Thursday, 26 October 2017

Ink Tip: So What Do These Romance Tropes Really Mean Anyway

Romance readers and writers have their own shorthand.  If a romance reader comes up and says "I like MC, secret baby, friends to lovers type books" then we know exactly what books to recommend to him or her.

But sometimes, we forget that these tropes aren't universally understood.  And after participating in the romance tropes panel at Can-Con, (and fielding several questions afterwards), I thought I would put together a common romance trope primer for this month's Ink Tip.

All of these tropes will end in a happily ever after with the hero and heroine falling in love and getting together.  (And for the record, these tropes also appear in LGBTQIA+ stories as well.  I use hero and heroine to describe the two characters in the central relationship but they can be of any and all genders.  And there can be more than just two.)

Accidental pregnancy/Secret baby: this trope requires the heroine to be pregnant and the pregnancy either forces the heroine and hero into proximity (think Fools Rush In) or the heroine tries to hide the baby, creating additional conflict (and the best film example I can think of for this is Superman Returns).

Alpha hero/Protector: the hero is a take charge, shoot first man of muscle and action.  There are lots of variations on this trope: MC (motorcycle clubs), military, billionaire, police, monster (usually vampire or werewolf), and more than I can easily list.  There are two main types of alpha hero, the broken hero dealing with damage from his past (Wolverine) and the protector hero who will do anything to save others, particularly his love interest (Die Hard).

Arranged marriage/Marriage of convenience/Faked relationship: this could be seen as a variation of the friends to lovers trope, but I feel it deserves it's own entry.  For some reason, the hero and heroine must get married, either to each other or just in general.  Once they are married, they discover their affection and love for each other growing into true love.  An example of the arranged marriage trope would be The Princess Diaries 2, while marriage of convenience would be The Mirror Has Two Faces, and Just Go With It exemplifies the faked relationship trope.

May/December: one of the characters is in the "December" of their life while the other is in the "May" of their, i.e., there is a significant age gap between the two characters.  Usually the hero is the older one but we're seeing more with women snagging younger mates, like How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

Disguise/Mistaken Identity: one of the characters is misrepresenting him or herself in a way that threatens the developing relationship.  While You Were Sleeping is my favourite example of this trope.

Cyrano: the hero or heroine helps the other to woo another, only to realize that they are falling in love instead.  The Ugly Truth is a great one for this, if you don't want to go with the classic play.

Enemies to lovers/Friends to lovers: the couple starts out either as platonic friends (When Harry Met Sally) or on opposite sides of a conflict, like Beatrice and Benedict in the classic Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing.  (And for the record, Romeo and Juliet is not a romance.  Unless there's a post-credit coda showing the two of them happy and in love in the afterlife.)

Forbidden love/Opposites attract: the characters are separated by social, economic, cultural or other taboos for forbidden love but just on opposite sides of their points of view for opposites attract.  If Romeo and Juliet ended happily, they would be an example of the forbidden love trope.  And actually, for the life of me, I cannot think of a movie where they use this trope and allow the characters to be together at the end.  But Dharma and Greg did opposites attract over five seasons. (If you can think of a movie for forbidden love, please let me know in the comments so that I can smack my head and say "why didn't I think of <title>?")

Jilted/Runaway: these are two sides of the same trope.  For jilted, we start with a character who has been abandoned at the altar and rebuilds their hopes, like Meg Ryan in French KissAnd runaway is where the character realizes that he/she is marrying the wrong person and finds love (like Paula Marshall in That Old Feeling).

Return to hometown: a character returns home and finds love in the last place they ever thought they'd come back to. (Sweet Home Alabama)

Reunited love: the couple used to be married or dating but broke up sometime in the past.  Now those feelings are coming back.  I could use Bette Midler's character in That Old Feeling as an example but Did You Hear About the Morgans is another good one.

Heart of Gold/Redemption: in heart of gold, one character is "bad" but is also a generous and caring person (Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman), leading the other character to fall in love despite the stigma.  This is often paired with a story of redemption where one character is trying to atone for past actions (like Black Widow in The Avengers)

This isn't an exhaustive list.  There are hundreds of variations out there, but it does cover the common ones and my own particular favourites.  And gave me an excuse to run through some of my favourite movies and characters.

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