Tropes and Tags

Below every post I write you can see in which category the described book falls: name of the authorwhich genrelesfic or fanficFandom and possibly series. I also use tags to indicate which ‘trope’ can be found in the story.

I must say that before I got into lesfic and fanfic again, I was not familiar with this term. I could assume what it could be, but I didn’t quite understand it. It has now become clear to me what tropes are and how nice it is to know which tropes are used in a story.


Like I said before, I use the tags on the stories I write about to indicate on what trope the story was build on. Tags are usually used to warn readers about certain possible triggers in the story or book. Think for example rape, suicide, alcohol abuse, torture, abuse, etc. I don’t use warning tags. I leave that to the writer if they wanted to warn their readers for something in the story that could be upsetting. You can check out the tags on AO3 and usually on Amazon or Good Reads.

The books and stories I write about occasionally do have some aspects that could be triggering for some, but not at all for me. So, that’s why I leave that to the discretion of the author.

Trope or cliché

The article What is the difference between clichés and tropes?, explains well what it actually means. There appears to be a wafer-thin difference between a cliché and a trope. Explanation from the article on what a trope is:

What is a trope in writing?

Tropes in writing usually refer to familiar character types, plot points, settings, and even writing styles that are instantly recognizable. That’s because tropes are deeply tied into particular genres. Selectively and tastefully using tropes in certain genres is a way of letting your readers know that you “speak the language” of a particular genre.

While some modern writers disparage tropes as being hackneyed, they’re generally much more respected as a writing convention than clichés are. That’s because a cliché involves copying a phrase of expression word-for-word rather than coming up with something new, while tropes allow creative writers an opportunity to put their own spin on something readers are likely to already recognize. When done right, tropes help a story seem both familiar and innovative to your readers.

You can’t write a story without a trope, because then you literally write a story without content.

However, a cliché is very annoying in a story. It makes the course or ending of a story extremely predictable and very boring to read. It is therefore up to the writer to ensure that the trope is not perceived as a cliché by the reader.

In the lesfic and fanfic* stories these are very well-known and often used tropes:

*fanfic uses a lot of specific tags which I won’t use except when it’s important to the premise of the story

  • Age Gap – Our lovers have a substantial age gap. When a woman is the older lover, this is often called a “cougar” relationship.
  • Alpha heroine: Our heroine defines “Type A”—she is driven, assertive, and in control of the world, except where her lover is concerned.
  • Alpha/Beta/Omega – AKA Omegaverse: Alpha/Beta/Omega or Alpha/Omega (occasionally Alpha/Beta Beta/Omega) is a kink trope wherein some people have defined biological roles based on a hierarchical system. The terms were borrowed from older behavior research on captive wolves that had been misappropriated by popular culture, but do not reflect current wolf behaviour research. Fanworks using this trope may involve werewolfknotting, or other animalistic elements, or the characters may be otherwise purely human.
  • Arranged marriage: Family expectations, cultural traditions, or religious beliefs bring our lovers together or try to keep them apart.
  • Athlete: Sure, there are the romance big four—baseball, football, hockey, and MMA—but there are plenty of other sports around for one or both of our lovers to play.
  • Best friend’s sibling: Usually, the heroine is the younger sister of the hero’s best friend (but other combinations are possible!) The sibling has always been taboo, but true passion upsets the status quo.
  • Celebrity: One or both of our heroines are a celebrity, i.e. moviestar or singer.
  • Class warfare: One lover comes from money and social status, the other lacks both, but sparks fly once they meet.
  • Cougar: A classic May/December relationship, but the older lover is a woman.
  • Disguise: One or both lovers pretends to be something she isn’t—an expert in the workplace, a member of a family, etc.—but she falls in love while in disguise and is forced to continue the ruse.
  • Enemies to lovers: Our lovers are enemies (business rivals, part of a family feud, law enforcement and criminal, etc.) until they realize the depth of their romance.
  • Fairytale: A traditional fairytale is retold in an alternate cultural or historical setting.
  • Fake relationship: In order to solve an exterior plot problem, our lovers pretend to have a relationship (often engagement, but sometimes friendship or marriage), frequently including elaborate rules and limitations for that relationship.
  • Fish out of water: One of our lovers doesn’t fit in a social or professional environment, but that doesn’t keep her from proving herself and winning the heart of the one she loves.
  • Fling: Our lovers intend their relationship to last for a short time (from one night to a specific longer period, such as a vacation or a work project), but their relationship grows beyond those limitations.
  • Friends to lovers: Our lovers have been friends for some time, but only now discover they want something more from their relationship.
  • Friends with benefits: Our heroines are strangers or friends and start a sexual relationship with no strings attached. Usually the no strings part gets a bit blurry after a while 😏.
  • Forbidden love: Some outside force (cultural, familial, social, etc.) is determined to keep our lovers apart but they’re willing to fight for the relationship they desire.
  • Gay for you: Our heroine has been strictly heterosexual, but finds herself falling for a person of the same gender.
  • Girl squad: Usually a structure to facilitate romance series, where the heroines are united on a team (e.g., a sports team, military unit, etc.) to achieve a common goal. See also, Band of brothers.
  • Guardian/ward: A guardian and her ward realize they have romantic feelings for each other.
  • Holidays: Our lovers work out their romance against the backdrop of major holidays.
  • Ice Queen: The Ice Queen is a major character archetype which is somewhat hard to define. Her signature characteristic is that she is cold; the ambiguity comes from what “cold” means. She has a cold heart, a frosty demeanor and very often a resting bitch face; she attracts but will never be wooed.
  • Law enforcement: At least one of our lovers works in law enforcement (bounty hunter, FBI, police, etc.)
  • Master/Slave: One of our heroines reigns over the other due to social status (i.e. Queen/Slave) or power (owner/possession). Still, however difficult, love grows between our heroines.
  • Maid: One lover is a housekeeper (maid, janitor, etc) for the other.
  • Marriage of convenience: Our lovers are determined to marry but they feel no love for each other; rather, there is some business or social reason that compels their relationship. (MUB)
  • Matchmaker: A matchmaker unites two lovers. This story can either be about how the two lovers make their relationship work, or it can be about how the matchmaker falls in love with one of the matched lovers.
  • Medical: Our lovers live and/or work in a medical setting or a world heavily influenced by the practice of medicine (may include veterinary medicine).
  • Military: At least one of our lovers works in the military (Army (including Special Forces), Navy (including Seals), Air Force, Marines, etc.).
  • Mistaken identity: One of our lovers is assumed to be someone she is not, and she perpetuates the misunderstanding for reasons best known to herself.
  • Office romance: Our lovers work together, either as co-workers or as employer/employee.
  • On the road: Our lovers are on a road trip (or boat trip or plane trip or whatever), out of their element, encountering new experiences as their relationship grows.
  • Opposites attract: Our lovers seem to be opposites in everything they think matters (vegetarian/carnivore, Democrat/Republican, city/country, etc.), but they discover that love unites them in ways beyond those differences.
  • Performer: One of our lovers is an actor or a musician, with the temptation of other people in her field, often with the challenges of frequent travel.
  • Politics: One of our lovers is a politician, works on a political campaign, or works in a government office, frequently under the scrutiny of media and with need for an impeccable reputation.
  • Protector: One of our lovers is determined to protect the other’s safety, usually as a bodyguard or law enforcement agent, but a protector might be hired to protect reputation instead of physical health.
  • Redemption: One of our lovers has committed wrongs in the past (either against the other lover, or against someone or something else) for which she must atone.
  • Retelling: The story was formerly known as a mythological story of for example a fairy tale.
  • Return to hometown: One of our lovers returns to his/her hometown, either willingly or unwillingly, for a short time or with the intention to stay permanently.
  • Reunion: Our lovers knew each other in the past and generally had some romantic relationship back then (at least a one-night stand, possibly a long-term relationship.)
  • Scars: One of our lovers lives with physical or psychological scars from the past and overcomes the pain of those scars with the help of the other lover.
  • Second chance: Our lovers had a relationship in the past that didn’t work out, but now they’re thrown together with a new common goal.
  • Secret or hidden Love – Our lovers are in a relationship but for different reasons the outside world can’t know about their relationship.
  • Sex worker with a heart of gold: One of our lovers works regularly exchanging money for sex, but once she meets the other lover, she’s ready to give up that profession.
  • Slow burn – The story describes how the protagonists — friends — evolve in their relationship — to lovers. It may take a while though :-).
  • Small Town: The story takes place in a small or remote town.
  • Stranded: Our lovers are stranded together, with the forced proximity kindling their relationship. They might be stranded on a desert island, in an airport after a flight cancellation, in a motel on a road trip, etc.
  • Tortured heroine: One of our lovers has a dramatic, often secret past that causes her to live in emotional agony, cut off from the common joy of a loving relationship.
  • Unrequited love: One of our lovers has long wished for a romantic relationship with the other.
  • Virgin: One of our lovers has never consummated a sexual relationship.
  • Widow: One of our lovers has lost her spouse. The widow might have been happily married, or she might have been unfulfilled in her marriage.
  • Young Adult (YA) – Our heroines are relatively young of age i.e. 17 or 18.

For more tropes, check out the blog article Romance novel tropes.

As I said before, I like to know which trope the story is told around. There are a few that I know don’t make me happy. You may also like to know this. In any case, you now know that you can also determine in this way whether a story attracts you or not.