Let's Talk with Nancy J. Cohen

Tripping over Tropes

July 20, 2023

This month celebrates the new trade paperback release of STARLIGHT CHILD, book #3 in The Light-Years Series. This was one of my earlier sci-fi https://nancyjcohen.com/books/romances. The story features an enemies-to-lovers theme wherein a cultural specialist with psychic powers clashes with a starship commander while on a rescue mission to save a kidnapped child.

A friends-to-lovers theme is a similar idea. Among authors, we talk about tropes, or common themes that resonate with us. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a trope is “a common or overused theme or device.” Aside from the love story in STARLIGHT CHILD, these would include the mystery of the missing child (abduction) and secretive inhabitants of an alien planet (aliens).

When I look for books to read or movies to watch, I know immediately that I’ll like a story with my favorite tropes. I adore people in disguise, royalty, fake fiancés, and marriage of convenience stories. How about a prince in disguise at a winter chalet who meets a ski instructor? When her old boyfriend shows up with an attractive young lady on his arm, our heroine grabs the stranger and claims he’s her fiancé. I love it!

Now let’s turn this one into a mystery. The old boyfriend ends up dead. Whodunit? The former girlfriend? The new squeeze? Or the prince in disguise, who dares not get exposed to the media. Don’t care for royalty? Make him a CEO, a billionaire, or whatever trope suits your fancy. I also love movies about writers, but not melancholy stories with sad endings. I’ve seen funny thrillers, comedic murder mysteries, classic romances and other wildly entertaining films featuring a writer hero or heroine.

If you combine twins or lookalikes with the people in disguise idea, you get The Prince and the Pauper, one of my favorite classics. The Scarlet Pimpernel is another secret identity story. Rags to riches, amnesia, weddings gone wrong, vacation mix-ups, and fish-out-of-water tales… we’ve read or seen all of them.

Even holidays have their own tropes – Christmas in July, Spring Flings, Holiday Miracles.
Hallmark Movies can serve as studies in popular romance tropes. They repeat the same themes over and over. Why? Because viewers love them. This applies to readers as well.

Think about the book series you enjoy. What keeps you coming back? Do you devour closed-door mysteries, or perhaps you like the enemies-to-lovers banter between the sleuth and the detective? What common themes excite you in a mystery series?

Leave a comment below for a chance to win an ebook copy of STARLIGHT CHILD in exchange for an honest review.

While you’re here, click over to enter our July contest! Giveaways this month include a book from Anna Gerard (aka Diane AS Stuckart) and Valona Jones (aka Maggie Toussaint). CLICK HERE to enter.

Want to learn more about author Nancy J Cohen? Visit her WEBSITE.

Posted in Let's Talk, with Nancy J. Cohen • Tags: , , , , , , |  20 Comments


20 thoughts on “Tripping over Tropes

  1. I think I like reading cozy mysteries because the tropes relax me. I know that there will be a whodunit to challenge my brain, but as complex as the tale and writing will be, it won’t feel that way (unlike some of the thrillers and suspense novels).

    1. I agree. Cozies make us think in trying to figure out whodunit, but they have a feel-good vibe and a happy ending. The genre has its own set of tropes that readers expect.

  2. Hey Nancy, I love the different tropes used in fiction. They have a familiar feel to them, so I just relax into the story and let it carry me away on an adventure.

  3. I do like certain tropes, but too often tropes become cliches. The best stories, in my opinion, are when authors step outside the comfort of traditional tropes or give them a new spin. That’s not to say I want the killer to escape capture or the hero and heroine to go their separate ways at the end of the book. I want justice served in mysteries and happily-ever-afters in romances. But I don’t want to keep reading the same stories over and over again where little changes beyond the settings and the characters’ names.

  4. Tropes can be lots of fun, though I will admit I really don’t care for the secret baby one at all. But someone in disguise–be it prince as commoner, or commoner as princess–is one of my favorites, too. And, of course, the orphan discovering his/her true parents is always fun. I think you can break down almost any book and find a trope, though sometimes they are well-disguised (just like that prince!).

    1. I agree that almost any work of fiction will include familiar tropes. I’m not as fond of second chances at love and prefer the cute first meet scenario.

  5. I tend not to think too much about tropes unless a particular author draws on the same ones in every book. (We all know some big names that do it.) Alas, maybe that’s what readers really want. 🙂

    1. I think readers do want what’s familiar but with a twist. Witness the popularity of Hallmark movies. Same themes, same actors. And yet viewers love them.

  6. Hi, I like different tropes and my favorite one is Secret Baby. Have a great weekend.

  7. I love a variety of tropes. I am especially fond of Beauty and the Beast because of the lesson of appearances being deceiving. Things I like in cozy mysteries are the quirky and fun characters.

    1. Beauty and the Beast is always popular, along with the Cinderella theme of rags to riches. Cozies have lots of tropes including the quirky suspects, small town setting, and the detective who’s a potential love interest.

  8. I love cozy mystery’s, I just finished book #3 in A Tourist Trap Mystery by Lynn Cahoon. I like the small town vibe, getting to know the characters through the series and meeting the new ones. Thank you

  9. I don’t have a favorite troupe in either mystery or romance. I pretty much like them all. Mystery, romantic suspense are probably my favorite stories to read.

    1. I was a big fan of romantic suspense before I discovered cozy mysteries. I’d liked the classic authors – Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt and one more whose name I can’t recall.

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