I Blame Jane Austen for 6 Popular Tropes in the Romance Genre (Important for Writers)

There are a lot of tropes in genre fiction and romance in particular. This is a good thing for us readers because often what we are looking for is a new take on an old trope. There is comfort in that.

A while ago, I was thinking about Jane Austen under the context of romance tropes and identified what I have called, ever since…

The 6 Austens:

  1. Emma  ~ Friends to Lovers (or Consanguinity): close friendship blossoms into romance (this one is also May/December)
  2. Mansfield Park ~ Unrequited Love: X has loved Y forever, they finally get together
  3. Pride & Prejudice ~ Enemies to Lovers: X and Y dislike each other, sparks ensue
  4. Sense & Sensibility ~ Sweet Torture (AKA On the Rocks): X and Y are perfect for one another, circumstances tear them apart
  5. Northanger Abby ~ Mistaken identity: X willfully misunderstands Y and Y’s intentions
  6. Persuasion ~ Redemption (or Reunion): X and Y have a past, mistakes were made that must be rectified

Here is a long list of some other popular tropes.

I realized, as I was mucking about with this post that these are also some of the tropes in romance that I most gravitate towards as a reader.

I suspect I should blame too much Austen in my formative years.

This made me wonder how much I’m employing these tropes myself…

  1. Friends to Lovers: Finishing School Series
  2. Unrequited Love: Custard Protocol Series (so far)
  3. Enemies to Lovers: Soulless, Poison or Protect
  4. Sweet Torture: The Sumage Solution
  5. Mistaken Identity: Romancing the Inventor
  6. Redemption (or Reunion): Romancing the Werewolf

Funny that.

I could be shoe horning them in, though, because while I like to categorize things I kinda suck at categorizing my own stuff.

Makes me wonder where How to Marry a Werewolf and The Omega Objection are going to fit.

You probably can already guess on Competence knowing who the main character is!


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Posted by Gail Carriger

9 Responses

  1. Sandy S said:

    Now that I’m ‘of a certain age’ I would call the Emma-Mr Knightley romance May-August. He’s younger than my kids.

  2. Andrew Stackhouse said:

    With so much discussion about tropes, I’m curious if you ever peruse tvtropes.org It’s quite the rabbit hole of tropes relating towards all types of media (and even real life).

      1. Andrew Stackhouse said:

        Rhiannon Lynn has very good advice on where to start on TV Tropes. The Parasol Protectorate and Finishing School Series both have their own pages, which might be amusing for you to read through. Or you can look up a genre you love (like romance, urban fantasy, steampunk, other types of punk, etc.) and it usually brings up typical tropes that are associated with said genre. Since TV Tropes is less built on notability, it has a much more amusing style and consequently sometimes tropes have odd names. By going through a genre’s most shared tropes, you’d be able to pick out the ones that aren’t as familiar (or maybe you just aren’t as familiar with the TV Tropes name) or maybe haven’t read as much about.

        It can be a giant time suck though. I definitely procrastinated a lot during college on TV Tropes, but it’s helped me realize why I like certain genres, series, characters, etc. It also helps one realize how nothing is really new, and some tropes are older than feudalism, dirt, etc. It’s definitely more for people interested in the mechanics of storytelling (something you write about fairly often).

        Favorite trope pages: Crystal Dragon Jesus, Lampshade Hanging, anything about the Fourth Wall (I love when stories mess with the wall), and their Useful Notes pages (which inform on various topics in TV Tropes usually more informal and amusing style). Their page on Gnosticism I find endlessly fascinating.

  3. Rhiannon Lynn said:

    Seconding Tv Tropes! I ended up getting (don’t ask me how!) all the way from Discworld to Earth’s Children via Star Wars in the course of one evening by following the threads of tropes….very amusing. A good start is entering the name of a book/series/film/tv series that you know/like/dislike/etc in and going from there. Even your own books (which may feel a bit odd..)…

    Worth it just for the laughs.

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