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Why Tropes are a Great Idea

Guest Blogger Sara Dobie Bauer

By Sara Dobie Bauer
Arranged marriage.
Forbidden love.
Age difference.
Enemies to lovers.
Gay for you.
These are all tropes. Tropes are so-called “overused plot devices.” They’re plots, conflicts, and characters we’ve seen a hundred times before. Some might say they’re clichéd. Why would you want to write something clichéd? Because these clichés, these tropes, work and they allow readers to relate to your writing and even find the exact sort of story that turns them on.
No surprise, I write BBC Sherlock fan fiction. That show is a trope magnet thanks to all the unresolved sexual tension between John and Sherlock—and Sherlock and Irene … and Sherlock and Molly. Gosh, I could go on, but you get it. You can find Sherlock fan fiction that covers every single trope in the entire universe, I promise. Thanks to sites like AO3 you can even search for your trope of choice. If readers didn’t like tropes, why would this be a searchable thing?
My trope fetishes include virgin Sherlock, age difference, and most recently, arranged marriage. Oh, I’m also a fan of “gay for you” stories in which John Watson is only gay for Sherlock. Why do I like these things? Who knows? Why do you like what you like? Who knows? But we are chained to our favorite tropes, like it or not.
Tropes are comfortable. They are known to us. As long as you write well and add your own spin, they are not clichéd. Instead, they allow your readers to find you, love you, and read more of your stuff. Don’t be afraid to write yet another enemy to lovers story. We enjoy these. They’re funny and cathartic at the end—and that’s part of the magic. Because we know tropes, we know what to expect at the end. We know how we’re going to feel, and that’s the point of reading, isn’t it? To feel things. Tropes allow you to feel what you’re hoping to feel.
There are badly written trope fan fictions, sure. The key is to make the old trope new. Make it the same but different. Don’t be afraid of writing a story based on a trope. That story will make someone very happy, whether that someone is into amnesia, billionaires, or botched kidnapping. There is a trope for everyone! Embrace them and use them as guides to greatness.
Sara Dobie Bauer is a bestselling, award-winning author, model, and mental health advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. Her short story, Don’t Ball the Boss inspired by her shameless crush on Benedict Cumberbatch, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is author of the paranormal rom-com Bite Somebody from World Weaver Press.

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