Writers want to be original, to write something that has never been written before. But it’s getting more and more difficult to do that and stories often rely on clichés – situations, characters that have been used before. “Trope” is a much nicer way of putting it: a theme that is recurring and therefore significant within a genre.
So what tropes do we like to see in the historical romances we read? I asked my fellow writers at Straight Off the Page and here are the following five tropes they like to see in the books they read:
- Marriage of convenience – when a couple are brought together not because of romance, but because of practicality, compulsion, or simply bad circumstances (such as Marty and Clark Davis in Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly series)
- “Opposites attract” – where the characters are like chalk and cheese at the start but they soon discover that their differences actually blend very well together.
- The inclusion of another genre other than romance to create more interest (such as suspense/mystery or a historical event)
- Class distinctions and contrasts – think Pride and Prejudice or Downton Abbey. There is something intriguing about a love that grows with much despite vast odds separating them.
- A good ball or dance scene – where the hero and heroine connect and realise they’re in love. Of course, it’s possible it also drives them away from one another – but nothing is more romantic than imagining a ballroom full of finely dressed gentlemen and beautiful women…
Unfortunately, it is far easier to think of things we hate than to think of what we love. Here are some the things that our writers cringe and roll their eyes at:
- The Big Misunderstanding Plot – where the only thing that keeps the couple from getting together is the fact that they won’t talk about an issue. It’s frustrating when a character sees an issues, but doesn’t come out and ask straight up about it; instead she/he withdraws and thus delays the situation begin resolved. In theory, one might be prone to do that in a situation, but for some reason in fiction it doesn’t seem to work.
- Lack of depth and characterisation – the characters are two-dimensional and are mere puppets carrying out a story. We want characters who are like people, whom we can sense have a heart and that they are deeply affected by the same things that matter the most to us: faith, family, morality and love.
- Pushing romance into the background. It is good to have more than just a love story, but some authors can take it too far.
- Too much history and not enough story – lengthy descriptions of historical detail belong in history books, not fiction!
- Instant physical attraction – when the characters, after first meeting, are immediately attracted physically to one another…or they feel ‘drawn’ to this person. This happens in life, definitely, but it happens too much in fiction. A gradual realization of a person’s qualities (i.e. not just noticing someone’s physical attractiveness) would be quite refreshing!
Here are some of our writers’ pet peeves and favourite things about historical romance. Do you agree? If you have something you want to add or any comments, feel free to comment below!
So what does this say about us as readers?
- Naturally, we’re after credibility and depth in the characters we read about; we want characters who are like us.
- We want variety, meaning we like stories that have more to them than just a “boy meets girl” premise.
- We want conflict (marriage of conveniences, class and personality clashes).
- We don’t want impossibilities or continuous stories of people hopelessly falling in love – instead we desire that whatever the character’s journey, it should reflect the realities of life in such a way that we can believe in them, root for them – and see how love can truly conquer all.
Perhaps that’s why we like romance so much – because it provides an intimation about how love can truly overcome this life’s …
“In this world you will have much trouble. But take heart, for I have overcome the world” – Jesus.