If you are a genre author, it’s important to be aware of the tropes that are emerging in any given publishing year or years. Some tropes, of course, are evergreen, and will always be popular – such as enemies-to-lovers and marriages of convenience, rebellious heroines and magic-based societies in fantasy, and so on. But how can you effectively and efficiently utilize these tropes in your books, without having them feel forced?
Tropes are important selling points for your novels, and are necessary to use during marketing, too. It really helps readers know what your book is going to be about – even before they read the full synopsis! There are a myriad of ways that tropes can help you get your books into the hands of readers – read on for more marketing as well as, of course, writing tips.
Write, first and foremost, what you want – chances are, you are already drawn to certain tropes and story conventions. Give in to that love of certain stories! If you have always wanted to include an enemies-to-lovers plotline, go for it. If you love the conventions of an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery, write within them. Tropes can be smaller than entire plots, too – look into tropes that solidify individual characters, or add certain elements to a story, such as setting or atmosphere. If you’re a big fan of the haunted Victorian-era house trope, go for it. Or, perhaps, your favourite setting for a romance is in a coffeeshop? There are endless options, and certainly many that you already enjoy.
Build your characters first, find tropes later – many genre fiction titles, especially in the romance genre and related sub-genres, are character-driven. Think of characters first, tropes second. Often, building out and developing your characters can help you figure out which tropes they fall into. A perennial favourite, of course, is a grumpy/sunshine pairing; if you find one character is very bright and optimistic, while another is more reserved and forlorn, there you go! You found yourself a trope. After that, you can lean into the plot and see how your world develops from there. But again, starting with the characters who will be the central focus of your book is an effective way to find your tropes.
Remember that tropes are separate from cliches – note that cliches are different than tropes. A trope is a way of telling a story – i.e., think of the enemies-to-lovers romance novel, or the haunted house ghost story. These are familiar to most readers, and can help to shape the story. Cliches can vary from individual, overused lines to entire character types and plot points. You are probably familiar with a few common cliches already! There are many in every genre.
A cliché, for example, would be having the two main characters from your enemies-to-lovers romance love one another despite have warring families (a la Romeo and Juliet) or writing the main character of the ghost story as revealed to have been a ghost the whole time (like in – spoilers – The Sixth Sense). These may not have been cliché at the time, but they are cliché now, as well as predictable, and have been done several times before, sometimes successfully, other times, not so much.
Often, cliché gets a bad rep, but cliches are there to serve storytelling conventions and often help them be better. This is not to say to never use cliché – it is advice to refrain from overusing cliché – but several cliches can be essential to the effective use of certain tropes.
Highlight tropes outright in your summary – as mentioned before, mentioning your tropes by name in your summary – whether it be by listing them or incorporating them into your summary copy – is necessary when marketing your book. If you are following a convention, and adhering to a certain trope or tropes, tell your readers! Often, readers read entirely for tropes. They love these story archetypes and follow them doggedly across author and throughout genre. Make it easy for those readers to find you by clearly outlining your tropes.
Have your cover reflect your tropes – visual cues are extremely helpful when it comes to marketing your book. Illustrated covers, text-heavy covers with ornate fonts, and moody, mysterious photograph-based covers are just a few of dozens upon dozens of cover conventions.
Can you match the cover styles I just listed to their genre? Here’s the list:
- Illustrated covers are favoured by contemporary romance, usually rom-coms or otherwise light, fun, and entertaining reads
- Text-heavy covers with beautiful fonts and intricate flourishes belong to fantasy, or fantasy romance
- And moody, mystery photographs invoking cities, darkened windows, rain-slick streets, and other urban settings are often used for contemporary mysteries, police procedurals and thrillers
Of course, rules can be broken – and these arent’ rules, just trends. Cover designs will come and go, trends will rise and fall, and any cover can be effective. That’s all it needs to be, at the end of the day: eye-catching, effective, and looking as if it was effortlessly designed!
How do you streamline tropes in your storytelling? Which tropes are you a fan of, and why? We hope this has helped you think a little more about how to engage with tropes and ease them into your work. As always, happy writing!