A trope is a concept, while an archetype relates more to character. So as an example, 'Reformed Rake' might be the trope, while 'Bad Boy' would be the archetype. A cop or sheik might be an archetype, but their story could be any from the lengthy list of tropes, for example, Boy Next Door or Stranded.
And this is exactly why I think the romance genre will never be boring or formulaic. There are endless combinations of characters, settings, conflicts and tropes, so every story is different from the one before. Add in the author's own voice and no two stories are ever really the same.
However, just as a trope can head into cliché territory if not handled properly, so weak writing can turn an archetype into a stereotype. The line between the two is thin, but very clear.
An archetype is a universal character type that your reader can immediately identify.
- the young man on the rise (Luke Skywalker)
- the wise grandfather (Obi Wan)
- the court jester (C3PO)
- the damsel in distress (Princess Leia)
- the lone ranger (Han Solo)
- the sidekick (Wookie)
- the evil villain (Darth Vader)
A stereotype, on the other hand, is a cardboard cut-out. This is where the writer has used a character type as a shorthand rather than developing a true-to-life character, and often it signifies laziness (or ignorance) on the author's part.
- the timid secretary
- the villainous boss
- the blonde bimbo
- the dumb jock
- the Mary-Sue
Have any questions, good examples, or even want to disagree? Please leave a comment,and keep teh discussion going.