Tropes and artistic license

Giotto (1306) Last Supper
Giotto (1306)

As a writer of romantic suspense, and more recently inspirational romantic suspense, tropes come with the territory. There are some I like more than others. But the beauty of a trope is that the reader knows what they’re going to get.

Before I started writing romance, that did not make sense to me. Don’t readers want to learn and be challenged? It shows my lack of understanding of tropes. Tropes are no more the enemy of creativity or fresh ideas, than the same Biblical stories are to the creative expression of artists.

Tintoretto (1594) Last Supper
Tintoretto (1594)

Each writer or artist presents their own point of view, life experience, and expertise in pursuit of creating a work that readers or viewers can enjoy—sometimes well after the writer or artist is dead.

Three paintings of the same story (The Last Supper, Luke 22:14-16) are sprinkled through this post. The artists have not changed the story of the Last Supper in any way—they share exactly the same elements—yet they could not be more different. And these are just three of an astonishing selection of Last Supper paintings, ranging from the early Millennium through to the present. For examples of this variety, you can go to WikiArt. I’ll repeat that: exactly the same story.

With this in mind, why should the use of tropes be frowned upon? Why not consider them liberating? I’d go as far as to say tropes should be the romance writer’s best friend. The trope gives a framework for a story, whether you are a plotter or a pantser (or somewhere in between!).

While most editors and publishers will say they’re looking for a “twist” or a “fresh approach” to tropes (and those are wonderful), there is still room for allowing the trope to be exactly what it is. If that were untrue, category romance publishers would be out of business.

Derain (1911) Last Supper
Derain (1911)

To delve a little deeper into the tropes of romance, I suggest you do an internet search. There are hundreds of blog posts covering this topic—I checked. For those of you who want a curated list, without too many annoying pop-up ads, click here.

What tropes do you enjoy reading and/or writing? Let me know in the comments below, or reply to my Twitter.