For those unaware of the term, a trope is a commonly used theme or plot device. There are lots and lots and lots of tropes in fiction these days, though really you could also apply a modern trope to most classics, too. (This goes back to the theory that there are only seven stories and everything is a variation on one of those.) However, tropes have become an easy way to describe a book’s content without confusing the person you’re explaining it to. They’re most often talked about in relation to YA, but of course tropes apply to all books regardless of genre, reading age, language, etc.
Here’s a list of ten tropes I like, in approximate order starting with my most liked.
- Random Superpowers! — this could be real superpowers, like in comics. Or it could be magic, like in Harry Potter. But in any case, it takes a normal person and makes them super-powered, and ideally the book then shows them learning to use their powers.
- Door to an Unknown World — think Narnia. Or Wonderland. LOVE IT.
- Secret Royalty — this is a trope I loved as a kid and have never outgrown. Guilty pleasure!
- Dangerous Games — this is one that is easy to write poorly, and I only really love when it’s written well. Still.
- Quest! — I love quests. They’re so much fun to read about. And they’re everywhere. Dorothy’s journey to the Emerald City. The quest to destroy the One Ring. Finding all the horcruxes. Quests are EVERYWHERE.
- The Chosen One — as long as you give me a reasonable explanation for it, I kinda like the Chosen One trope. I think it’s a bit overdone and often not explained well enough, but I enjoy it when it is well-written.
- Beginner’s Luck — I love the underdog nature of this, and seeing a complete novice beat a master at something is pure fun. However, the beginner can’t stay a beginner forever, and must eventually work for their success, or I get mad and will probably throw the book against the wall.
- Friends to Lovers — I am a sucker for a slow-burn love story, and this trope is usually that. It’s usually a lot more believable, too.
- Snarky MC with a Heart of Gold — don’t we all want to see the super-sarcastic character melt and become a real person? Not just me, right?
- Here Comes the Calvary — think Gandalf leading the charge at Helm’s Deep. It’s a last-minute salvation of an “all hope is lost” situation, and I really love it when it’s done well. (Again, it’s so often done poorly.) I think the Helm’s Deep situation is ideal, though. The defenders really gave it their all, but they were just up against a stronger force. Also, Gandalf told them to expect him, but over the course of the battle, they (and we, the reader) forgot that he would be returning. So it wasn’t a Deus Ex Machina situation, but was planned from the start.
There are other tropey things I like, too. Like magical artifacts, or secret identities, or reluctant heroes, and so on. But this list is for my favorites.
I expect many of you will include the “enemies to lovers” trope on your list, but I just can’t include it on mine. I don’t like that trope. I’m also not a fan of love triangles or insta-love. Oh well. Can’t win ’em all.