Friday, October 26, 2012

Tropes, Archetypes and Stereotypes

Since this has become a discussion among both the Entangled Smackdown and Minxy groups, I thought today I'd clear up the difference between tropes and archetypes.

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.

Examples include:
  • 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)
Written well, these characters are complex, well-rounded people, even while representing certain character types we can all immediately identify.

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.

Examples include:
  • the timid secretary
  • the villainous boss
  • the blonde bimbo
  • the dumb jock
  • the Mary-Sue
And the ultimate of all stereotypes - Prince Charming in Disney’s Cinderella – the poor man doesn’t even get a name!

Have any questions, good examples, or even want to disagree? Please leave a comment,and keep teh discussion going.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tropes in Romance

Image courtesy of Harlequin Junkie

I've signed up to do the Nano smackdown with Savvy Authors and Entangled Press and scared as I am that I've bitten off more than I can chew, I'm already glad I signed up.

Aside from meeting the lovely group of writers who'll be holding my hand through Nano, the Entangled editors are already helping us focus our conflicts and get our plots, characters and GMC sorted. If only we could have editorial feedback this early in the process on every book!

Entangled are very big on being clear up front what tropes your story contains. Since I've never really thought of my stories in terms of tropes, this has been a steep learning curve for me, and I spent the weekend researching them.

For those who, like me, were wondering what the hell a 'trope' is: it's a convention, or a familiar plot line or set-up, that is instantly recognisable to readers, a kind of 'shorthand' that helps both writer and reader identify what the story is about.

While I would hate to give any ammunition to those who say that romance is formulaic, every romance reader will recognise these tropes. And let's face it, we all have certain types of stories we love and some we hate. Done badly, they can become cliched, but haven't we all read a book that gives a new twist on an old trope and thought 'Wow! Wish I'd thought of that'?

Harlequin Junkies also has this fabulous post on romance tropes.

With some help from my fellow Indulgence Smackdowners (especially Amalie Berlin who has done a similar post, broken down beautifully into categories) here is the list of tropes I've compiled so far. Please feel free to leave a comment suggesting any I may have missed.

List of tropes:
  1. Accidental Pregnancy
  2. Across the Tracks / Lovers from different worlds
  3. All grown up
  4. Amnesia 
  5. Arranged marriage 
  6. Athlete / Sports romance
  7. Baby makes three (the classic epilogue scene where the happy couple add a baby to the family)
  8. Bait & Switch (hero or heroine thinks the other is someone else)
  9. Beauty & the Beast 
  10. Betrayal 
  11. Billionaire/Millionaire hero
  12. Blackmail 
  13. Celeb crush
  14. Childhood friends
  15. Cougar (older woman / younger man) 
  16. Cowboy / rancher hero
  17. Damsel in distress / Knight in Shining Armour
  18. Enemies to lovers (Kiss or kill) 
  19. Fake relationship
  20. Family feud
  21. First Love
  22. Fish out of water 
  23. Forbidden love / Off limits
  24. Forced proximity / trapped together (see Stranded below) 
  25. Friend’s big brother / little sister 
  26. Friends to lovers
  27. Friends with benefits
  28. Girl/ Boy Next Door / Love thy Neighbour
  29. Guardian / Ward 
  30. High school sweethearts
  31. Honey Trap
  32. Impersonation
  33. Jilted
  34. Love at first sight
  35. Love triangle 
  36. Make-over story / Ugly Duckling
  37. Marriage of convenience 
  38. Masquerade (one of the characters in disguise) / Becoming the Mask
  39. Matchmaker
  40. May / December romance (also known as Cougar Romance if a woman is the older partner)
  41. Military
  42. Mistaken identity / Hidden identity / Disguise
  43. Mysterious past 
  44. Nanny to wife 
  45. New in town
  46. New old flame
  47. Not blood siblings / Flirty step siblings
  48. Office romance / Working together
  49. One night stand 
  50. On the run / Flirting under fire
  51. Operation Jealousy
  52. Opposites Attract 
  53. Political Scandal
  54. Pretend marriage / fake engagement 
  55. Rags to riches / Cinderella
  56. Redemption
  57. Reformed rake / Bad boy reformed
  58. Reincarnation romance
  59. Returned to hometown
  60. Reunion / Reunited lovers 
  61. Revenge 
  62. Royalty
  63. Runaway bride / groom 
  64. Second chance at love
  65. Secret 
  66. Secret baby 
  67. Secret crushes 
  68. Secret romance / marriage
  69. Secret royal / Secret billionaire / Secret heir
  70. Slow burn
  71. Soul mates / Fate
  72. Stranded / snowbound 
  73. Sudden parenthood (eg. Doorstep baby, inherited baby) 
  74. The Bet 
  75. The one that got away
  76. Tortured hero(ine)
  77. Twins (secret twins / impersonation) 
  78. Undercover as lovers
  79. Unrequited Love
  80. Working with the ex