From the traditional to the on-trend, the timeless to the modern, the sweet to the steamy, you’ll find 101 romance tropes for writers in our exhaustive list!
What Is A Romance Trope?
A trope speaks to a ‘type’ of story that readers expect. It is a genre-specific device that is the catalyst for the central plot or conflict in a story. It can also be a defined type of character found in a story.
Often called a ‘hook’ in the romance industry, it provides a tried-and-tested scenario for a romantic or erotic novel, short story or screenplay.
The challenge for a writer in the romance genre is to find a fresh, clever or interesting way to interpret, deconstruct, subvert or breathe new life into a trope.
A trope doesn’t take the place of well-plotted story or provide an excuse for flat, one-dimensional characters. It is simply a trigger for a story and provides a loose theme for the over-arching plot.
(See Also: The 4 Pillars Of Romance)
Mix & Match
You can use more than one trope in a story. As you read the list, you’ll discover that some tropes relate to or intersect with others.
While we have covered many plot scenarios in the list, there are still thousands more out there – so feel free to add in your own! The tropes can be explored through cross- or sub-genres, such as romantic suspense or sci-fi etc.
(See Also: 3 Ways To Build Your Own Genre)
Gender Rules for Tropes – There Are No Rules!
When looking at the list, keep in mind that the tropes can be applied to either genders and – as the constructs of identity become more progressive and inclusive – to transgender and androgynous characters.
Keep in mind, romance allows for non-human, humanoid, supernatural, and other fantastical characters, so it a great opportunity to explore issues of identity, sexuality and gender.
[TOP TIP: If you want to learn how to write a romance, sign up for our online romance writing course, This Kiss]
101 Romance Tropes For Writers
- Alien Hero: A human heroine falls in love with, or is abducted by, an alien life force hero from another planet.
- Alpha Hero: The heroine must contend with a strong-willed, domineering, hyper-masculine, successful and wealthy hero. (See Mediterranean, Asian, Russian Hero etc.)
- Amnesia: The hero or heroine suffers temporary or permanent memory loss and is forced to start over and reclaim their identity. (See Mistaken Identity)
- Armed Forces: A sexy, dynamic hero in uniform draws the heroine into a relationship, but a career in the army, navy etc., creates conflict. The heroine may also be in the military and is attracted to someone in her unit or during a mission.
- Artificial Intelligence: The heroine falls for a sentient robot or even a disembodied form of A.I., such as a holographic character.
- Asian Hero: The hero is either fully Asian or of Asian ancestry (Chinese, Indian, Korean etc.) and now living in UK, Europe, America or Australia.
- Athlete Hero: Sports themes are popular in North American romances, especially for teen and young adult audiences. Typically, the hero is a baseball, football, or hockey player, but the trope can extend to tennis stars, racing car drivers, etc. (See Alpha Hero)
- Au-Pair Abroad: The young heroine takes a job as a nanny or child-minder in a new city or exotic location. She falls for an older, local hero or even the handsome, single employer. (See Nanny, Single Parent)
- Bachelor Auction: The heroine ‘buys’ a handsome, wealthy hero for a dinner or once-off date at a charity function. (See The Dare/The Bet)
- Beauty And The Beast: The hero, often disfigured or injured in an accident, must overcome his physical and emotional scars to find love with the heroine. (See Trauma)
- Best Friend’s Brother: The heroine sees her friend’s brother in a new romantic light and must hide her feelings from him and her friend. (See Home For The Holidays, First Love)
- Beta Hero: The good guy, the guy next door – this type of hero is usually more even-tempered and more realistic than the typical alpha hero. He doesn’t want to run the world; he just wants to be king of his own castle. (See Small Town, Fish Out of Water, Country Inn)
- Betrayal: The heroine is betrayed by the hero – the betrayal may be genuine or the result of a misunderstanding. She often vows revenge. (See Revenge)
- Bisexual Hero Or Heroine: This character is openly and equally attracted to both men and women. As a protagonist, they live by their own rules or sexual code, which makes them irresistibly unpredictable.
- Blackmail: The heroine is blackmailed by the hero into marrying him, usually as a form of revenge or payback for a previous slight or insult, real or imagined. (See Marriage of Convenience)
- Blind Date: The heroine agrees to a blind date. The date usually delivers a surprise or a twist – for example, her dinner companion turns out to her boss, best male friend, or an ex-boyfriend.
- Boss & Secretary: Although a bit dated as a trope, the boss falling for his personal assistant or secretary is still popular.
- Bully: A controversial trend and popular in teen or young/new adult romances, the heroine falls for the boy who used to bully her. She must seek revenge or confront him on his past sadism. The hero must usually atone for past behaviour.
- Christmas Romances: Almost a genre in itself, Christmas provides a theme and background for the love story, which features European or North American settings. (See Home for the Holidays)
- Circle Of Friends: This trope features three or more protagonists all searching for love, in parallel to pursuing their careers and passions. For example: a group of ballet dancers, actors on the same film set, or students at the same school.
- Coming Of Age: The first discovery of love as teenager can be a powerful theme to explore in a romance novel or story. The plot can cover a sweet, innocent crush or a dark, intense attraction to the wrong boy. (See First Love)
- Coming Out: A gay hero, heroine, or transgender lead character decides to come out about their true sexuality or identity – their coming out is a catalyst for a new love interest. The lead character must overcome self-doubt, confusion, prejudice, and misunderstandings while dealing with a new relationship. (See Bully, Transgender)
- Country Inn: A career-driven city girl inherits or buys a charming little inn, bed-and-breakfast, or guest house in the calm, bucolic splendour of the countryside. (See Unexpected Inheritance)
- Cowboys: Whether a rancher or a Texas Ranger, the hero embodies the characteristics and moral codes of the American frontier: courage, integrity, and usually a bit of chauvinism.
- Cursed! In a fantasy or folklore-inspired romance, the heroine may have fallen under a curse, spell, or wicked charm that only the hero can break or reverse. (See Magical Heroine)
- Cyborg Hero: The heroine falls in love with an electromechanically enhanced man. The hero may have become cyborg after an experiment, accident, or some other tragedy.
- The Dare Or The Bet: A staple of teen romances, the heroine takes up a challenge from friends or a rival to date or bed a popular young man – or an unpopular wallflower. She eventually loses her heart to him until he learns of her deception.
- The Dating Game: From online dating agencies to hook-up apps, speed dating sessions to blind dates, the newly single heroine enters the world of dating with hilarious, romantic and/or sexy results.
- A Divorce Never Went Through: The lead characters discover that their marriage was never annulled or a divorce decree was never issued because of a bureaucratic mistake or some other misunderstanding.
- Dominant Alpha: An archetypal character in explicit, erotic fiction, the dominant alpha is rich, sexy, possessive, and always in charge. His psyche is tied up in sadism and role play. As his submissive, the heroine must break through his control and expose his vulnerability.
- Domme Heroine: A domme, female dominatrix or BDSM mistress is often found in erotica, steamy romances, or period romances.
- Enemies To Lovers: Probably an overused trope, but still effective. The heroine hates the hero on sight. She may still be smarting from a past betrayal or is being blackmailed by him. How the characters move past the anger to attraction and love makes up most of the narrative. (See Frenemies, Revenge, Secrets & Lies)
- Fake Engagement: The hero needs to produce a date or fiancé in a hurry and the heroine steps into the role. Of course, this phony arrangement soon leads to real complications and a genuine emotional connection.
- Female-Female-Male (FFM): An erotic ménage-a-trois that explores the romantic and sexual entanglements between two female and one male character.
- First Love: The heroine seeks out or is reunited with her first love or high school sweetheart – has he changed or not? The hero can’t forget his first wife or a deceased girlfriend and the heroine feels she cannot compete with his former love. (See Soul Mates)
- Fish Out Of Water: The heroine comes from a small town to a big city and is unprepared for the sophistication of the hero (see Alpha Hero). Similarly, a city girl finds herself working or stranded in a small town and falls for the charm of a local hero. (See Beta Hero)
- Forbidden Love: Taboos lie at the heart of this romance theme. Race, religion, conflicting culture, or feuds are just some of the forces that could potentially keep the lovers apart. [See Also: How To Write The Tragic Love Story – A 10-Step Formula]
- Forced Proximity: The heroine finds herself stuck with the hero in a confined space. She could find herself snowed in with him at a remote cabin or trapped in an elevator – the possibilities are endless!
- French Hero: Whether he is a suave bachelor in Paris or a carefree winemaker in the South of France, the Frenchman holds a special place in romantic stories.
- Frenemies: The hero and heroine enjoy a friendly rivalry – either socially or at work. But soon the banter, teasing, and ribbing exposes an underlying attraction and sparks fly!
- Friends To Lovers: The main characters, who have hitherto been friends, discover a growing attraction to each other. For the heroine, this is often a childhood friend who re-enters her life as an adult. (See First Love)
- Gay For You: A hitherto heterosexual character becomes attracted to a gay friend, colleague, or mentor. The characters struggle with seemingly impossible feelings to define their relationship.
- Ghost: The heroine falls in love with a ghost, or both romantic protagonists are paranormal entities.
- Girl Next Door: Falling for a new, cute, sexy, or mysterious neighbour is what sets the plot in motion in this storyline.
- Grieving Lover: The heroine falls in love with a man who has lost a spouse or lover in the recent past. (See First Love)
- The Guardian Or Ward: An older male is bound by the obligation of a legal will or promise to oversee the care of a young charge. When the heroine comes of age, she falls in love with her older, handsome guardian. (See May-December, Unexpected Inheritance)
- Heiress: The heroine comes for a fabulously wealthy family with an impressive pedigree. She is often in line to inherit a large fortune or take control of a family estate of company.
- Hidden Identity: The heroine hides her true identity or creates a false persona to hide her involvement in events that usually took place in the past. (See Revenge, Secrets & Lies)
- Holiday Romance: The heroine travels to a foreign city or exotic island and meets a sexy or intriguing stranger for a fling. The burgeoning affair will be tested by her imminent departure. (See Mediterranean Hero, French Hero)
- Home For The Holidays: The heroine returns to a hometown for a national, religious, or cultural holiday and finds romance in short space of time amid family chaos – often with someone she knew as a child or teenager. (See Friends to Lovers, Christmas Romances)
- Identical Twins: Identical twins trade places as part of a romantic ruse or to exact a revenge of some sort. (See Mistaken Identity)
- Incest: The heroine unknowingly or consciously falls in love with a sibling or close relative. The taboo causes inner conflict and tension with her family and society. A tricky trope to handle with sensitivity, it may work best in period, fantasy, or gothic romances. (See Forbidden Love)
- Kidnapped: The heroine is snatched and reluctantly falls in love with her abductor. Or she must wait for hero to come to the rescue or, better yet, must find her own way out of the dangerous situation. (See Alien Hero, Armed Forces)
- Learning-to-Love: The heroine is determined to learn a new skill (dance or drive a car, etc.) and falls head over heels for the instructor. The heroine may also head back to school or college and falls in love on campus.
- Love Triangle: The heroine is often torn between two lovers and wrestles with the secrecy of the situation. The viewpoint of other characters in the triangle can also be explored. (See Forbidden Love, MMF, FMM)
- Magical Heroine: The heroine is a witch, sorceress, shifter, spell caster, fairy, or she possesses psychic or supernatural powers. (See Shape Shifter)
- Makeover: The heroine is transformed from drab to fab to catch the hero’s attention. Alternatively, the hero has to transform his looks, body, and attitude to prove his worth to the heroine.
- Male-Male-Female (MMF): An erotic or homoerotic ménage-a-trois that explores the romantic and sexual entanglements between two male characters and one female heroine. (See Domme Heroine, Love Triangle)
- Marriage of Convenience: The heroine is compelled to marry the hero, usually an alpha hero, in name only. The marriage is based on necessity, or for financial or strategic reasons (For example, she has to save her father’s business etc.)
- May-December: A love affair between two characters with a 15-25 year difference in age. (See Forbidden Love)
- Medical Romance: While working in a medical field or profession, the heroine falls in love with a doctor hero. The hero can also be a paramedic, veterinarian, or specialist. (See Alpha Hero)
- Mediterranean Hero: The dashing hero has Italian, Greek, or Spanish heritage. While he may be born in Europe, he has usually established his success internationally, if he is to be a sophisticated alpha hero. (See Alpha Hero, French Hero)
- The Mermaid: The mythological creature breaks the surface of romance fiction, either a shape-shifting nymph or a heroine with Undine-like qualities. The masculine ‘merman’ is also an exciting character to consider. (See Magical Heroine, Shape Shifter)
- Mistaken Identity: The hero mistakes the heroine for someone from his past. The heroine is mistaken for someone rich or royal. (See Amnesia, Rags to Riches)
- Mistress Heroine: The heroine finds herself the mistress of a rich and powerful man. In modern romances, the hero is not a married man but rather an alpha male who doesn’t seek commitment. (See Russian Hero)
- Nanny: The heroine takes a position as a child minder for a single-parent hero, who is often divorced or a widower. (See Au Pair Abroad, Grieving Lover)
- New Girl In Town: The heroine finds herself in a new town, without many friends or adequate social skills to negotiate the new world she finds herself in. Often, she has moved to the town for a job. (See Country Inn, Unexpected Inheritance)
- Partners In Fighting Crime: The heroine is a cop or detective who falls in love with her handsome partner on the same beat or based at the same precinct or station. (See Armed Forces)
- Prisoner: The lead character, locked away in a penal facility, develops a sexual and/or romantic relationship with fellow inmate, or a guard or authority figure.
- Prom Date: Finding the right boy or a girl to take to that important dance is a highly popular plot in many teen novels and movies. (See The Dare/The Bet, Makeover)
- Rags To Riches: A struggling or down-on-her-luck heroine comes into money and/or fame through a surprising windfall – like winning the lottery or a reality TV show. The hero helps her navigate this new world of wealth and popularity. ‘Rags to Royalty’ is a sub-trope. (See Makeover, Unexpected Inheritance)
- Return From The Dead: A man she believes is dead returns to upset the heroine’s life in a major way. The hero either faked his own death, or his demise was incorrectly reported through a chain of misunderstandings. (See Divorce Never Went Through)
- Revenge: The heroine, betrayed by the hero and/or his family, is determined to get revenge. The trope also works well if the hero is the primary character hell-bent on retribution. An extremely popular and successful theme in romantic stories.
- Riches To Rags: A wealthy heroine or heiress loses her money and status overnight. With the hero’s help and love, she finds a way to re-establish her identity, and realise her own ambitions and self-worth.
- Rock Star: The hero is a rock, musical, or reality/social media idol and the heroine must see beyond the groupies and fast-paced lifestyle to find the talented and vulnerable individual behind fame’s mask.
- Royalty: The main character rules or is in line for the throne of a fictional country, kingdom, or principality. (See Hidden Identity, Mistaken Identity)
- Runaway Bride: The heroine gets cold feet on her wedding day and makes a dash for freedom. She either realises she is marrying the wrong man or realises the groom was her soul mate all along!
- Russian Hero: A self-made business tycoon of extreme wealth, the descendant of powerful oligarchs and/or an American/British hero with Russian ancestry.
- Second Chance At Love: A couple break up only to reunite years or decades later. Or a heroine who has been deeply and possibly repeatedly hurt in love finally gives herself – and the hero – a second chance.
- Secret Baby: Keeping his child a secret and out of his life for several years, the heroine is now confronted with an angry and betrayed hero who wants to claim his parental rights.
- Secret Billionaire: The hero hides his identity and/or his wealth from the heroine, usually to test if she loves him for his true nature or his enormous wealth. (See Alpha Hero)
- Secrets & Lies: Someone close to the heroine tells a secret or insidious lie that causes her to betray or leave a lover without explanation. Or an antagonist feeds the hero misinformation that tears apart the budding relationship with the woman he loves. (See Revenge, Forbidden Love, Enemies To Lovers)
- Shape Shifters: These characters are still popular in paranormal romances. The hero or heroine can ‘shift’ between human and animal or mythic form – werewolves, dragons, tigers, etc. (See Werewolf, Magical Heroine)
- Shared Pasts: The two main characters have a history together that must now be resolved in the present. The shared past could be dark and dramatic, or it could have been a wonderful period for the lovers.
- Sheikh Hero: The hero is the ruler of fictitious Arabian tribe or country. As at home in the desert as he is in the boardroom, this royal hero is often a modern and progressive ruler.
- Single Parent: The story focuses on a single mom or dad who is facing life after a break-up, divorce, or bereavement. The widower father is a popular, sympathetic character. (See Secret Baby, Nanny)
- Small Town: Heart-warming stories set in small towns. In romantic suspense, the rural setting could hide sinister secrets. (See New Girl In Town, Country Inn)
- Soul Mates: The two main characters feel they are destined to be together. However, other forces or characters in the story conspire to keep the lovers apart. From deadly hurricanes to horrible curses, the more obstacles in their path, the better.
- Terminal Situations: The heroine loses her heart to a hero who is terminally ill. Or the heroine, facing a life-threatening illness or condition, must help a romantic partner deal with the situation. (See Grieving Lover, First Love)
- Time Traveller: The heroine falls in love with a time traveller, from the past, future, or both, and must deal with finding love in a different place and time.
- Transgender: The main character is in the process of changing – or has already changed – gender and falls in love with someone who is unaware of their former identity.
- Trauma: A main character who has been abused, sexually assaulted, or traumatised in the past, finds healing through a romantic relationship.
- Unexpected Inheritance: The heroine comes into a windfall from a distant relative. (See Country Inn, Rags to Riches)
- Unexpected Parenthood: After a sibling dies or becomes ill, the heroine is now the sole guardian of one or more children.
- Unexpected Pregnancy: After learning of an unplanned pregnancy, the heroine must deal with the unexpected news and decide if she will tell the hero or not. (See Secret Baby)
- Vampire: The hero is a vampire and falls for a human girl, or he becomes romantically involved with another vampire or paranormal character. (See Shape Shifter, Magical Heroine)
- Virgin: The heroine’s innocence is either a threat, obstacle, or prize for the hero. Or the hero is attracted to a virgin in the story; or the heroine wants to lose virginity to a special character.
- Weddings: Invited to a family or friend’s wedding, the heroine will either a) run into an ex-lover or enemy from her past b) meet a new love interest or c) be thrown together with another character from the wedding party, like the best man.
- Werewolf: The hero becomes a werewolf at every full moon and must balance a human need for love with being a fearsome wolf. Often the character is under a curse and will need a lover’s help or special boon to overcome the affliction. (See Shape Shifter, Magical Heroine)
- Workplace Romances: The hero and heroines are co-workers or colleagues in the same company and find that they can’t suppress their chemistry. The professional suddenly becomes very personal. (See Boss & Secretary, Forced Proximity, Frenemies)
- Wrong Side Of The Tracks: The heroine falls in love with a rough diamond from the proverbial ‘wrong side of town’. Radically different socioeconomic conditions tests the love affair. Or the heroine is from a poor background and finds romance with a handsome rich boy from the wealthier classes. (See Forbidden Love, Riches to Rags)
You May Also Like This Blog If You’re A Beginner: 8 Tips For New Romance Writers
The Last Word
I hope these 101 romance tropes for writers help you write your love stories. Click here for more romance writing posts.
If you’re looking for more tropes, read:
[TOP TIP: If you want to learn how to write a romance, sign up for our online romance writing course, This Kiss]
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[TOP TIP: If you want to learn how to write a romance, sign up for our online romance writing course, This Kiss]