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What’s Your Trope?

Pauline Baird Jones, author, writer, romantic suspense author, science fiction romance author, steampunk, humor, action adventure

Truth by magnet.

I got such fun and interesting responses from my blog post “What’s your Genre?” (both here and on Facebook), that I thought it would be fun to take it a step further. Several people mentioned looking for tropes, instead of specific genres.

What’s a trope, you ask? A literary trope is the use of figurative language for artistic effect. It has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or cliches. 

Or more simply, it’s a story telling device. Give me some examples you ask? Okay, some examples of popular tropes in romance would be:

  • A secret baby
  • Friends to lovers
  • Love at first sight
  • City girl/cowboy romance

Tropes can be awful. Let’s be honest about that, but (you knew there’d be one, didn’t you?) tropes, in skillful hands, can also create something familiar for the reader within a story. Within the romance industry, publishers can almost make book on tropes that are popular with readers. They are tried and true and generally will sell if well-written. And many authors have started highly successful careers taking the familiar – the trope – and creating something very unique by adding in their style and voice—making the trope feel fresh and new.

For the author inviting a reader into an unfamiliar place, a trope can create something that feels familiar and “safe.” For instance, in the weird and wonderful world of science fiction romance, a familiar trope can make the world less strange.

When I look at my books, I see that I’m rather fond of writing “fish out of water” stories, i.e., putting my characters into situations that aren’t familiar and are sometimes downright dangerous. I’ve yanked characters from the suburbs into danger and into the wholly alien outer space.

I’m also drawn to fish out of water stories in my reading. Mary Stewart was a master of taking an ordinary heroine and sending her — either quietly or with a big boom — into danger. I also like “attracted at first sight” more than “love at first sight,” though I’m not opposed to love at first sight.

So, do you have favorite tropes? Did you know you had favorite tropes? What are they? Please share your tropes and your favorite book OF that trope. If you know the tropes.

You know I love comments so much that I pick a favorite to receive my monthly AnaBanana gift basket ($25 value).  Recipient is announced the first blog post of the new month.

AnaBanana logo

Perilously yours,


P.S. I was trying to decide which fish out of water trope book to share with you today. My first (The Spy Who Kissed Me) or the most fish out of water (The Key), but decided to go with more recent example, Relatively Risky. Nell gets to be both out of water (the trope) and in hot water (danger and the humidity level of New Orleans):

Relatively Risky cover art

The Big Easy isn’t always easy…

Relatively Risky is the first book in my Big Uneasy series. You can buy it in audio, print and digital! (And stay tuned for Dead Spaces news, cuz it’s releasing soon!)

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