My Favourite Tropes
A trope is a reoccurring theme or device in a work of literature. All books are chock full of tropes – it’s almost impossible to get away from them (though some author’s manage to subvert them in very interesting ways). Some tropes I hate and others I love (sometimes it’s a love-hate relationship with certain tropes). Here are some that I find hard to resist!
1. enemies to lovers
Enemies to Lovers is a common trope in romantic literature. Books with this often have two characters that have a long (sometimes bloody) history of conflict with each other. They might be on other sides of a bitter struggle, or met under unfortunate circumstances which has shaped their relationship. They often bicker a lot (like, a WHOLE lot) and there is lots of lovely underlying sexual tension (quite often palpable).
Examples: captive prince by c.s. pacat, red, white & royal blue by casey mcquiston, the wrath and the dawn by renée ahdieh, the hating game by sally thorne, from lukov with love by mariana zapata
Damen and Laurent go from bitter enemies (seriously, there is a lot of beef between these two) to ruling together as monarchs. Alex and Henry go from hate (except, not really haha) to falling in love and it is seriously one of my favourite pairings ever!
Shazi and Khalid have a crap-tonne of baggage but gradually fall for each other in spite of it all. Lucy and Josh – well, just read the damn book (seriously, it’s amazing!) and the relationship that develops between Jasmine and Ivan is seriously scorching in its intensity.
2. best friends to lovers
Often the pair will have grown up with each other and see each other only as ‘just friends’ going out of their way to deny accusations that they may secretly have feelings for each other. They might not see each other for a while and then when they do – feelings hit hard and fast! It can sometimes be only one party that realizes this and has to convince the other to give their relationship a go (even against their concerns it might ruin their friendship – it never does, of course!)
Examples: him by by sarina bowen and elle kennedy, shadow and bone by leigh bardugo, josh and hazel’s guide to not dating by christina lauren, aristotle and dante discover the secrets of the universe by benjamin alire sáenz, punk 57 by penelope douglas
Him is such a great read and Wes and Jamie are just perfect together. I’m not a fan of Alina and Mal’s relationship (to say the very least, I abhor Mal!!) but I couldn’t leave them off this list.
Josh and Hazel made perfect friends but even better lovers! Ari and Dante are just… sigh… u-maz-ing! I haven’t read Punk 57 as yet but I have it on good authority there is a pretty sweet friends to lovers theme.
3. fake relationship
Two characters who aren’t in a romantic relationship pretend that they are, often for ‘reasons’ (like making an ex jealous). Of course, as a result they naturally develop feelings – usually slowly over the course of their deception. Oftentimes, one of the pair will end up reconciling with their ex (or at the least, appearing to) which spurs the other party to realize the depth of their feelings for their fake boyfriend/girlfriend and persuades them to make a go of it for real.
Examples: to all the boys i’ve loved before by jenny han, the kiss quotient by helen hoang, the unhoneymooners by christina lauren, fake out by eden finley, the wall of winnipeg and me by mariana zapata
Lara and Peter are the queen and king of fake dating! They are so sweet together! I also really loved Stella and Michael – their ‘fake’ relationship was certainly unique and definitely had an interesting spin on this trope. Christina Lauren do the whole fake relationship really well in The Unhoneymooners too.
Fake Out is one of my favourite spins on this trope! I’ve heard of many things but never a so-called straight guy pretending to be gay to get out of a relationship and then having to follow it through with a fake boyfriend (who ends up not being so fake after all by the end). I also adore The Wall of Winnipeg and Vanessa and Aiden really work the fake relationship (a marriage no less!)
4. forbidden romance
Also comes under ‘star-crossed lovers’, this trope has two (normally young) lovers who are doomed to be kept apart no matter how hard they struggle to be together. Something is always in their way whether it be feuding families (think Romeo and Juliet), distance, maybe even something taboo (no judging here!) Forbidden love applies whenever something taboo prevents these two lovers being together: could be incest, a student-teacher relationship – anything goes with forbidden love.
Examples: captive prince by c.s. pacat, slammed by colleen hoover, maybe someday by colleen hoover, where i end and you begin by andra brynn, the madman’s daughter by megan shepherd
You actually couldn’t get anymore forbidden than two princes of warring kingdoms (let alone that one of them killed the other’s beloved elder brother and is now the slave of the unsuspecting princeling). Still, I was captivated even through the squickier elements. Slammed explores the student/teacher dynamic (it wasn’t my favourite but I appreciated the idea). Maybe Someday also apparently has a couple with many obstacles in their path (I haven’t read it – but I will soon).
Where I End and You Begin has a relationship between a college student and a priest (well, a priest-in-training). I loved it (but I’m not religious so…) The Madman’s Daughter had an interesting twist on forbidden love – a girl with her father’s protege or maybe even the monster he helped create… Very interesting stuff.
5. villain/antagonist redemption
This is where an evil or morally grey character realizes the error of their ways and wants to make amends usually in the form of heroic deeds and/or sacrifice. They never just get sent to prison because it is not enough to make up for the wrongs that have been committed. These characters are still useful because they have all of the skills that the hero has but don’t have the same plot armor.
Examples: warner from shatter me series by tahereh mafi, holland vosijk from the shades of magic trilogy by v.e. schwab, regulus black from harry potter series by j.k. rowling, edmund pevensie from the chronicles of narnia series by c.s. lewis, jaimie lannister (kinda) from a song of ice and fire series by george r.r. martin
Warner is redeemed through his love for Juliette, Holland atones for his past misdeeds and pays the ultimate price (sob). Regulus Black is an interesting example because his villainy and redemption all happens off-page (I would love more insight into his story, personally).
Edmund went from being a selfish little snit who would sell out his siblings to a fair and just ruler. Jaimie – well, his redemption is still ongoing.
6. bittersweet endings
A bittersweet ending occurs when victory is achieved but it has come at a harsh price. The heroes cannot fully enjoy the fruits of their hard labour because some huge loss has happened and nothing will ever be the same, ever again. Bittersweet endings still generally end on a high note, but that is usually mixed with a lot of regret and sadness. There is always a sense of melancholy at the end.
Examples: what if it’s us by becky albertalli and adam silvera, the lord of the rings by j.r.r. tolkien, divergent series by veronica roth, his dark materials by philip pullman, realm of the elderlings series by robin hobb
I haven’t even read What if It’s Us yet but I already have been spoiled at the ending (I should have known this would be slightly more bitter than sweet – it’s totally Adam Silvera’s doing haha!) Of course I like this trope – LotR virtually invented (not really) this type of ending. I read this so young – it totally informed a lot of my likes and dislikes.
I know Divergent fans didn’t get the ending they wanted (and then some!) but I kinda like the idea of this one… I wasn’t overly attached to this series so it doesn’t bum me out much. His Dark Materials was also similarly on the bitter end of the scale. Which brings me onto Realm of the Elderlings – my favourite series EVER! – this definitely doesn’t end happily for everyone but that isn’t unexpected from Robin Hobb – her books like to rip your heart to shreds. The ending of Fool’s Fate absolutely gutted me. The actual ending of the series… not so much. It felt fitting, even.
7. the chosen one
You were the chosen one… you were supposed to bring balance to The Force – not destroy it!!!… ahem. Okay, where was I… oh yes, describing the trope known as the chosen one! These characters have been chosen by some force (ahem) and are now the only ones capable of saving the world (or resolving whatever hardship thrown up by the plot). They are held in high esteem because of their overwhelming potential (which may or may not be determined by various past accomplishments but not always). They often have to suffer for prolonged periods of time (during which they may decide to become a villain themselves…)
Examples: carry on by rainbow rowell, cinder by marissa meyer, the hunger games by suzanne collins, harry potter by j.k. rowling, percy jackson by rick riordan
Carry On largely subverts thus because Simon Snow was created to be the ‘chosen one’ (not to mention everyone *cough* Baz tells him all the time he is the worst chosen one ever chosen). Cinder is definitely this – she is the only hope to defeating the evil Queen Levana. Katniss is a very (and I mean VERY) reluctant chosen one. Harry Potter is of course the poster child for this trope haha! Percy Jackson also to a lesser extent.
8. found family
Also known as ‘family of choice’ this is a trope where a character (or group of characters) start out alone for whatever reason (could be no family or just a really terrible one they need to get away from) but end up picking up companions who stick with them to the end. These bonds are formed through various conflicts and hardships. Some characters build their own families with people they choose to care about rather than the ones that society forced on them.
Examples: a court of mist and fury by sarah j. maas, keeping promise rock by amy lane, the gilded wolves by roshani chokshi, wolfsong by t.j. klune, the raven boys by maggie stiefvater
The inner circle perfectly demonstrates this trope. None of these people are related (well, apart from Rhys and Morrigan and later Feyre and her sisters) but they choose to be family. In Keeping Promise Rock this group of people form a solid family circle made out of friends and lovers and everyone in between.
I haven’t read The Gilded Wolves yet (it’s waiting for me on my Kindle!) but I have heard that this implements this trope pretty well. Wolfsong by T.J. Klune has some family members in its ‘pack’ but it is mainly made up of waifs and strays who find a place to belong with each other. Most of Klune’s books have some elements of ‘found family’ in them, to be honest (and I love him for it!)
I would be remiss not to mention my beloved Raven Boys! Blue and her boys have such an amazing bond. Blue has a great family but her boys only have each other for the most part and seeing them all together is a thing of beauty.
9. ragtag bunch of misfits
The mission is of utmost importance. But who has the capability to stick it out, to give the good guys the victory they desperately need? This calls for a special team – not the most skilled or professional types. Nope. This needs the misfits. The lowlifes. The convicts. The criminals. The lowest of the low. Who also happen to be the most skilled at what they do. Go figure. Now if they could only all get along…
Examples: six of crows by leigh bardugo, shadow of a dark queen by raymond e. feist, all for the game by nora sakavic, a song of ice and fire by george r.r. martin, the alienist by caleb carr
The dregs pretty much embody this trope and then some (I don’t have to have read the books to know that!) I also have to include Shadow of a Dark Queen here – the group of brigands that are responsible for saving the world are a ragtag bunch of crooks and ne’er-do-wells if I’ve ever seen them…
As for the foxes from All for the Game – hell, if they don’t embody this trope I don’t know who would haha! Also have to include the Nights Watch from ASoIaF – this band of brothers is literally made up from thieves, rapists, murderers, unwanted lords and bastard born sons… The crew from The Alienist also fits this trope to a T. Made up of a drunken rich man, a crippled doctor and a woman?! Heavens!
10. good guy does not equal nice
This is a trope where there are characters who are morally predisposed toward the good side but are often rude, unfriendly, or even downright mean. They are not killers and would not let people come to harm and are willing to help strangers and allies alike. They will refuse to explain their motivations and reasons. They are often antisocial and turn away any overtures of friendship or camaraderie. They are the good guys but there are by no means nice!
Examples: the dragon from uprooted by naomi novik, severus snape from harry potter by j.k. rowling, sherlock holmes from the complete sherlock holmes by arthur conan doyle, johanna mason the hunger games by suzanne collins, allanon from the shannara series by terry brooks
I feel a bit bad putting the Dragon on this list but he is a grumpy sod so if the shoe fits… haha! Severus Snape is definitely an example of a good (well, mostly) but not nice guy. Sherlock Holmes is also a good example of this trope. He is so full of his own self-importance at times and doesn’t make much in the way of effort to be kind to others even when he is helping them out.
Look, I love Johanna – she is a great character – but she is a mean bitch (I not-so-secretly love that about her!) She is on the good guys team but could never be mistaken for a kind and caring person. It has been many years since I read the Shannara series but I remember Allanon being the quintessential good guy who is seriously over everyone’s drama and does not play nice or well with others (he’s kinda awesome). 😉
The definitions of each trope have been cobbled together from TV Tropes (and put into my own slightly more nonsensical words!)