compromise their selves or their femininity to be respected. But sexism is an active reality. Women are still granted less power both over themselves and in society purely because of their gender. So when girls in stories use their wit and will to trick people into treating them with equality, it's a powerful thing.
I love the way this trope works to promote feminism and dissect gender politics. Additionally, it adds some delicious conflict, especially when it comes to romance. Disney's Mulan, Stacy Lee's Under the Painted Sky, and Sherry Thomas's The Elemental Trilogy are all good examples of this trope. This week's "Waiting On" Wednesday also uses this concept.
Naturally there are many ways to play with this trope. You can reverse the genders, the characters can have different end goals, or the false identity trick can relate to something besides gender, as in Stacey Lee's Outrun the Moon. However you do it, this trope promises intrigue and a lot of deep thought about identity.
Sleeping Together Without "Sleeping Together"
I have what amounts to a very conservative worldview about sex, because I believe it should be reserved for marriage. Furthermore, I suffer from anxiety about rape and other abuses within a relationship. But despite that, or more likely because of it, I've always loved stories where romantic partners spend the night together without engaging in sex. This trope can be effective even if they're just in neighboring rooms.
I love the idea of having a loved one so close at hand. I love that it doesn't have to be anything else. I love the safe intimacy of that moment. I love cuddling! To be with someone and to trust them not to take advantage in such a vulnerable moment is, to me, ideal. I would love to feel like I could be that open with someone. In YA books, of course, it has the added bonus of being a secret, shush, because parents. Which in real life is a terrible idea, but it adds some fun drama to the story.
Many stories in the vein of "Beauty and the Beast" or "Hades and Persephone" play into this trope, as does Meg Cabot's The Mediator series and Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series.
Fake / Arranged Relationship
This relates to the previous trope and is so classic it's cliche, but I adore it. Let's be real: watching two characters who, while pretending to be in love, become so close they actually fall in love, is super fun. It involves a lot of emotion, a lot of intimacy, and is often an example of friendship as a basis for love, which I think is super important. An extension of this that I also enjoy is the "arranged marriage" trope. When presented in a non-abusive fashion where both parties have control and can offer consent within the established relationship, this can be a fantastic romance.
For examples of this trope, once again see the "Beauty and the Beast" or "Hades and Persephone" storylines, as well as Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games trilogy and Kiera Cass's The Selection trilogy.
Childhood Friends to Lovers
I've never understood people who could date or fall in love with someone that they've only known for a couple of weeks. I don't really mind seeing it in stories, but it doesn't seem, in real life, like that could in any way be safe or legitimate. How can you be in love with someone you don't know enough about to even be friends with?
That's why I especially love the romances where old friends fall in love. I love the couples with history and background, who have long-term commonalities and a deep affection for each other. This isn't to in any way encourage dudes whining about the friendzone, because I'm 100% not here for that. But I want to be friends with my future husband before anything else. Friendship, to me, is the logical basis of love.
A few examples of this trope include J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, Marissa Meyer's Winter, and Leigh Bardugo's The Grisha trilogy. I'd also argue for The Hunger Games' Peeta being included here--although he and Katniss aren't friends at the beginning of the story, they have a positive history that goes back to kindergarten.
Magical Women / Witches / Goddesses
I'm a big believer in women having their own brand of magic separate from men, something deep and powerful and even wild, that others may fear and therefore try to stifle or destroy. I'm talking about witches, I'm talking about goddesses, I'm talking about gifted women who protect their families, love fiercely, and never falter in their beliefs while maintaining the power to utterly destroy at will. These women have incredible power because they are women, not in spite of it. Basically, I love feminine-coded magic.
My favorite examples include Scarlet Witch from the Marvel Universe as well as the women in Alison Goodman's Eon, Josephine Angelini's Worldwalker trilogy, Roshani Chokshi's The Star-Touched Queen, Kate Constable's The Chanters of Tremaris trilogy, and so many more.
Other Story Elements I Love
Besides the above tropes, I'm also a big fan of empathic or telepathic powers, disability and mental illness representation, complex family relationships, examinations of psychological/social concepts, and unusual formats or points-of-view. For more details, check out this post!
What story tropes do you love? Let me know, and I'll see you again on Wednesday.
Images via theodysseyonline.com, thehungergames.wikia.com, and collider.com.
I'm an unpublished novelist, primarily of YA fantasy, and a freelance editor. I love psychology, cats, social justice, and love! I'm also a huge fangirl. More than anything, stories are my life.
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