Tropes in Romance: Continued


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GAH! Freaking again! I bought the most recent book in a series I’ve been following over the past year or two, because while I was not really a fan of the 3rd one, the first two were good enough to earn a one-time pass on that singular piece of disappointment. And the book is good. I’ve been mostly enjoying the characters, though it’s been fairly predictable and I’m not particularly interested in the main setting. Still, it’s been a fun read so far. And though I saw the red flag fly when the final conflict was first foreshadowed early on, I told myself, “It’ll probably be okay. They didn’t put that nonsense in the first three, so they must be among the authors who know better.”

Yeah. Just reached the third plot point.

Fucking omission of pertinent and obvious information! 

ARGH!

In, like, a really dumb way. The dude has money and shit, and he’s characterized as a really together and meticulous kind of person. Like, the type of person who has learned his lesson and will not make bad decisions, but will think things through carefully and maturely. The kind of person who understands the value of communication in a relationship and has up to this point been extremely open and up front. Even to the point of saying something along the lines of, “So, this thing happened, but I’m not quite ready to tell you the whole story. But it happened. Just so you know.” Which, in my book, still counts as communication because at least you’re telling the other person why you are reacting in a strange way to an otherwise innocuous thing.

But nope. Totally throwing that out the window because must have conflict. And why take the time to have him react in a way that makes sense when having him decide to protect his love interest by totally lying and avoiding is so much easier?

So. Frustrated.

Okay. I’m calm. I promised to talk about tropes I actually like, so let’s do that. Happy, fluffy tropes that can be used for good. Not evil.

  • Friends-to-lovers
    • This is considered a trope according to all the lists I’ve looked up on the subject, but it’s almost a sub-genre of it’s own. I like it because it leans heavily on character development in order to pull it off. It necessitates the showing of that friendship and the demonstration of how it gradually turns to something more, as opposed to a meet-cute where the couple just thinks each other are hot and so decide to start dating/stalking each other/whatever. (I am not 100% certain of the grammar of that sentence I just typed, but after trying to redo it three times, I’m just gonna cross my fingers and hope it’s readable).
    • My favorite book in this category: The Silent Waters, which has a crazy time span starting when the characters are just 8 and ends when they’re, like, in their 30s.
  • Tortured hero
    • Yeah. I blame Beauty and the Beast, which was my favorite fairy tale, movie, story of all time growing up. (Yes, I know if I look at it with too logical an eye, it all falls apart into absurdity and bestiality, but alas, I love it still). There’s just something about a big, strong, stoic guy being utterly destroyed in his past, then gradually coming to accept that past and moving on. This is one of those tropes that, were I to encounter such a situation in real life, I would run as far and as fast as I possibly could in the opposite direction. But if it’s just words on a page, I. Can’t. Stop. Reading.
    • My favorite book in this category: Lover Awakened. Honorable mention to Caressed by Ice, which gets bonus points for having an equally tortured heroine.
  • Gay for You
    • Super politically incorrect and I totally don’t care. I <3 GFY. It’s my favorite M/M trope by far. I don’t know why, but I’m fascinated by the thoughts and reactions of a straight dude realizing he’s hot for another guy. I think because it’s typically a classically “masculine” guy in that role, and the discovery puts him in a very vulnerable state, and I like that contrast. Also, this is a pretty easy go-to search for me when I’m in the mood for m/m. Usually, both the main characters fall into that “masculine” category (you know, the one with muscles, and height, and a ridiculous obsession with sports), which I strongly prefer over reading about twinks or effeminate guys. Not because I have anything against such men, but because when I read romance, I like to feel some level of attraction to both characters. And, alas, I am all about the big, burly, manly men. That said, there are, of course, exceptions that I’ve enjoyed reading.
    • My favorite book in this category: Him and it’s sequel, Us. Honorable mention to Try, which I wish was edited a bit better to tighten up the story, but the characters are fantastic. Sadly, I did not enjoy the sequels quite as much.
  • Guardian/Ward
    • This one walks a weird line and usually works best in fantasy where characters can enjoy longer life spans than usual. Just to change things up, I’d like to see one where the woman is the guardian instead of the guy, and then they grow eventually to become equals. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s a plot I’d see unless I wrote it myself, and then it probably wouldn’t sell very well. Still, I might put that idea to the side and see if any plot-bunnies take the bait.
    • My favorite book in this category (and of all time): Black Jewels Trilogy. It’s really just the first book where it as the Guardian/Ward thing, but it’s just so darn cute!
  • Matchmaker
    • To be totally honest, I can’t think of a book I’ve ready that has this trope. But I really like the idea of it, if done a certain way. I have a couple novel ideas that I haven’t actually written yet that fit this category, but hope to write them some day. Both are fantasy/sci-fi themed though. I don’t think I’d like this if it was used in a contemporary setting, because then it’s too real. When there are still cultures/religions today that force the marriages between young girls and men, who will in all likelihood beat those girls or treat them as property, I have trouble suspending belief. But if it’s a magical culture, I’m totally down.
    • My favorite book in this category: Yet to be discovered . . . OH!! Totally just remembered one. The Misted Cliffs. It’s a fantasy and has a very unique magic system. I should re-read this.

I’m seeing a marked difference between these tropes and most of last week’s. Mainly, these tropes kind of provide a framework for the plot that an author can play with, while last’s weeks tropes were more definitive and restrictive. The Mary Sue that is the primary character is, by nature, unoriginal. The plot device of using miscommunication can be done in different ways for different reasons, but is almost impossible to do well because it feels like it spits on the very relationship the readers have been rooting for. On top of which, it vilifies your main character, because it’s his/her own fault. Stupid smart people also are just a tool to move the plot along, and a poor substitute to taking the time to think up a creative twist.

I like to see tropes used to inspire creative and unique ideas. They shouldn’t be the whole idea.

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