Writing Exercise: A Wink of Romance, a Kiss of Tropes

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Tropes are all the rage in romance – they really help marketing. Does your audience want a mafia romance or office romance? Should it be enemies to lovers or fake dating?

Some of the most common tropes in romance are: Meet-Cute; Enemies to Lovers; Rivals to Lovers; Friends to Lovers; Fake Dating; Boy/Girl Next Door; Brother’s Best Friend; Roommates; Escape from the Friend Zone; Forced Proximity; Trapped in an Elevator; Marriage of Convenience; Forbidden Love; He Fell First; Bad Boy/Girl Hero; Age-Gap Romance; Slow Burn; Fast Burn; Insta-Love; Love Triangle; Why Choose?; Single Parent; Already Pregnant; Second Chance; Interracial; Opposites Attract; Grumpy-Sunshine; Fairy Tale Retelling; Paranormal; Fated Mate

Not sure exactly what each of these are and how they work? Below are some blogs which could help you define them; if this blogs have been eaten up by time a quick search on “Romance Tropes” should bring back a lot of examples.

“Romance Tropes: What they are, and what they aren’t” by Natasja Rose. Posted Sept 2023. (https://vocal.media/writers/romance-tropes – last viewed 11/9/2023)

“13 Beloved Romance Tropes Every Reader Will Recognize” Reedsyblog. Posted November 2, 2022. (https://blog.reedsy.com/guide/romance/romance-tropes/ – last viewed 11/9/2023)

“Ultimate Romance Tropes List: 28 Tropes + Book Recs!” by Sonia Singh. Posted May 28, 2023. (https://brewingwriter.com/romance-tropes-list/ – last viewed 11/9/2023)

READING EXERCISE: If you read romances, take the three most recent romance you have read and record all the tropes that each of the books have. Which ones do you like the most? Do you have other other tropes you like in your romances? Comment below.

WRITING EXERCISE: Choose one of the tropes above and write a scene or a flash for it between 100 and 500 words. Your story can be the initial meeting or some other stage of the romance. What tropes did you use? Comment below how you explored the structure of the trope in your scene.

My attempt: Pixie Power – concentrating on Pixie Power 2 “I rather not” (10/22/2023) for this particular writing exercise. Browser is the epidemy of the “The Boy Next Door” who has so much “Unrequited” love it is painful to see him with the clueless Amie. “Opposites Attract” hopefully, eventually – maybe with a little help of “Forced Proximity” hinted at in episode 3.

Editing Rant: Romance is a Fantasy

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

One of the hardest things about editing is understanding the underlying tropes/messages contained in your genre.

I recently told someone that Romance was a Fantasy – and they said they didn’t realize I was so cynical. But I was saying facts from an editing point of view – Romance is firmly in the Fantasy genre as a subgenre.

  1. The Chosen One trope is strong in this one. Only one person can do.
  2. Happily Ever After (HEA) required.
  3. Two people can make it work no matter what culture throws at them. Color, job, distance, income levels, family upbringing. Unequal social status. Love conquers all.
  4. The sex will always be good. The partners will always make the big O happen for each other. Sexual experiments will be welcomed. Sexual preferences will match.

Romances aren’t about what happens in real life, but what we would like to happen. We want the Magic of True Love to work.

Book Review: A Stitch in Time

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A Stitch in Time by Kelley Armstrong

BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON

Thorne Manor has always been haunted…and it has always haunted Bronwyn Dale. As a young girl, Bronwyn could pass through a time slip in her great-aunt’s house, where she visited William Thorne, a boy her own age, born two centuries earlier. After a family tragedy, the house was shuttered and Bronwyn was convinced that William existed only in her imagination. Now, twenty years later Bronwyn inherits Thorne Manor. And when she returns, William is waiting. William Thorne is no longer the boy she remembers. He’s a difficult and tempestuous man, his own life marred by tragedy and a scandal that had him retreating to self-imposed exile in his beloved moors. He’s also none too pleased with Bronwyn for abandoning him all those years ago. As their friendship rekindles and sparks into something more, Bronwyn must also deal with ghosts in the present version of the house. Soon she realizes they are linked to William and the secret scandal that drove him back to Thorne Manor. To build a future, Bronwyn must confront the past.

 

MY REVIEW

A Stitch in Time is a seamless Paranormal Romance with a Cozy (Murder) Mystery embroidered throughout. Each of the three acts concentrate on one part of the genre mash-up: first act, introduces and builds the Paranormal of time travel and ghosts; second act simmers the Romance to perfection; and the third act kills the Cozy, delivering a whole cloth novel. A breath of Gothic, with Thorne Manor nearly – but not quite – developing its own personality, gives a shimmering texture.

Best Romance scene is the private ball the male romantic lead arranges. The book is forever fashionable if only because of this well-planned date.

I found the fear reaction to the active ghosts a little forced, keeping this from being the perfect book, a small snag, but beach-read (or staying up all night, ignoring the fact you have to work tomorrow) A Stitch in Time is a fun time.

Borrowed from Library. Read for Book Club. Seven-hour read (7pm to 2 am).

Book Review (SERIES): Well Met

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The Well Met romance series is centered around a local community ren fair, and alternates concentrating on the locals and following the performers on the ren fair circuit. A delight either way, the humor, community, family, and found family makes this series shine. The over-30 crowd also get a good representation in this series. I only read books 3 & 4 of the series.

Well Met series by Jen DeLuca

  1. Well Met
  2. Well Played
  3. Well Matched
  4. Well Traveled

BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON for WELL MET

All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

 

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BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON for WELL PLAYED

A laugh-out-loud romantic comedy featuring kilted musicians, Renaissance Faire tavern wenches, and an unlikely love story.

Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it’s been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she’ll even find The One.

When Stacey imagined “The One,” it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she’s not sure what to make of it.

Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey’s shock, it isn’t Dex—she’s been falling in love with a man she barely knows.

 

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BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON for WELL MATCHED

A pretend relationship gives two friends more than they bargained for in a Renaissance Faire rom com filled with flower crowns, kilts, corsets, and sword fights.

Single mother April Parker has lived in Willow Creek for twelve years with a wall around her heart. On the verge of being an empty nester, she’s decided to move on from her quaint little town, and asks her friend Mitch for his help with some home improvement projects to get her house ready to sell.

Mitch Malone is known for being the life of every party, but mostly for the attire he wears to the local Renaissance Faire—a kilt (and not much else) that shows off his muscled form to perfection. While he agrees to help April, he needs a favor too: she’ll pretend to be his girlfriend at an upcoming family dinner, so that he can avoid the lectures about settling down and having a more “serious” career than high school coach and gym teacher. April reluctantly agrees, but when dinner turns into a weekend trip, it becomes hard to tell what’s real and what’s been just for show. But when the weekend ends, so must their fake relationship.

As summer begins, Faire returns to Willow Creek, and April volunteers for the first time. When Mitch’s family shows up unexpectedly, April pretends to be Mitch’s girlfriend again…and it doesn’t feel so fake anymore. Despite their obvious connection, April insists they’ve just been putting on an act. But when there’s the chance for something real, she has to decide whether to change her plans—and open her heart—for the kilt-wearing hunk who might just be the love of her life.

MY REVIEW for WELL MATCHED

A friend recommended Ms. DeLuca’s “Well Met” series on GoodReads, thinking it was right in my sweet spot, and she was right.

Kilt wearing males; family dynamics where children (or teenagers in this case) actually are part of the equation and are their own unique people with their own goals; ren faire action; older woman having romance.

Check, check, check.

Sometimes the baggage the female main character brought with her after her abandonment leaving her a single mom was annoying, and other times it made her 10 times more real. April is not a perfect perky just out of school woman. She raised a kid on her own; lived through a horrible accident; and kept everything together for years because that is who she was. Opening her heart to getting stomped on again, not so much. But along comes a white knight, a gym teacher, a man – while April isn’t Needing a man in her life after all this time, she just may be strong enough to risk Wanting a man again.

 

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BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON for WELL TRAVELED

The Renaissance Faire is on the move, and Lulu and Dex are along for the ride, in the next utterly charming rom-com from Jen DeLuca.

A high-powered attorney from a success-oriented family, Louisa “Lulu” Malone lives to work, and everything seems to be going right, until the day she realizes it’s all wrong. Lulu’s cousin Mitch introduced her to the world of Renaissance Faires, and when she spies one at a time just when she needs an escape, she leaps into the welcoming environment of turkey legs, taverns, and tarot readers. The only drawback? Dex MacLean: a guitarist with a killer smile, the Casanova of the Faire… and her traveling companion for the summer.

Dex has never had to work for much in his life, and why should he? Touring with his brothers as The Dueling Kilts is going great, and he always finds a woman at every Faire. But when Lulu proves indifferent to his many plaid charms and a shake-up threatens the fate of the band, Dex must confront something he never has before: his future.

Forced to spend days and nights together on the road, Lulu’s interest in the kilted bad boy grows as he shows her a side of himself no one else has seen. The stresses of her old lifestyle fade away as she learns to trust her intuition and follow her heart instead of her head. But when her time on the road is over, will Lulu go with her gut, or are she and Dex destined for separate paths?

MY REVIEW for WELL PLAYED

Another character driven rom-com from the incomparable Ms. DeLuca, Well Traveled follows a lawyer from her melt-down to finding her way – with a side of hot lead guitar in a kilt. Only it’s so much more than that, as we revisit the world of Willow Creek and the Ren Faire circuit.

I can see some people comparing this to a Hallmark Christmas Movie – big powerful city woman discovers love in small town and gives up everything to make gluten-free pastries. But the romantic lead doesn’t give everything up. No – Louisa BURNED IT TO THE GROUND and threw the ashes into water … well her phone. Then she goes to the “small town.” And it isn’t some man in a red sweater to her matching green one. No, Dex has a kilt and she wears a (green) bodice.

Family-centered, music, romance between older (thirty-something), jobs, incomes, and the delightful disconnect from reality that ren faires provide. Well Traveled is a great read.

Editing Rant: Glorification of the Unhealthy

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

This glorification of abusive relationships is so imbedded in our culture writing romance is REALLY difficult.

Break up and stalk until back in love? Break up multiple times? Argue and HIT in anger (woman on man usually in the romance genre, but – still – abusive!!!! NOT CUTE!!!! Never, ever, ever OK.).

How does one have a relationship that shows trouble without bringing in abusive traits to resolve the breakup?

This is a challenge for sweet romance and even another whole level more difficult for more physical romances and eroticas.

According to the common, easy path, talking it out “weakens” the “thrill”.

Consent and communication resolves things quickly — almost like the relationship, if one works at it, isn’t going to be the major issue of the plot keeping the potential lovers from bed.

A healthy relationship is just that … healthy!

It really puts a crimp in a writer’s love of torturing their characters. (We won’t go into the fact the writer’s characters are actually aspects of themselves and what the love of torturing those bits might indicate about the writer’s mental state.)

WHEN DISCUSSING THIS WITH OTHER EDITORS I GOT THE FOLLOWING RESPONSE FROM LUCY BLUE (Chief Editor for the Falstaff Crush (Romance) Line) ON 6/16/2021

This is one of the cornerstone ideas for Falstaff Crush – romances that are about healthy relationships where the conflict and action come from realistic factors outside the psyches of the lovers, not unhealthy ideas and behaviors from the lovers themselves. We’ve discovered it’s perfectly possible to have all the good stuff about romance, even gothic angst and tropes like “enemies to lovers”, without allowing any participant in a relationship to victimize or belittle any other.

But as writers and publishers, you have to want that, and you have to accept that there are some readers who are never going to embrace your books. Because some romance readers are looking for reinforcement of this dangerous idea that “he’s mean because he loves her.” For whatever reason, they don’t want that idea challenged.

That’s it in a nutshell – the conflict and action has to come from outside the couple rather than inside the couple, meaning a bigger world, more moving parts. A harder write.

That isn’t to say some people start off relationships with poorly developed skills, and a book exploring learning about consent and communication could be interesting.

But when unhealthy mechanisms are used to REUNITE the couple and create the course for “true” love, well that shit needs to stop. We must stop making romances creating masks of “loving behavior” overtop criminal activity and possessive destruction.

Be better.