Sunday, October 21, 2012

Five Scribes Ask an Editor explains tropes


WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, LET’S GET TO our first and this month's QUESTION. 

 q:  I recently brainstormed with an author who is submitting to Entangled. We had a blast, and the good news is Entangled loves her synopsis but she said Entangled adjusted one of her "tropes." I'm a little lost on the meaning of tropes. Could anyone clarify, please?  ~ Belinda

Hi, Belinda, you've come to the right place.  Here are responses from Entangled Editors KL Grady and Ann Kopchik:
 A:   K.L. Grady:  A trope is an elment of a genre that recurs enough to be considered part of that genre's cannon. E.g. mystery tropes would be an amateur sleuth, a protagonist who is also the suspect, a femme fatale, etc.

At Entangled, we use tropes in our short romance lines to define the central romantic conflicts (and because trope-heavy romances sell better). Here, you'd have things like marriage of convenience, fling, star-crossed lovers, across the tracks, reunion, relationship in trouble, jilted bride, etc. Each of these, as you can see, will have an inherent romantic conflict riding along with it. When you combine these tropes or play with different combinations of archetypes and external conflicts, you get a fresh story that will appeal to romance readers.

Think of how the Harlequin Presents titles used to be. The Sheikh and His Secretary Have a Fling and Then She Gets Pregnant. The titles were goofy as hell, but they used them because the readers knew right away what the tropes were in the story, and they sold books. In this one, you'd have a sheikh, fling, boss/employee, and either sekrit baby/accidental pregnancy tropes.

Tropes are often confused with cliches. But when you're talking genre, there's a point where the reader contract declares certain things are necessary, and tropes are the most common ways authors deliver on those reader contract promises.

Ann Kopchik: 
KL pretty much answered the trope question, with regard to Entangled. The category line is especially trope-based, to the point where the reader must know what kind of book it will be by page 50 or so (So, a marriage of convenience, reunited lovers, enemies to friends, etc.) and if the author can stick in more than one trope, that's even better.

READERS, Do you have a question you’d like to ask an editor? Send it to me at BELLSON@COMCAST.NET AND IT COULD BE USED IN AN UPCOMING COLUMN.

 Thanks for asking!


Leslie Ann aka LA said...

I love the idea of this column. I've already learned something new. I didn't know what a trope was. I even used it in a conversation today :)


Ellis Vidler said...

I'm late to the party but wanted to say thanks for the very clear explanation of "tropes." This is a new one for me.