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Romance Tropes

What They Are, And What They Aren't...

By Natasja RosePublished 2 months ago 4 min read
Romance Tropes
Photo by Abdul Gani M on Unsplash

Recently, I've seen a lot of confusion between Romance tropes.

Admittedly, some of them do have a certain amount of crossover and similarities, but the whole point of a Trope is to catagorise something, so I thought I'd sit down and clarify.

What can I say, people being Wrong On The Internet is a great motivation.

What Is A Trope?

The literal definition of a Trope is "a significant or recurrent theme; a motif:"

More recently, it has been used as a shorthand when discussing various forms of media to describe a particular type of character or sub-plot. A trope is a common idea that has become an Archtype.

Most commonly used in fanfiction and literary analysis, Tropes are also prevalent in the Romance Genre. Some well-known examples are

  • Fake Dating
  • Friends to Lovers
  • Heh, "Unrequited"...
  • Slow Burn Romance,
  • 'OMG, They Were Roommates!'
  • Girl/Boy Next Door
  • Enemies to Lovers

Some Tropes have a degree of overlap or similarities with each other, but they remain distinct Tropes.

"Enemies to Lovers" (or it's subvariant, "Enemies to Friends to Lovers") will often contain a period where Character A has worked out that they have feelings for Character B, but Character B has yet to catch up/admit it. This can be easily mistaken for the "Unrequited..." Trope. However, in an Enemies to Lovers Romance, the unrequited feelings are actually a stage of relationship progression, not a Trope in itself.

"Unrequited..." also features often in "Girl/Boy Next Door" and "Friends to Lovers", where Character A may or may not have had feelings for an oblivious Character B, or Character B had feelings, but misunderstood those feelings to be merely Platonic, until an inciting incident where they faced the possibility of Character A no longer being part of their daily life.

By Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash

So, What Defines The Different Tropes?

Often, the defining characteristic of the Trope is in the name. Not always, some character-based tropes can umbrella to cover a number of different Archtypes, but most of the time.

"Enemies to Lovers" requires some degree of animosity or dislike, which can be situational (example: warring kingdoms or rival families) or personal (example: holding a grudge over an insult or percieved slight). At some point, the couple has to overcome their mistaken impressions, though not always before they become lovers.

"Fake Dating" requires the couple to pretend to date for some greater purpose, whether it's to make a third party jealous, get their family off their back, or present themselves as unavailable. Whether feelings become requited at the same time, or at seperate points, is up to the writer, but at some point, the feelings must change from the original 'just business' to love.

"Friends to Lovers" requires the couple to have been friends to some degree prior to beginning a romantic relationship,. This can be as part of the same friend group, as best friends, or friendly acquaintances, but they must have had a genuine platonic relationship before they catch romantic feelings.

This is why it so often goes alongside the "Girl/Boy Next Door" and trope; a love interest who was always in the picture, but off to the side, until the other party opened their eyes. It's also commonly featured in the "Fake Dating" trope, because if you're going to pretend to date someone, why not have it be someone you at least enjoy spending time with.

(It's also a lot easier for the writer, because they're already used to writing friend interactions between these two, and it's not hard to add a romantic slant to pre-existing feelings.)

"Girl/Boy Next Door" requires one of the characters to have existed in the background, but never been previously realized as a romantic prospect. For obvious reasons, this has a lot of crossover with "Friends to Lovers", but is most prevalent in High School rom-coms with Popular/Unpopular dynamics. They key difference is that "Girl/Boy Next Door" does not require the characters to know each other well or be friends prior to the inciting incident.

"Heh, 'Unrequited'..." is most common in Historical Romance and occasionally in Modern romance stories where Character A needs to marry for Political, Business or Inheritance purposes, leading to 40K+ words of Character A and Character B pining madly, while convinced that the other couldn't possibly return their feelings, to the increasing frustration of their friends and family.

Sometimes, the feelings do start off as unrequited, as one of the characters is in a relationship with someone else, and the 'Unrequited' Drama can really ramp up when that relationship ends.

For obvious reasons, it also features in Slow Burn, Friends to Lovers, and any other trope where feelings are at some point unequal.

By Atharva Dharmadhikari on Unsplash

So, What Now?

Now, you have a better idea of your main trope and featured sub-tropes, and can tag or market your work appropriately. You're welcome.

By Caleb Ekeroth on Unsplash

If you enjoyed this story, leave a heart, a comment or a tip, and share it around on social media! You can also follow me here, and on Medium and Amazon.


About the Creator

Natasja Rose

I've been writing since I learned how, but those have been lost and will never see daylight (I hope).

I'm an Indie Author, with 30+ books published.

I live in Sydney, Australia

Follow me on Facebook or Medium if you like my work!

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Comments (4)

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  • Donna Renee2 months ago

    I love informative pieces like this, thanks for sharing!!

  • Thank you. A nicely informative piece.

  • Dana Crandell2 months ago

    A very informative piece. Well done, Natasja!

  • Alex H Mittelman 2 months ago

    Very informative! I enjoyed! Thank you for sharing what a trope is! Gracias!

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