Why Trope Isn’t a Dirty Word

Trope Dirty Word

While writing romance, I have used a lot … and I mean a lot of dirty words … and trust me when I say that trope is not one of them.

But Alexa, how could you say such a thing? Aren’t tropes predictable? Unoriginal? BORING?

No, my friends. They are not.

Look at your own one-click history as proof of this. What is that made you give one glance at a book and think, if my eyeballs don’t see these words as soon as possible, I may literally die? I’d be willing to bet money that part of it is because of a trope.

The beauty of a good trope

Personally, if I see the words “secret baby” anywhere on a descriptor, I will give you all my money. Alpha male? Please, tell me more. Second chance? Don’t mind if I do. And the brilliant part about this is, no matter how many times I have purchased books with the same trope, I have never read the same book.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, romance readers are smart, and we know what we like. And lucky for us, tropes seem unlimited in our world. Whether you want sports, rock stars, enemies-to-lovers, vampires, or forbidden lovers, you can find countless stories.

Because a trope isn’t the entire story, it is merely a pitching point. Something, that we as writers, benefit from greatly.

In a time where pitch contests are a thing (cough, #KissPitch, cough), learning to embrace tropes is something that will not only help sell your book when the time comes, but it can also help get eyes on your manuscript from agents and editors. When you don’t have a full query letter available to tell your story, your trope can be one of the most important and appealing parts of a pitch. It gives the reader an idea of your book while giving you room to explain why else your story is what readers need. It is the pretty bow on a fabulous gift.

Take a venture over to Manuscript Wishlist, which was one of my favorite resources while putting together my list of agents to query.

One of the things I found most helpful was looking at a list of their favorite books of projects they represent because even if they don’t flat-out list their favorite tropes, you can usually find a theme and pick out what piques their interest. And while it isn’t a sure thing (is anything in publishing a sure thing?), it gives guidance in an ocean that oftentimes seems endless.

Finally, and maybe the most convincing argument, is a look at any book blogger’s site. I don’t know about you, but I follow so many bloggers on Twitter and my internet history is full of book bloggers. I love them. I love their dedication. I love their unabashed love for romance. And I love their enthusiasm for sharing what they love with the rest of us.

Beyond telling us about great new releases and showing us some of the newest covers, they make it easy for readers to find whatever book they are craving at the moment and they do that using tropes. Take Vilma Iris, for example. Her guide has recommendations from fairytale retellings to time travel and everything in between. Smart Bitches, Trashy Books offers an extensive list of themes and archetypes, one I’m sure their readers utilize frequently.
Embrace the trope

So tropes aren’t only not a dirty word, they are a huge asset when it comes to marketing and selling your manuscript. Embrace your theme and know that even though there is more than one second chance romance floating around, your second chance romance is unique and special and wanted.

Feature image by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Alexa Martin
Alexa Martin is a writer and stay-at-home mom. She lives in Colorado with her husband, four children, and German shepherd. When she’s not telling her kids to put their shoes on (again), you can find her catching up with her latest book boyfriend or on Pinterest pinning meals she’ll probably never make. Her first book, INTERCEPTED, is out now with Berkley.
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