Do you love them and couldn’t write a story without them? Do you hate them and think they are a scourge on the face of literature? No matter which way you feel, they are an essential aspect of writing genre fiction.

You might think that tropes are just for romances. You would be wrong, of course. There are tropes for every genre. You’ll find an enormous list of Mystery tropes here. Fantasy is split up into so many different subgenres I can’t even give you one page to go look at. Interestingly, there is one page of “Romance Novel Tropes” on TV Tropes, but I’m sure that you’ll find many more if you search for your specific sub-genre. Oh, and for those writing “Literature”, don’t think you’re not included in this. Here’s the page on TV Tropes for Literature tropes – like fantasy it’s broken down into sub-categories.

The point is that whether you realize it or not, you’re probably using a trope as you write your novel. You may believe that you are writing something new and original that no one has ever thought of before… and, I am very sorry, you’d be wrong. You may be putting a unique spin on the trope, but it’s extremely likely that someone—or many someones—have written that story before in their own way.

But what is a trope?

Technically it’s “the use of figurative language, via word, phrase or an image, for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech.” (thank you Wikipedia!) But in novels, it’s the concept around which the story is built.

For example, Agatha Christie enjoyed writing novels around the “English country house murder” trope. It’s where a group of people are together in one house and one is killed making all the rest suspects. A romance novel might use the “enemies to lovers” trope where the two main protagonists hate each other for some reason and then slowly realize that they were meant to together and fall in love.

Is using tropes bad? Most certainly not!

Should you try to avoid using one? Good luck! You may think you’re not writing to a trope only to find out after the book is done that it closely follows a known trope in your genre.

Does that matter? No!

In fact, using tropes is good.

What? How can writing something stereotypical or expected be good?

Well, first of all, you don’t need to follow the trope to the letter. You can put a twist on it. Create a story where it’s hard to see the trope for all the twists, bends, and bumps you put into that story. So, no, you don’t have to write a stereotypical story when using a trope. You can be as creative as you heart desires.

Also, readers actually like tropes. It allows them to know what sort of book it is they’re looking at. They can read the book with the expectation that it will follow a certain pattern because they know this trope inside and out, but then they’ll hit that twist you put into and wham! They’re fascinated and hooked. There is no way they’re putting that book down now.

For some readers, they don’t even like it when tropes are fooled with. They want a nice comfortable read where they practically know what’s going to happen and simply want to enjoy the ride on their way there.

So, don’t shy away from tropes. Don’t try your hardest not to use one. Do use one. Use it very deliberately. But then mess with it. Do something unexpected. Give it that odd twist. Or, if you’ve no desire to do that, make sure that you mention the trope in your book description when you’re selling your book so that readers will know what to expect when they pick up your book. You know and they know that they won’t be disappointed.

Enjoy the trope.