d. i. richardson
Ranking Romance Tropes
Happy Valentine's Day to all you beautiful people. I figured I might as well do something romance-related to celebrate today.
So it’s time for a ranking of romance tropes. That’s right. And what system am I gonna use to rank these? A classic out of ten? Nope. I’m obviously going for the crisp & modern tier ranking system. S through D classes because I don't believe in things being failures. S is the absolute best and D being "not my favourite."
The candidates up for discussion (and by no means is this an exhaustive list, and it should be mentioned that I still like pretty much all tropes on some level):
Enemies to lovers
Friends to lovers
“Trapped in an Elevator”
Belated love epiphany.
The Bad Boy
Soulmates / Destined to be together
The Other Man/Woman
Love at first sight
I’m going to go through them as they are presented on the list above and will add a TL;DR list at the bottom to show you where I placed each of the tropes.
Enemies to lovers
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. What’s good about it? The fiery tension between two enemies, whether this is hero and evil overlord or like captains of opposing co-ed dodgeball teams, something about a competition or rivalry really steams up the sexual and romantic tension between two characters. I’m starting this post off with a bang and putting this one into the S-tier.
Friends to lovers
Another self-explanatory trope. So why would I like this one? Well… I don’t entirely. It can be a little dry. Part of the fun is learning about the other character through new experiences. Friends already know each other. As a subplot, I think this trope is wonderful. It could also work in in slow-burning novels with interesting characters. For me, friends to lovers only works if both the lovers are interesting and fleshed out. That being said, I’m putting this in the B-tier.
Boring. Sorry. I just find faking a relationship to be a total snooze-fest. What benefit does this have over other tropes? Practically nothing. You’re trying to make a character jealous or something? I guess. It’s getting tossed into the D-tier for me. I don't have much else to say about that. Just real "I'll pay you to date me" energy. Not what I like from a story.
Trapped in an elevator
Trapped tropes are pretty damn good. I wrote a novel based on this trope too. I’ve read a couple stories with this as the trope too and I’ve gotta be honest here that I liked them a lot. It was fun to write. It’s two strangers forced to get to know each other and they fall in love. It’s wonderful, really. S-tier, baby. Simple and easy.
This one has to be a Hollywood favourite. Haven’t seen it in many novels or stories, but is it ever prevalent in movies. The big, last-minute hurrah of confessing your love when the world thinks it’s too late. Running through an airport or train terminal to find your loved one before they get onto their transit and confessing your love, confessing how much of an idiot you were. I’ve only liked this in the movie Friend With Benefits because they were poking fun at it. So… C-tier. It’s not entirely bad.
This one is sort of a guilty pleasure. The hidden royalty part, maybe not, but the wealth one, yes. Why? Because it’s kind of nice fantasy to write about being whisked away suddenly into a world beyond your scope, into the world where the love of your life can suddenly provide everything for you. I think the term is wish fulfillment. Anyway, if done right, this is an easy A-tier for me. If done corny, I would drop it to C.
The Bad Boy
This one is really hit and miss. Sometimes it works and the bad boy (or girl) is an interesting character with flaws and humanizing characteristics. Sometimes, and more often than not, they’re edgelords who just say and do dark stuff for plot reasons and somehow the MC is still madly in love with them. Kinda weird. Kinda dumb. Kind of makes me put this one on the C-tier.
Of course, this one is a classic for the ages. For me, however, it takes a lot to make me like a forbidden love. It has to make sense for the setting and can’t be forbidden just for the sake of plot. Make it make senses so I believe it otherwise I won’t believe the love has real consequence. Since it’s a terribly old trope (looking at your Romeo and Juliet), I’m putting it on the B-tier.
This one is very overdone but can still be very fun to read and write. I like it because it allows for pretty obvious conflict, both inner and outer. The MC can be in inner turmoil about who to be with and the other two love interests can be vying for their affection. Or the MC could be the one vying for the affection of someone else who also likes somebody else who in turn likes the MC. There’s a lot of dynamics to play with in a love triangle. I’ll throw this in the A-tier. I know some people really dislike this one. This is probably the most polarizing trope.
Soulmates/destined to be together
This one is vaguely similar in tone to the Chosen One trope in fantasy writing in the sense that this was always destined to be. I don’t personally like this one at all because you’re literally telling me that no matter what, these two are gonna be together because it’s destiny. That’s a little boring. It works for fairy tales because fairy tales are meant to have a happy ending. For that, I’m sending this one down to the D-tier.
What even is this? It’s when your characters fall in love… again. That’s it. It’s basically when an old flame ignites again later on. Perhaps high school seniors break up before college but somehow drift back together six years later while they’re on a political campaign trail. I dunno. Bonus points if you also make them enemies. That’s right. Lovers into strangers into enemies into second-chance lovers. The ultimate trope. There’s some good stories that can be told using the second-chance trope, so I have to put it in the A-tier.
The other man/woman
Okay. Okay. THIS one. This ones is controversial, or so I’ve seen. A lot of people obviously do not like cheating, and that’s understandable, but I think it makes for an intense story if done right. You have to have the character be remorseful (or sometimes not). Show the effects of the guilt. Show the effects of being weak to impulses. Show us if the character does care or not, but know that we will dislike the character for it. Disliking the MC is not mainstream, but it should be normalized. I don’t need perfect MCs. I need real ones with flaws. Anyway, this trope gets tossed into the C-tier, which stands for controversy and cheating.
I fucking hate meet cutes. D-tier.
This is a lot better than the fake relationship trope, but is similar to the forbidden love. Often, if it’s forbidden, it’s hidden. So, that basically means I’m putting this one in between fake and forbidden and placing it in the C-tier.
Nerd and jock. Writer and athlete. Good-two-shoes and the bad boy. Opposites are meant to create conflict by their very nature, but yet our MC and love interest seem drawn together by something bigger than themselves. As great as it is on paper, I can’t get behind it. I like people to have at least some stuff in common. An introvert and extrovert, for example, is a good version of opposites attracting. Or someone who’s high strung falling for someone who is laidback. Since the case if often not that kind of opposites attract, this trope tanks for me, but I still like it. So… B-tier.
Love at first sight
This one has to do a lot of other things right to work. They have to be interesting. The circumstances of them meeting has to be interesting. But it can be a good trope when utilized properly, so I’ll throw it on the B-tier for its potential.
- Enemies to lovers
- Trapped in an elevator
- Secret royalty/wealth/fame
- Love triangle
- Second-chance love
- Friends to lovers
- Forbidden love
- Opposites attract
- Love at first sight
- Belated love
- The Bad Boy
- The other man/woman
- Secret dating
- Fake relationships
- Soulmates/destined to be together
- Meet cute
Have you written any of these tropes before? Will you? I'm sure I'll end up writing one of each of them at some point through my writing career. What are your favourites and least favourites?
So, what do you think?
Comment your thoughts!
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And have a good wander, friend.