Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Classic Romance Tropes

Most writers will tell you that there are plenty of folks in the world, including friends and family, who are happy to tell us that they have a great idea for a book.  All we have to do to become instantly and wildly successful is write a book based on their spark of an idea. 

We cringe because we know from experience that what we must have is a foundation to ground those great ideas.  

Does this scenario sound familiar? An editor or agent tells you your story idea isn't strong enough to sustain an entire book? That's because  story ideas, conversation, bits of characterization or even goals, aren't enough to develop a solid book with a three act structure, including internal and external goals, motivations and conflicts. 

We have to go plot or trope hunting.

Let's review story, plot and classic romance tropes, so you can file this post away for the next time you need to go plot or trope hunting.

What is story? How does it differ from plot? What is plot? How does plot differ from a trope?

Story is basically a narrative tale. This happened, then this happened, then this happened.

Episodic writing is what happens when you have 
only story. Event after event with no cause and effect sequence. The events may or may not be connected, and fail to move forward towards a goal. There is little if any motivation, conflict or urgency. 

Plot is the cause and effect sequence of events. 

Ronald Tobias (20 Master Plots and How to Build Them) says: "Plot involves the reader in a game of why."

Debra Dixon (Goal, Motivation & Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction) reminds us: " Regardless of what you call GMC, the bottom line is that these three topics are the foundation of everything that happens in our story world. And what happens in our story world is called PLOT."

Ansen Dibell in his book, Plot, tells us: "Plot[ting] is a way of looking at things. It's a way of deciding what's important and then showing it to be important through the way you construct and connect the major events of your story. It's the way you show things mattering."

It has been said that there are a finite number of plots. Some theorists suggest seven basic plots, others nine.

After having the opportunity to attend a workshop by Ronald Tobias, I am inclined to follow his twenty master plots from his book 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them.  

They are: 

1. Quest-search for a person, place or thing.

2. Adventure-action or journey plot.

3. Pursuit-one character chases another.

4. Rescue-triangle quest:protagonist-victim-antagonist.

5. Escape-protagonist confined (literally and or psychologically) and wants to escape.

6. Revenge-retaliation for a real or imagined injustice.

7. The Riddle-the modern mystery tale.

8. Rivalry-two entities in competition.

9. Underdog-two entities in competition & one has a disadvantage and overwhelming odds against them.

10. Temptation-persuaded to do something that is unwise, wrong or immoral. 

11. Metamorphosis-the physical characteristics of the protagonist literally changes form.

12. Transformation-a process of change plot where an incident/s has a cause & effect response.

13. Maturation-a plot about growing up (usually optimistic).

14. Love-Boy meets Girl....BUT. (Lovers found, lovers split, lovers reunited.)

15. Forbidden Love-Crossing the line to forbidden territory.

16. Sacrifice-Giving up something in return for accomplishing a higher ideal.

17. Discovery-The process of interpreting and dealing with life. Why am I here?

18. Wretched Excess-The protagonist driven to extremes and the effects of those extremes. Usually psychological decline related to a character flaw.

19. Ascension-The rise of human spirit in crisis.

20. Descension -The fall of the human spirit in crisis.

It is from these plots that classic romance tropes emerge

What are tropes then?

Tropes are reoccurring literary plot devices. Reoccurring as in, used over and over again, so as to become familiar to the reader and the writer as a trope. If I say "secret baby," you nod, because you know the basic plot.

Which is why editors may tell you they want a fresh spin on a trope. Without that fresh spin, a classic romance trope becomes overused and simply a cliche. I've been discussing fresh spins with my Seeker buddies lately. 

Fresh spins would be books like Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies. Or how about Kerrelyn Sparks book, How to Marry a Vampire Millionaire ( about a vampire who loses a fang and falls in love with his dentist.) What's the next big fresh spin for inspirational romance? We should be looking for it!

By the way, a hook is not a trope. A hook is a topic that for the most part guarantees the reader a particular emotional and entertainment experience. When we hear a particular hook there is a reader expectation. 

Popular hooks for contemporary romance would include cowboy, rancher, baby, small children, bride, animals, Amish, and single parent/widow/widower. For the historical romance we have the wallflower & rake, courtesan, spinster, Duke/Duchess, farmer, rancher...and yes, Amish. Suspense includes all those cops, sheriffs, FBI agents, U.S. marshals. And Amish, yet again.

 Yes, Amish is a very popular hook right now. It comes with a reader expectation. However, all by itself, Amish is not a classic romance trope. You can write Amish until the buggies come home, but you still need a plot device to float your Amish characters.

If you have submitted a manuscript and it has babies, cowboys, brides and Amish, but you are told you don't have enough conflict and are scratching your head; take a look at your foundational plot and/or classic romance trope.

In no particular order, here are some favorite classic romance tropes.

Mending the Doctor's Heart was Two Dogs-One Bone.

1. Two Dogs. One Bone-aka H/H discover they want the Same Job, Title, or Accolades, 

2. Star-Crossed Lovers-aka True Love's Destiny, Missed Connections, Random Encounters, Fated-to-be-Mated.

3. Friends to Lovers-aka Life-Long Best Friends, Unrequited Love, Friends with Benefits.

4. Forbidden Love-aka Love Above One's Station (Sheikhs, Princesses) Boss & Employee, Nanny & Boss, Friend's Little Sister, Feuding Families, Honor vs. Desire.

5. Secret Baby.

6. Fish out of Water-aka City Mouse/Country Mouse, Inherits Land/House/Business, Coming Home After Many Years.

7. Reunited Lovers-aka all Reunion Romances where H/H have romance history, including: Jilted, Dumped at Altar, Runaway Bride, Dear John Letters, Ex-Spouse, Ex-Lover, Baby Mamma, Baby Daddy, Childhood Sweethearts.

8. Opposites Attract-aka Firefighter & Arsonist, Cop & Thief, Developer & Environmentalist, Laid Back vs. Control Freak, Tidy vs. Sloppy, Politician vs. Protestor (etc.)

8. May/December Romance-aka Older Hero and Younger Heroine, or Older Heroine and Younger Hero.

9. Ugly Ducking-aka all makeover stories like Cinderella, or  Beauty & the Beast, Young Girl All Grown Up, Bad Boy/Bad Girl reformedInexperienced at Love/Dating/Romance.

10. Amnesia-aka Retrograde Amnesia, Post Traumatic Amnesia, Anterograde Amnesia, Disassociative Amnesia.

11. Marriage of Convenience-aka Mail Order Bride, Terms of a Will, Marriage for a Noble Reason, Arranged Marriages, Compromised Reputation.

12. Secret-aka Disguise, Fake Engagement/Marriage, Secret or Mistaken Identity.
  13. Sudden Baby-aka Inherited Baby, Unplanned Pregnancy, Abandoned Baby.

14. Jeopardy-aka Real Danger, Ticking Bomb Scenario, Escape, Dangerous Quest or Mission. 

15. Love Triangle aka Imagined or Real.

16. Wounded Hero/Heroine-aka Handicapped Physically/Mentally, Abused, Orphaned, Abandoned, Rejected, Loner, Underdog.

17. Forced Close Proximity-aka Stranded (Natural Disaster), Working Environment, Capture/Abduction. 

18. Sacrifice-aka-Giving up Something for Love.

Can you see the definite conflict (either internal or external ) in these tropes? Often a writer can double up on tropes to either create both an internal and external conflict or to ramp up the conflict tension.

My 2015 release, Safe in the Fireman's Arms, has three tropes: ugly duckling, May/December romance, and opposites attract (she sets fires & he puts them out.)

Can you name books that use these classic romance tropes? Are there any tropes that you think should be added to the list?  Which are your favorite tropes, and which do you avoid?  

I highly recommend 20 Master Plots if you have problems coming up with strong, viable plots. Combine it with Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation and Conflict and/or the CD or DVD of Michael Hauge's The Hero's Two Journeys and you have a plotting foundation trifecta.

Leave a comment today and I'll put your name in the pencil jar for today's giveaway. One  commenter will win their choice of 20 Master Plots or GMC in ebook format OR The Hero's Two Journeys on CD (listen to a sneak peek here). 

Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

Tina Radcliffe writes humorous sweet romance and inspirational romance from her home in Arizona. She is a Carol Award winner for Mending the Doctor's Heart.  as well as a 2016 Holt Medallion finalist, and a 2016 Greater Detroit RWA’s Booksellers’ Best Book Award finalist for Safe in the Fireman's Arms.

The fourth book in the Paradise series, Rocky Mountain Reunion is currently available.  Rocky Mountain Cowboy will be available in December.

*Disclaimer:  I am not a plot expert nor do I claim to be one. (Ask my editor.) Generally, I like to write blog posts about those topics that I too struggle with. But I have invited some experts to stop by and comment today! 


  1. Hi Tina! I can't believe I'm still up. I'm never the first commenter.

    I really enjoyed this post. In fact, I am going to print it out and pin it to the corkboard next to my desk. Thanks! And I would love to be included in the drawing.

  2. WOW, Miss T - - a keeper post for sure.
    THANK YOU for sharing this wealth of info. with us - - especially the list of tropes.
    Your disclaimer made me smile, LOL. ;) IMHO, you ARE an expert!
    I would ask to be entered in the drawing (since all those choices sound GREAT) but I've recently won a prize and don't want to seem greedy. ;)
    Okay, off to bed but will stop by again in daylight hours to leave some goodies.
    Yawns and Hugs, Patti Jo

  3. Thanks, Dana!

    And you are in!

    Let me tell you, I go searching for tropes sometimes when I am conflict short. This way it's all in one place.

    And if there are additions, I am happy to add them during the day Wednesday.

  4. Patti Jo. Food!!! Yes, please feel free to bring on the food from Patti Jo's Cafe and Bakery.

  5. As a reader I'll name the troupes that are my favorite:
    Friends to lovers; Reunited lovers; Marriage of Convenience (or Mail-order bride); Sacrifice; Wounded hero/heroine, and Sacrifice.

    My least favorite:
    Love triangle; Secret baby; May/December romance. Although the last one, I've not read too many books like this.

    I've read books with several troupes in them and the author seems to do a nice job balancing it all :-)

    Tina, please add my name to the pencil jar for a seeker book of choice, thanks!


  6. Those reunion romances, Trixi. Editors can't get enough of them either.

    You are added.

  7. This is great! It gave me the seed of an idea for a new story - turning the Beauty and the Beast idea on its head, which I guess would be a (hopefully) fresh spin on the Ugly Duckly trope?

    Which is a problem because I'm smack-dab-in-the-middle of the first draft of another story.

    So, I'm jotting down the basic concept and shelving it for now. *sigh*

    Anyway, I love star-crossed lovers, forbidden loves, and sacrifice tropes and I think I want to explore these a little more in my own writing now.

    I just finished Liz Curtis Higgs' "Grace In Thine Eyes" which included Wounded Heroine, Marriage of Convenience, and maybe Fish Out of Water? Either way, I could NOT put it down!

    And I'm with Patti Jo up there. I'd love to be in the drawing too (especially for 20 Master Plots - that seems like an excellent resource!)... but don't want to get greedy ;)

  8. I have such a hard time with story/plot. I almost always have a plot twist and a trope twist, but getting the why of why I'm telling the story to work out is the hardest work ever. So put me in the hat!

  9. Ugly Duckly. HA.

    Occupational hazard of late-night writing. (Thank God for editing!)

    *ugly duckling!

  10. Don't you think Blogger should offer an 'edit your comment option,' Meg? I do. Truthfully, my eyes are crossed so I never noticed until you mentioned it.

  11. Melissa J. Motivation is your weak spot? G and M and C are mine. I like to spread my woe.
    You are in the hat.

    (Meg too.)

  12. Tina, thanks for the blog post. Plot is something I have been known to struggle with, and I am currently working on amping up the plot of my current WIP. Unfortunately, all the brainstorming has me second guessing every decision I had made. I do have some of the tropes going on and still feel a little short on plot. Maybe it's the implementation I'm struggling with then. I need to check out those writing books, but sometimes my writing stalls when I try to get too deep in the "how." I like the bite-sized blogs.

    Friends to lovers might be one of my favorites (like Julie's A Passion Denied or Surprised by Love) ... mixed perhaps with ugly duckling (Elle in Ruthy's More than a Promise?), though I also like marriage of convenience and I can think of examples of the others that I've enjoyed reading. Like Jill Williamson's Blood of Kings series in which the heroine's identity is mistaken for a boy (she is in hiding when she meets the hero, so there's some jeopardy in there too), close friendship, then the revelation that she's a girl. Truth be told, I think I like them all :-)

  13. Here are some movie examples of Fish Out of Water:

    Galaxy Quest

    Back to the Future

    City Slickers

    Crocodile Dundee

    The Witness (Amish-Harrison Ford)

    Legally Blonde

    Blind Side

    Edward Scissorhands


    My Fair Lady


  14. Thanks, Lara. I read how to books in small bites myself. It's impossible to read any all the way through. The exception is Michael Hauge because it's CD/DVD. I can't listen to Mr. Vogler however (the other half of Heroes Two Journeys). Not because his approach isn't good, but I get bogged down in it and can't function. I don't know why. But for me, his approach is as you described reading a self-help book is for you. I can't wrap my brain around it.

    Another helpful book is Dr. Stan Williams -The Moral Premise. Lots of the Seekers use it, but it confuses me. So to each his own brain.

  15. Tina - plotting is my big weak spot so I'd love to be in the drawing. I'm with Patti Jo, IMHO you are a pro. Thanks for sharing this post.

  16. Tina, I have a fresh spin for you. I'm in a novella collection about 7 brothers called Seven Brides for Seven Texans. Alas, there's not much singing and dancing, but it's a really good collection. The book releases in December.

    This was a great post!


  17. Seven Brides for Seven Texans. That is a fresh spin on a hook! Love it, Vickie.

  18. Plotting and Synopsis.

    The evil twins.

    You are in Terri.

  19. Have you guys ever perused I like searching for a series and just reading about all the tropes that people connect to the series and characters --very entertaining ...

    I think my favorite tropes are friends-to-lovers and star-crossed lovers (the "it's fate" and has a HEA, not the depressing kind, LOL).

    Off the top of my head, one of my recent reads, Her One & Only by Becky Wade has opposites attract & forced close proximity (work related) tropes. =)

  20. What a great post Tina! Definitely a keeper.

    I just finished a Sarah Sundin's book Anchor in the Storm and the hero came from money he didn't want and the heroine had a physical deformity. He was wary of any woman because he thought they were gold diggers and she had a fear no one would honestly want her. It was wonderful how the walls were scaled away on these two wounded characters.

    Cindy W.

  21. Yes. Always read TV Tropes, Jennifer. In fact tired of searching there and elsewhere for tropes gave me the idea to create a one-stop shopping place for myself. Da-ta. This post.

  22. Yes, Cindy. Another example of fresh takes on tried and true tropes.

  23. "You can write Amish until the buggies come home." LOL!
    Thanks for this great post, Tina. It's going into the Seeker notebook.
    I was relieved to read that The Moral Premise confuses you too. I've been studying it for a week or more and I'm often left scratching my head.
    Please put my name into the pencil jar.

  24. Wow Tina You packed this post with a boatload of great writing info. I sure wish I had known all of this when I started. It would have saved me a lot of time and energy.

    Love the lists. Love the examples. And I really do agree with you on those books. They are soooooo helpful.

  25. Patti Jo I'm up early and ready for some peach cobbler. I sure hope that is what you're bringing. My mouth is watering for it. smile


  26. Lara (Storm) I"m laughing because I'm like you. I like all of them. How to decide.

  27. Melissa and Tina Its difficult to believe either one of you have a weak spot. You are covering it well. smile

  28. Good morning! What a great post. This is definitely a keeper, and you've stirred my imagination. Thanks, Tina!

  29. Tina wrote this???

    This is "Julie" or "Ruthy" length!!!!!

    Oh my stars, I need another cup of coffee!

  30. Thanks for the romance tropes, Tina! I'm always looking for more of them, so thanks for making it easier for me. This post is a keeper.

  31. Okay, coffee has been achieved....

    This is a conference class in a blog. It covers the A-to-Z of how to put together a book.

    Yes, I'm ignoring the craft book part because Tina's explanations didn't even need them, and because the only one that makes any sense to me is Stan Williams' "The Moral Premise". Stan addresses the emotion of the situation, and that's how I see stories.

    The emotion drives the action/reaction, and the emotion is based on the character's archetype so as long as I stay true to that, the rest follows.

    The good thing is that craft books abound, and make folks a lot of money.

    And I like making money, too, so that's okay!

  32. Good morning, TINA! Excellent, excellent summary of the difference between a hook and trope. another keeper!

    "Ideas" are a dime a dozen. It's pulling a true story out of an idea -- complete with book-length conflict, heart-tugging emotion, character development, etc.-- that's the challenge. And sometimes a classic "trope" or a twist on one helps you find that needed core element to bring your idea alive.

  33. But Jill, I did say that my Seeker sisters who are much more clever than I, all get it. :)

  34. The proof will come next time you go a plotting, Jackie.

    Print and file for now :)


  35. Thanks, Sandra and Cara. It is easier to have them all in one place.

  36. Great information, Tina. I'm keeping this post! Yes! a "one-stop shopping place!" I like Ugly Duckling, Wounded H/H and Sacrifice tropes. Beauty and the Beast is a favorite story...and a new version coming spring 2017! I struggle with the twists and fresh spins....searching for inspiration.

    Popping out of my cave to comment. I'm treadmilling, so please excuse any errors. (Pam, I can multitask!)

    Thanks for everything, Tina!

  37. TINA, You are a NINJA! As a reader, this post makes me appreciate authors so much more!

    Please enter me in the reader's drawing.

  38. This is a great post - definitely one to print off and keep in the notebook.

    What? Doesn't everyone have a "best of Seekerville" notebook? You need to start one. Today.

    I loved your "Amish=hook" graphic. You are so right. I write Amish stories because it's what I know (that "write what you know" advice is true!), but really, my stories should be able to fit with any hook. Cowboy, wagon train, small town...

    The story is what counts. The hook is just the dressing and the plot is the framework. But the story is all-important.

  39. What a great explanation of tropes. It always confused me before. Thanks for clarifying it for us.

  40. Tina, of course this is another keeper. (Already printed it out! :)) made me smile. Always a great combo so early in the morning!

    I love that part of the creative process when we're in those initial stages of crafting our stories--deciding what tropes to use. I love it, too, when unexpected ones pop up.

    THANK YOU for your generous spirit and heart for writers, Tina. You bless me.

  41. Tina, what a GREAT post! I love the one stop shop you've provided for us here today. I like most of these tropes. :) Too hard to name them all. :) As for examples, I think Rchel Hauck's Prince series is a good example of forbidden love. Usually a common girl meets one of the princes from her imaginary island country. So well done!

    And Ronie Kendig's Raptor 6 is a good example of Jeopardy and forced close proximity. Loved that book (just finished it ;) ).

    I'm working on an amnesia story for my next book.We'll see how that pans out. ;)

    Please put me in the pencil jar. :)

    I'm keeping this post! SO good!

  42. This is definitely a keeper post, Tina! Awhile back, I started a computer file where I've been collecting hooks and tropes. This info will be a great addition!

    Thanks also for explaining the difference between a hook and a trope. Those terms can get confusing, and you've helped us make sense of them.

  43. Yes, TINA. All you're doing for me is climbing up higher on that pedestal I have all Seeker authors on! You know I'll love whatever you give me!!!!!

  44. JAN, you said it well, too:

    "The hook is just the dressing and the plot is the framework."

  45. Tina, this is a great reference for next time I'm planning a new book! I've already bookmarked it.

    BTW, I, too, write posts about topics I'm learning and/or struggle with!

  46. hahahah. No. Jill and I learn on a different plane.

    (Oh, my, gosh. I in so much trouble here)

  47. Everyone loves the Ugly Duckling.

    It really is one of the universally favorite tropes, Sherida.

    Can't wait to read yours.

  48. Hey, Glynna. Forgot to mention your excellent comment.

    Yes. I have an entire recipe box full of ideas. I have more ideas than years left on the planet.

    They all need a plot.

  49. I'm cross checking the list of tropes against my books. I've probably hit them all. :)
    Although I can't think of a secret baby off the top of my head.

  50. And now, I'm off to have lunch with Sharee Stover!!! We live an hour away from each other and meet in the middle.
    Always fun

  51. You're welcome, Renee.

    Good to have it all in one place.

  52. Awe, thanks, Cynthia. It's good to be appreciated. I'm not just another pretty Seekerville face! HA!!!!!!! (On the floor laughing!)

  53. Amnesia!!! Jeanne. I love it already.

  54. Thanks, Myra! Glad to be of service to my trope community.

  55. I love this post! I'm sure it will be helpful to the writers. I'm going to save it to Pinterest for future reference :) My favorite tropes are Sacrifice, Forced Close proximity, Friends to Lovers, Opposites Attract, Secret, Marriage of Convenience, and Ugly Duckling. Maybe I should just include the whole list... ;)

    Please include me in the reader giveaway! Happy Wednesday!

  56. CONFESSION TIME. I didn't even know what a "trope" was till I read this blog, Teenster, so thanks for educating me!

    Based on what I've learned, I would have to say my favorite trope is ... BAD BOYS!! ;)

    Uh-oh ... Trixi said love triangles are a least favorite trope, so I'm in trouble because I have A LOT of those in my books and love them to pieces!! Although I guess I did carry it to the extreme with A Passion Most Pure where the heroine is seduced (for lack of a better word) by the hero, who happens to be her sister's fiance. Then I flip the trope to have the sister seduce the heroine's fiance later in the book, creating three love triangles.

    RUTHY SAID: "Tina wrote this??? This is "Julie" or "Ruthy" length!!!!!

    LOL ... soooo true!! Guess we're a bad influence. Oh, what a surprise! ;)


  57. Right, Missy. Gotta blog, so may as well make it research at the same time.

  58. Well, Connealy, maybe it's time for a secret baby.

    And a sheik in the wild west.

    Say hi to Sharee!

  59. LOL, Heidi. I'm like you. There are very few tropes I do not like.

    The only hook I don't like much is where the pregnant heroine falls in love. I just find that too yucky.


  60. The difference between a Tina, Julie, Ruthy post is white space. I love white space.

    This post actually is not very long. I just spread it out.

  61. TINA SAID: "Everyone loves the Ugly Duckling. It really is one of the universally favorite tropes."

    I would have to agree. Everybody likes to see an ugly duckling get a makeover and turn the head of the guy who spurned her. Which is why I had so much fun with Surprised by Love in my Heart of San Francisco series. The third daughter was a plump brainiac with a tender heart, so when she goes off to Paris for a year, she loses weight, gets contacts (yes, the first contacts were invented back then, but only the rich could afford them, which my ugly duckling was), gets her braces off (and yes, braces were also a luxury for the rich back then), gets coached by a top designer in Paris (friends of her Godmother guardian in Paris), henna rinse, rice powder, you name it -- she came back gorgeous and, of course, turns the head of the male classmate she competed with through school and who teased her mercilessly.

    Only problem with the Ugly Duckling trope is that there's always somebody who's gonna nail you for putting too much emphasis on looks, even though your heroine has a good heart and more beautiful inside than out.

    I actually had a personal Ugly Duckling story of my own. When I was a teenager, I was skinny and had crooked teeth (got braces the week after I got married), so whenever I went to teen town dances (does anybody remember "teen town"???), I would get told at least two or three times a year that I was ugly by some guy. I had long brown hair, so one guy obviously thought I looked good from the back because he grabbed my hand to spin me around, only to hurl my hand away when he saw my face. "D_ _ _ N, you're ugly," he said, and I was crushed because he was one of the hot kids at school.

    Welllllll ... five years later when I was in my early 20s, I guess I filled out and learned how to apply makeup because this same guy hit on me at a party, asking me to go out with him. "I might," I said, "if I can say to you what you said to me the first time we met." "What's that?" he asked, although he didn't think we'd ever met before. I looked him straight in the face and said, "D_ _ _ N, you're ugly," then turned around and walked away. Let me tell you, it felt pretty darn good. Uh, but all that was BEFORE I became a Christian, for the record. :)


  62. I hadn't heard of tropes when I started writing. Somewhere, along the path to publication, a writer or blogger mentioned the strange word and I went searching for an explanation! Tina, this blog is brilliant. Definitely a keeper! And a great way to pump the well and start the brainstorming process for a new story idea.

    Thank you!

    I've never done a secret baby. IMHO, it's tough to do in the inspirational market.

    I did however have a pregnant heroine that was well received. Hubby had been murdered, and their marriage had been on the rocks prior to his death. I picked up the story some six months after his death. Actually, the heroine's need to protect her baby added to the motivation. The title? Protecting Her Child. But, before you slap my hand, remember hubby was long gone and their marriage had been rocky.

  63. Oh, it has nothing to do with infidelity, Debby. I just think pregnancy is not a fun time. That's all.

  64. Julie, you sound like one of those weight loss ads where the chubby wife gets dumped and comes back slim and doesn't the snake spouse regret it! We all love underdog stories too.


  65. I had heard the term trope before and had no idea how it applied to writing romance. Thank you, thank you, for much to muse.

  66. Great post Tina!All good stuff and so well laid out. I'm printing it out for my files. And will share with some peeps. I have heard of the Master Plot book but that's one I don't have. Remedying that today. I love combining tropes.

  67. Julie, I was appalled by that guy's behavior. People can be so mean. I was teased a lot, by both girls and guys, as a child because I was skinny, had red hair and freckles. It left me very distrusting of others. Which is a favorite theme I use often in my stories. I have heard that writers work out some of their own issues through their work. I know I do. LOL

  68. Does anyone have any advice on how long to beat your head against a story before giving up? I've given up on so many stories I'm starting to wonder if I should just put myself out of my misery. After doing so much research, it always seems a shame to quit. But perhaps it's worse to keep going on a dead end project. Like Glynna said:

    "Ideas" are a dime a dozen. It's pulling a true story out of an idea -- complete with book-length conflict, heart-tugging emotion, character development, etc.-- that's the challenge.

    Books and blogs on plot are great, but often, after reading, I find myself still asking the question: How do I accomplish this with my specific WIP? As I've tried to find the perfect plot for my story, my writing has stalled. Has anyone else had this problem? Found a solution? Like maybe I just need to get back to writing and stop THINKING so much?

    Any brainstorming techniques that have worked for some of you?

  69. TINA, your post is excellent! The information can save us a lot of time when we're planning a book. At least for those of us who plan. I'm like you. I teach a craft topic because I need to soak it into my brain and that's the best way to do it.

    I'm especially taken with the basic difference you gave between story and plot. I bunched it together:

    Story is a chain of events with little motivation, conflict or urgency. Plot is the cause and effect sequence of events driven by heroes and heroines with strong goals, motivations and conflicts. Plot reveals why the story matters, why it's important.

    I'm printing this nutshell craft lesson and putting it front and center on my desk to read as I plot and write. Thank you!!

    I love the inherent conflict in tropes. But I'm still a bit fuzzy on the difference between a trope and a hook. I thought secret baby was a hook. So I need to think about this more.

    Not-your-star-pupil Janet

  70. Well, Tina, you've done it again. Another teaching post for my Seeker Keeper notebook. Concise, bulleted, lots of white space for penciled notes. Thank you!

    You have a recipe box full of ideas that only need a plot? I have a notebook full of phrases that would be great titles -- and all they need is a story. So if we could just find someone out there who can write a story with a plot ...

    Nancy C

  71. LARA, I'll give my two-cents. If you're giving up on a lot of stories, then I'd say you might want to dig in with this one. Or another one. There may be a craft issue that is causing the trouble. Sometimes characters don't have strong enough book-length goals or sometimes their motivations aren't strong, which comes from what happened to them in the past before the story opens. Sometimes weak goals or goals not pursued actively by the character fails to create conflict between them and for them. Most smaller things I can fiddle with when editing, but if I don't have the strong foundation of GMC, my story won't work. If you see these things as possible reasons you're stalled, then you can revise the GMC and rewrite the story using the research you've done.


  72. TERRI, great to see you here! You're so beautiful, it's hard to believe you were teased as a child. But kids can be mean. Anyone can be a target. I was four-eyes. That didn't hurt as I wanted to see. :-) But I also was accused by one boy of having a mustache. Now that rocked my world.


  73. P.S. Forgot the smiley face after "So if we could just find someone out there who can write a story with a plot ..." My to-read stack is proof that Seekers and Seekervillagers can write a story with a plot.

    Nancy C

  74. Wanted to stop in again and RE-read TINA'S TROPE TUTORIAL. :)
    As someone (Ruthy?) mentioned in a comment, this is a workshop-in-a-blog post - - WOW!
    Setting out some just-baked Georgia Peach cobbler (with an extra one especially for SANDRA LEESMITH). ;)
    As soon as the Pecan Praline cookies finish baking, I'll set them out too.
    Yep, Patti Jo's Café and Bakery stays very, very busy! ;)
    Hugs, Patti Jo

    p.s. JANET DEAN, I *finally* had a chance to read THE BOUNTY HUNTER'S REDEMPTION and genuinely LOVED it!! A reminder of why I enjoy your style of writing so much!! (Am posting reviews right now!) :)

  75. Lara, I'm agreeing with what Janet wrote above. Usually the problem is the GMC. Do have each firmly established in your mind? Also the internal conflict is so important, IMHO. It's the key to the emotion, I believe.

    The good news is that, often by a little adjusting, the GMC can be fixed, and the story can get back on track. Sometimes goals change in a story. So the hero enters the adventure because of one goal, say to catch a car thief, then that car thief leads to a murderer on the loose who eventually comes after the heroine. The initial goal is to catch the car thief, then to catch the murderer, and finally to stop the murderer before he kills the heroine. But there has to be an internal conflict. Why can't the hero charge forward? What's holding him back? Did he make a mistake in a past case that still haunts him? Does he think he's losing his investigative skills? Does he no longer trust himself to bring the killer to justice all the while protecting the heroine?

    Anything make sense? A little brainstorming with some writer or reader friends might help.

  76. Agreeing with Patti Jo! Janet's story, The Bounty Hunter's Redemption, was wonderful! She transported me back in time and made me fall in love with her characters. :)

    Thanks, Janet, for writing such a delightful story!

  77. AAAAAAAnnnnd this is why I ADORE Seekerville.

    Awesome keeper post Tina. I'm glad you've struggled with this subject???? Because now I am the beneficiary of your research and pain. Printing out and keeping close by. This will help me with my weak storylines.

    Favorite trope is the abandoned baby (I was adopted, this trope snags me everytime). I also lean toward the Friends to Lovers and wounded hero tropes. I guess Men in Uniform is a hook - but give me one of them and I'm all over buying that book. *says the girl who married a Navy man, heh*

    name in pencil holder please. thinking the 20 Master Plots might be of great use.

    did I mention I love Seekerville?!? I do because I learn SOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!!!!

  78. Based on this post, the trope of the novella I'm currently editing is star-crossed lovers. Good to know. I was worried that I was only writing story and that I'd left something out.

  79. Admittedly, I had no idea what tropes were before this post.

  80. Great post, Tina. It made me think. I really don't care for Amish stories. I have read a few, and I might still read one or two if it looks particularly interesting, but they just don't appeal to me. The secret baby is not my favorite, either. I do really enjoy most of the romance tropes, particularly the reuniting of couples or friends becoming something more.

    Please enter me in the drawing for either of the two writing e-books.

  81. Julie, I have to reply to your comment about the mean boy. It is hard to imagine that someone would say that to your face. I think it's funny how you replied back, although as a Christian I probably shouldn't think so. I wonder if he even remembered he had said that to you.

  82. Thanks, LoRee. Hope you can use it for your next book

  83. Terri! You are an expert. I appreciate your opinion!

  84. Lara, you do sound like an over thinker.

    For over thinkers the best thing to do is to write to the end. Vomit it out and worry about it later. You are paralyzing the creative process by over thinking.

  85. Well Janet, if you ever were cautioned by an editor not to let your book be episodic you would never forget.

    I also have a note on my computer that says, "You can save any scene by making it about them."

    Meaning by adding a GMC for the hero and heroine into the scene.

  86. Nancy! We find a third and the books are as good as done, dude!

  87. Oh, yeah, Deb H. Men in uniform is a huge hook. Like a cop, or sheriff.

  88. I love the star-crossed lover trope. Sort of Shakespeare in Love. Which is also a Secret trope.

  89. Amish is not my thing, Sandy Smith. I am a very literal person so I cannot find any fantasy in that hook. Which is also why I don't like preggo heroine books.

    Back pain, swollen ankles and nausea is not appealing to me.

  90. I'd never heard the term trope before so that was an education in itself. Great keeper post with so much information. I'm a fan of most of the classic romance tropes...with the exception of: May/December romance. I enjoy secret baby -- but there has to be a realistic reason for the heroine keeping the baby a secret from the hero. And amnesia is making a comeback in suspense anyway it seems. Amazing how different authors can put a unique spin on it and make it fresh. But, again, that's one that can be an epic fail if not done well.

    Loved what Jan said: "The story is what counts. The hook is just the dressing and the plot is the framework. But the story is all-important."

  91. PATTI JO, thank you so much for your sweet words about The Bounty Hunter's Redemption and for writing a review. You made my day!!


  92. I'm loving the peach cobbler! I think ripe peaches are my favorite fruit in all the world. But they're hard to come by up north. Another reason to thank our sweet southern Patti Jo!



  93. Yes, Kav. That new spin is really what makes every book different.

  94. Wow Tina! This has definitely gotten my attention and made me think. I have read Debra Dixon's GMC books, but the other two have intrigued me. Watching the preview of The Hero's Two Journeys and I am definitely going to put it on my birthday wish list... or buy it for myself and say Happy Birthday to me next month. LoL

    Hmmm, my favorite troupes?

    Friends to Lovers, Forbidden Love, Ugly Ducking, Marriage of Convenience, Secret, Jeopardy, Forced Close Proximity

    I cannot touch a book that has any form of married or engaged woman falling in love with another man (with the exception of forced engagements). I fight very hard to protect my marriage and cannot stomach reading a story of unfaithfulness. I am the same way about love triangles. I also do not touch Amish anything.

    Julie, I would have been very tempted, and truthfully probably would have succumbed, to do exactly what you did... even after becoming a Christian. :-)

  95. LOL, Crystal, I fight my natural born Italian instinct to-not get back, but to get even- by tempering it with a slightly differently phrase.

    Success is the best revenge.

  96. And sometimes love triangles are simply, a girl torn between the love of two men.

    But many people have an aversion to this which is interesting. For the most part Love Inspired doesn't like this trope either. I now understand why.

  97. Loved this, TINA! Keeping this one to study again later. Thanks for the examples. I do love the Ugly Duckling, Forced Close Proximity and Amnesia ones (thinking about writing one where the hero has amnesia instead of the heroine) but often read others, too. I basically love to read a good story with a happily ever after :-) Thank you!

  98. My pleasure, Laura. Here's to lots of exciting new tropes!!

  99. Lara, I agree with Janet. I think you learn by pushing through to the end, again and again.

    You can't get the experience of writing the story if you stop before it's done. So what if it's not perfect? Or even GOOD!!!!! My early stuff stunk, but I didn't know that! I thought it was delightful! Marvelous.


    But I learned as people read it, as I entered contests, what I was messing up, and that taught me my tried-and-true formula: What would the hero do and how would this heroine react? And then.... WHY?

    Why would she be angry? Why would she be insulted? Why would she be delighted? What is in her history to make her react this way?

    If we look at internal triggers, they can be a big reason why your characters have to stay apart, even as life and love draw them together!

  100. Pregnant heroines.... I actually like these if the heroine is tough and strong and not looking for help.... and I ignore the physical ailments unless it's going to cause huge conflict: threatened pregnancy, threatened mother, etc.

    I'm actually doing one for a Christmas novella, and I'm so excited about it! But she's a tough cookie and not afraid to stand on her own, and fairly annoyed that God put this MAN in her path because she's fine on her own, and lets you know it!

    So much comes down to making our character one way... and keeping that personality and building on it.

    Now whiny pregnant heroines are a pain in the tush and I don't read those.

    Kids need moms that stand up for them.

    Motherhood isn't for wimps.

    And that kind of talk gets me IN TROUBLE, LOL! Because of course, if you're a gentler soul, you'd identify with that kind of heroine and you will love that book.

    But a snark like me wants a little bit of Amazonian in my heroines, using that God-given XX strength.

  101. Laughing at Julie and the "bad influence" because it's true!!!!

    Gotta have a couple of chatterbox Seekers!

    I am printing off this list from Tina to reference as I work proposals... or books for the indie market. And this is why:

    I might be able to read a magazine article-length writing how to. That's MIGHT in all caps.

    But I'd never sit through a book when I can Google the specificities of what I need...So having the list saves me from asking Tina and having her scold me to read the book!

    Fiendishly clever.

    Yes. :)

  102. JANET and DEBBY, Thanks for the input. I do have one completed novel that I think is fairly good in terms of plot. It just sort of happened ... which is great, BUT!! ... that doesn't help me with future projects :-). Per your advice I have been looking through the old blogs on GMC and writing up the specifics for my characters. Maybe that will help me to track down the plot holes I'm intuitively feeling.

    TINA, Yes! I am an over thinker. I know I need to write, but I also know if I get too deep in a story without thinking about where I'm going, I can have a hard time later untangling the good from the bad. Better to write something than nothing though …

    RUTHY, Thanks for chiming in. I have a hard time writing when I know it's bad. Speedbo was really great for me though since I forced myself to write a certain # of words per day. I guess it's time to get back to that.

  103. "There is but one mother of all plots:
    Something happens and it causes reactions.
    Everything else depends on execution.

    Beatrice Plotter

    "For true pantsers, plots are like flight plans that you file after you arrive and learn where you've landed. "
    Polly Pantser

    Was it a misanthrope, who in the dark of the night, took my themes and replaced them with tropes?

    The Three Sisters of Conflict

    1. Hero objects to marriage-- heroine does not: "Rekindling the Widower's Heart".
    2. Heroine objects to marriage -- hero does not: "The Price of Victory".
    3. Both hero and heroine object to marriage: "The Lawman's Second Chance".

    Favorite themes: Runaway Bride, Stranded in a Cabin, Beauty and the Brain, Enemies to Lovers, "Small-Town Hearts".

    New twist on "friends to lovers".

    Two best friends have secrets which drive them apart. A few years latter they meet again unrecognizable to each other. They have both changed gender and now they can both fall in love and marry. The most political correct romance possible. For now, at least.

    Please Note: These thoughts are meant to stimulate creativity by turning the box inside out.

    If anyone has read this far, please put me in the drawing for a Kindle, 20 plots.


  104. I have read and you are in, Vince.

    Stranded in a Cabin, eh?????

  105. Thank you Janet for the compliment. You're so sweet.

  106. Tina, I love any post that makes me think about craft and about how to delve deeper into plotting.

    My least favorite trope is secret baby. I'm not a fan of that one at all. I have lots of favorites: wounded hero/heroine, ugly duckling, opposites attract.

    I enjoyed the way Kristi Ann Hunter used the secret trope in "A Noble Masquerade." Very well done there.
    I'm reading an unrequited love book now where the hero actually was in love with the heroine in the past.

    Thanks for the info.

  107. Vince, LAUGHING!!!!!

    Hey, I mailed out your audio set of "More Than a Promise" yesterday! I am slowly catching up on mailings, and happy to check things off my list....

    I love checking things off my list!!!!!

  108. Thanks, Tanya! Glad it was helpful for you. Keep moving forward!!

  109. DEBBY, like PATTI JO, you have blessed me. I want to be like you, genteel Southern ladies. It may be a lost cause for this Midwesterner.


  110. TERRY, It's that sweet tea I'm drinking. NOT. Being a Southerner isn't as easy as I'd hoped. :-(


  111. What a wonderful resource this post is-- thank you for all of the work and care that went into it!

  112. This is such great information in a wonderful package. Thanks so much!

  113. Thanks so much for the kind words, Amanda. Hope ou find it useful!

  114. Typo! I have a papercut on my pinky..keep missing keys. LOL.

  115. Thanks, Janet Kerr! How are things in your world. Okay, and you need to update your profile pix to match that one on your FB page. You are hiding your cuteness.

  116. Tina,

    Great article! It's one of those "print-it-out-and-keep-it" articles!

    Please put my name in the pencil cup for the drawing


  117. Oh Tina. This is such a good post. I am going to share on the HWBLITZ forum as so many of us were told the conflict was not there. I have two more books to add to my collection of learning the craft of writing. So thankful for Seekerville & you, precious friend.

  118. Hi Tina! Have never seen all of this laid out so succinctly yet thoroughly. I can see that I tend to think in terms of tropes, more so than plots, which is an opportunity to work on craft. Powerful post.

  119. Hi Tina! Have never seen all of this laid out so succinctly yet thoroughly. I can see that I tend to think in terms of tropes, more so than plots, which is an opportunity to work on craft. Powerful post.

  120. Hi, Tina! This was a wonderful post, particularly because I am a plotting disaster. Thanks so much for the book recommendations!

  121. Kimberly!!! Glad it was helpful!! Share away!

  122. Laura! So glad you found this helpful.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  123. Patricia W!!! Hugs to you and thank you for visiting today. I appreciate the kind words.

  124. Tina- I loved your article! So informative and very helpful!
    Thanks for sharing.

  125. Sherri Woodbridge! Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment. Hope this is useful on your next msc.

  126. Sheesh, it took me forever to find the post-a-comment button. Okay, THANKS for writing this up so succinctly. I've had the 20 Plots book on my wish list for a while, and now I can't wait to read it. I especially appreciated your final remarks about your book having the combination of 3 tropes. In analyzing my work, I always try to determine the main trope, but almost always seem to end up with multiples, so I guess I feel released now. Haha! On an aside, my husband was looking over my shoulder while I was reading the post and raised his brow at the image of the buggy (Amish=Hook. He said, "You know, to the lay reader, that is nothing but confusing." Lol! Have a great day.

  127. LOLOL. Hi, Naomi. Your husband is too cute.

    Yeah, Blogger is quite an interesting beast. If we didn't have 9 years invested in this place we'd move to Wordpress, but moving 2K archives of post is a daunting thought!

    Glad this was helpful!