Tuesday, December 19, 2017

To Trope, or Not to Trope @LexxxChristian

by Alexandra Christian

You can’t talk about the romance genre without talking about tropes. Tropes are certain conventions that appear in literature. Those comfortable little plot points that we can nestle down in and escape. Some people are of the opinion that tropes are bad. That our jobs as writers are to break new ground and blow those tired old tropes out of the water. And I can definitely understand that point of view. I like to read different stories that aren’t like every story I’ve read before. But I can also appreciate the familiarity of a tried and true trope that makes the story an escape.

We all love things we can predict sometimes. Take the success of Midsomer Murders. It’s a British detective series that’s been running for a thousand years. If you watch it on a regular basis, you start to notice a formula: a body is found, Inspector Barnaby is called away from some quirky family business to investigate, they talk to everyone in the village that has reason to want the person dead, you think you know who the murderer is until that person gets murdered before the commercial break, the killer ends up being the person you least expected, and we all live happily ever after. People tune in for it week after week because the comfort of that formula is there.

Tropes do this for romantic stories in a very effective way. We want there to be twists and turns, but we have basic elements that we look for when we start searching for a new favorite read. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. MC in peril: Phoe Addison, the heroine of Naked, fits in easily with this trope. She is a woman that is in danger from outside forces and needs Cage’s help. I love these stories because the lovers are thrown together in difficult circumstances. They grow to rely on one another and their relationship grows through their teamwork at solving the larger problem. 
  2. Fairytales: As a child, fairytales were my favorite kind of story. Incidentally, fairytales are often romances at their core (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast… need I go on?). As a romance genre trope, the fairytale stories are often updated to present day, or transported to different settings or times in history. I love writing fairytales, as is evident in my books Beast of Burden and Huntress. In Beast, it’s an erotic retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” where the hero, Marek, is a werewolf. For Huntress, I found a very old Scandinavian dragon story for the basis of hero Malik’s redemption.
  3. Performers: Stories where one of the protagonists is a performer of some sort (actor, musician, etc.). Sometimes they’re called celebrity romances. I think we can all identify with those. I know that I’ve been mentally dating Benedict Cumberbatch for years now. I wrote a short, summery piece called Mr. Hollywood about a romance novelist in Bora Bora who meets her celebrity crush and has a little rendezvous. Gee… I wonder where I got the idea for that?
  4. Virgin: This trope can be controversial if the author doesn’t get the ages right. For me, the key to these kinds of stories is the slow-burning romance between the two main characters. Showcasing the alpha hero’s tenderness with an unsure lover can always bake my muffins. I tried to incorporate this trope a little in Naked with Phoe and Cage’s first love scene. Phoe is not very experienced and has been sheltered most of her life. She doesn’t come right out and say that she’s a virgin, but the concept is there. More obvious is in the first installment of my Queen Joanna series, The Virgin Queen. It’s a medieval romance where the heroine Joanna is married off to the king, who she assumes is a cold, disfigured brute. He turns out to be quite the opposite and their story is probably one of my more luscious stories.
  5. Protector: I know, you’re going to take away my feminist card, but I love this trope. A story where the hero has to protect the heroine in some way-- those make me melt. Now, that’s not to say that in the same story, the heroine can’t turn around and rescue him right back. In Naked, Phoe is very timid at the beginning and Cage steps up and protects her from the men chasing her and from the terrible creatures that try to kill them. She’s terrified at the prospect of leaving her home and is paying this “big strong man” to help her through it. Of course, by the end, Phoe becomes a badass in her own right and has to help Cage out of some sticky situations.

So tropes can be useful tools in choosing stories as well as writing them. They can also be traps, so choose wisely. The trick is to take those comfortable tropes and give them a twist that will make them stand out from the rest.


Macijah "Cage" St. John' didn't want the spy life anymore. He would have been thrilled to spend every morning lying in the field behind Phoe's home in smalltown Louisiana watching the clouds roll by. But his Miss Addison wanted to spread her wings, literally. So Cage accepted a mission that teamed him up with his lady love. If only he had trusted her.


Everything about being a spy was a million times more exciting, and scarier, than the books she'd read in her former life as a librarian. When her first mission with Cage turned into a colossal clusterf*ck because he withheld information and kept secrets, Phoebe's world narrowed into a long tunnel of betrayal. Captured by space pirates and delivered to a horrible fate, she wished the last words between them had been of love, because she was certain she would never see Cage St. John again.

About the Author:

Alexandra Christian is an author of mostly romance with a speculative slant. Her love of Stephen King and sweet tea has flavored her fiction with a Southern Gothic sensibility that reeks of Spanish moss and deep fried eccentricity. Lexx likes to keep her fingers in lots of different pies having written everything from sci-fi and horror to Sherlock Holmes adventures. 

A self-proclaimed “Southern Belle from Hell,” Lexx is a native South Carolinian who lives with an epileptic wiener dog and her husband, author Tally Johnson. Her long-term aspirations are to one day be a best-selling authoress and part-time pinup girl. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America.

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