Recently I attended a virtual writers conference sponsored by the Writing Gals. They are a group of four authors who write sweet romance in the contemporary, historical, paranormal, and young adult genres. My biggest take away from the conference was the importance of using tropes.

If you spend time among romance authors, sooner or later you will hear about the importance of using tropes in writing and marketing.

What is a trope?

A trope is a method of story building to develop a book involving items readers enjoy reading. Some times authors think the word trope means cliche. No, it’s a building block the author uses to construct her story.

Why are tropes important? They tell the reader this story has things you enjoy reading about. Some readers love the secret baby trope, and others hate it. Knowing if this trope is in your story can help attract those who want to read this. One of the tropes I enjoy reading is the rebuilding of an estate or house. It’s so much easier to read about the work, rather than actually do it. LOL. If I see something about renovating an old house, I am more likely to take a second and longer look at the story.

A very popular historical romance trope is the governess (or the nanny for a contemporary.) This trope is a staple of the genre and has been around for a very long time. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte was published in 1847. But using the governess trope to build your story is not using a cliche.

Think about this governess character in your book:

  • Is she a spunky girl who stands up for herself? This can lead to conflict with her employer(s) Maybe they don’t like being contradicted. That gives conflict to your story.
  • Does the governess hide away? How can a romance grow, if the two leads don’t meet? Maybe there’s a threat to her student and that’s where the story has conflict.
  • Maybe the author wants to gender twist the trope and make the governess/nanny a male. Conflict occurs because of the gender expectations employer and employee are breaking. Don’t think a gender role reversal would only apply to a contemporary romance. Consider a historical romance where the widowed lady must hire a tutor for her son.

Those are examples I quickly came up with. Your governess would be someone different, and that’s why using tropes is not cliche. Every author has her own interpretation of what a governess is.

There is a lot more I learned about tropes, but this starts me on the planning for the next manuscript.

Where to find lists of tropes:

Victorine Lieske is one of the four authors who write sweet romance.

Mindy Klasky’s romance trope list also shows which ones she’s used in her writing.

A much broader list is from TVTropes:   and Search for Romance Tropes for links you can spend hours reading.