Tropes

I’ve finally had a chance today to go through my emails today and I’m checking out the books recommended to me by the sites that send me ebook deals.  It made me think about the tropes that I do and don’t like to read.

I should clarify, I read romance novels almost exclusively.  I occasionally read fantasy or science fiction novels, but mostly romance.  Within romance though, I read in a wide variety of sub-genres.  It’s just that I demand my happy ending, and romance is the only genre that will guarantee that for me.

So, tropes.  I’m no expert on tropes, so I Googled some.  Here are the ones I have strong(ish) feelings about:

  • Anti-hero.  Aw, come on, we all love reformed bad boys, right?  😛  My husband was a hard drinking, fast driving, tattooed loud mouth when I met him, who was lucky not to have been behind bars.  Who’d have guessed he was also super sweet and romantic, and very good with babies?  Ha ha!  So yeah, I guess I like these ones.  He’s still tattooed and still loud, by the way.
  • Athlete.  I hate heroes who are sports stars.  Ugh.  No thanks.  It’s worse too when it’s an American sport that I’m totally clueless about.
  • Consanguinity.  No, no, no.  Stepbrothers and stepsisters, stepfathers and stepdaughters (it was this trope that actually led me to write this post in the first place), etc.  No.  No, no, no.  And while I don’t mind menage stories, I hate it when they involves siblings, for the same reason.  Or worse, twins.  Ack.  Nope.
  • Danger.  I’ve seen this written elsewhere on the net as ‘Heroine in danger’ or ‘Heroine needs rescuing’, etc.  It doesn’t matter to me if it’s the hero or the heroine (and I don’t just read m/f books, so gender sterotyping is a bit redundant anyway), but danger definitely adds spice to the mix.  I’ve said before that I don’t care how much torture my characters have to go through, as long as they’re guaranteed a happy ending.  I guess, I like to believe that no matter how hard life gets, it’s all going to work out in the end.  This is the extreme version of that.  Maya Banks does this trope really well, to the point that it’s become a kind of cliche in her books, but that’s beside the point.
    Whispers in the Dark (KGI, #4) Whispers In The Dark was a brilliant example of this trope.  Both the hero and the heroine go through some fairly extreme ordeals over the course of the book, and it’s a fantastic read.
  • Disguise.  I know it’s silly, but I really like the ones where girls dress up as guys and win over the hero as a male first.  I don’t know why I like them.  Maybe because I was a tomboy and often mistaken as a boy even well into my teens (I think I was 17 the last time it happened).
    Morganna (The Brocade Collection Book 4) by [Ivie, Jackie] Morganna by Jackie Ivie is one of the best books I’ve read with this trope, and I especially love how the hero falls for her while still thinking she was a boy.  He is attracted to her while he thought she was a male (and even kisses her, thinking her a man), instead of respecting or befriending her and then being attracted once her gender was revealed.  For a historical romance, that’s pretty cutting edge.  I was very impressed.
  • Fated mates.  This can work really well, but only if the author avoids the instalove pitfall of death.  Ugh.  I hate instalove.  If the match is fated, and they fight it, but eventually realise all the great things about each other and slowly fall for each other despite themselves, it can be a great read.  But no instalove!
  • Impairments.  This is probably very un-PC of me to say, but I love these.  I actually did a Writing.com site newsletter on this topic. Both physical and mental disabilities, so long as the characters are equal.  I read one where I felt the character with the mental disability was not in any way equal to the other main character, and there was a HUGE power disadvantage.  It felt…kind of pedophilic.  Ugh, no thanks.
    The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Mackenzies Series Book 1) by [Ashley, Jennifer]
    Song for Sophia (A Rougemont Novel Book 1) by [Densley, Moriah] The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley and Song For Sophia by Moriah Densley both have great male heroes who have Asperger’s Syndrome.  Both are excellent reads.  I’m sure Cole from Jaime Reese’s A Restored Man is on the spectrum too.  It’s never said, but I think his inability to know what is appropriate for a particular conversation or situation is a good indication.
    Never Seduce a Scot: The Montgomerys and Armstrongs by [Banks, Maya] Moon Craving (A Children of the Moon Novel Book 2) by [Monroe, Lucy] Never Seduce A Scot by Maya Banks features a fantastic heroine who is deaf.  That’s a great book too.  Moon Craving by Lucy Monroe features a deaf heroine as well, and I’ve re-read that book a number of times too.
    Speechless by [Fielding, Kim]Love Comes Silently (Senses Series Book 1) by [Grey, Andrew]Love Comes in Darkness (Senses Series Book 2) by [Grey, Andrew]I’ve read some great m/m books that use this trope too.  Speechless by Kim Fielding features a hero with aphasia which I’ve read multiple times.  And there’s Andrew Grey’s Senses series too which is built around the trope.  It’s starts with Love Comes Silently, with a mute hero, then Love Comes In Darkness, with a blind hero.  I enjoyed both those books (but warning, they’re tear-jerkers).  There are six books in the series, but the first two are my favourites.
  • Military.  I used to really enjoy these, and Maya Banks’ KGI series is a great example of this done well, but having now worked for two ex-military bosses, I no longer see military guys as a romantic ideal.  Nope.  And what’s more, I will no longer be recommending that my son signs up for the military.  The military changes you, and now I think it’s not for the better.
  • Second chances.  I’m not a fan of this one.  If it didn’t work out the first time, it wasn’t meant to be.  Not to say it can’t be done well, but you’ll have to have something really special to tempt me.
  • Time travel.  I’ve read books where this trope has been done really well, and I’ve really enjoyed them, but I’m always leery of them.  It’s so easy to turn this into a sad ‘been there, done that, got the t shirt’ cliche.
  • Ugly duckling.  I really enjoy these ones, regardless of which character is the ugly duckling and why.  Probably I enjoy them because I have pretty low self-esteem when it comes to my physical appearance, but never mind.

What are some tropes that you like or dislike?  They don’t have to be romance ones.

Brain-dump

I fell in love with the idea of referring to my writing as ‘my latest verbal hairball’. Ha ha!

Learning to love the silence

Stand on a street corner
A sign around my neck
“Would you like to read my poetry?”
Seeking instant gratification,
Without wifi connection.

(I wrote most of it while gazing
In deep contemplation
Of my possibly expanding midriff.)

Excuse me while I rehearse
14 lines of free verse
About my vintage Converse
Written on the obverse
Of a battered clutch-purse.

(I could be a hipster too
Except I shaved my beard off
Because it bothered me.)

Appreciation hungry,
I push my latest verbal hairball
Under your nose
Wonder whether its worth it
To see you so repulsed.

(Writing is therapy,
It doesn’t need to be read
But editing might be a beneficial)

Wordsworth never had these problems,
But then if he lived today
He’d be too busy
Taking pictures of daffodils
On his smartphone
To write poetry.

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Under The Small Top

As the opening chords began to swell, a hush fell over the audience. Anticipation weaved with the smell of popcorn and crackers to fill the tent. Sammy wriggled forward in his seat, finding it impossible to sit still now that the long awaited moment had nearly arrived. It felt like he’d waited years for summer, even though he knew it had only been a matter of months.

A figure trotted out onto the elevated stage and a beam of brilliant light pierced the dimness to illuminate the ringmaster.

“Welcome to Mouse Circus!”

A cheer went up from the audience and Sammy grinned.

“Tonight, we bring you our super summer show,” announced the ringmaster. “You’ll see acrobats,” and one arm was flung towards the canvas far above their heads. “And cat tamers!”

Cat tamers! That was what Sammy most longed to see. He waited through the remainder of the ringmaster’s spiel and settled back to enjoy the show.

The acrobats were astonishing. Sammy could hardly believe what they were able to do with just the same four feet and tail that he had. Beneath multicoloured lights, they flew through the air on the trapeze and performed extraordinary feats of balance and agility. Sammy clapped loudly and called encouragement.

Finally it was time for the cat tamers. The stage was cleared and a clear wall of glass or plastic, Sammy couldn’t tell which, rose from a hidden cavity in the floor to surround the perimeter of the stage. Sammy assumed it was to protect the audience from the cats. He’d seen cats before, but never this close. Would they be fat, lazy cats that weren’t too much of a danger, or were these tamers the real deal? He could hardly wait to find out.

At the first hiss, a deathly silence fell over the assembled mice. Too many knew that deadly sound. Sammy felt his hackles rise, and his whiskers twitch. It was hard to sit still.

The cat slunk onto the stage, causing the entire first two rows of mice to lean backwards in their seats, despite the safety of the barrier.

When the tamer entered the ring, the low feline growl sent shivers up Sammy’s spine. How could that mouse dare to be in the same space as that fearsome creature? A long, furry tail swished and Sammy swore he could almost feel the breeze from it washing across his face.

The tamer taunted and teased the cat. “Whose a pretty kitty?” he snickered. Sammy held his breath, watching that twitching tail, much as he’d watch a snake, waiting for the strike.

When the cat finally pounced, Sammy squeaked in alarm, along with most of his fellow spectators. He was sure the tamer was done for. Long, sharp claws reached for the small furry mouse, but an odd noise sent the cat snarling back against the wall. Sammy tried to figure out what the tamer had done, but couldn’t see him clearly enough. As the two creatures played a traditional game of tag, they moved around the ring, giving all the spectators a chance to view the show from a variety of angles. Sammy finally realised the mouse had a spray bottle of water that he was using to keep the cat under control. Sammy shook his head in wonder. To face such a fearsome foe with so little protection was awe inspiring.

A wave of shock rippled through the audience and Sammy craned his head to see what had happened. The cat had his back to Sammy, and the tamer was nowhere in sight. Mice starting standing up to get a better view, and Sammy did too. He finally saw the reason for all the consternation – the cat had trapped the tamer’s tail beneath one large paw. The tamer was squirting the cat with the water, but to no avail. Sammy held his breath. Would he really witness a tragedy, this fine summer’s evening?

Sammy looked up at the clear barrier. It was designed to keep a cat in, but it also kept the mice out. There was no way Sammy or any of the other spectators could rush to help the trapped tamer. Heads were turning in every direction and the multitude of squeaks from all around was becoming deafening.

A low rumble started from somewhere near Sammy. He turned with his fellow mice to try and find the source of the sound. The loud bark sent mice toppling off seats and scurrying out of the tent. Sammy spun towards the stage to see that the cat had also been startled by the bark. It had leaped to the far side of the ring, freeing the tamer. Another low growl vibrated through the seats and with some of them now empty, Sammy spied the speakers hidden near the floor.

When the tamer had escaped the stage and was safely being tended to, the ringmaster’s voice came over the speakers. “My fellow mice, I apologise for the scare you’ve had. As you have witnessed, our brave cat tamers take real risks to bring you such thrilling shows. We are grateful that our recorded dog noises have been able to save the day today. Three cheers for Christoff the cat tamer!”

Sammy cheered with everyone else, relieved that everything had turned out well. He’d certainly had his ticket’s worth of excitement, though he wasn’t sure the price of the entry fee was worth the danger these circus performers faced. One thing he did know – he never wanted to be so close to a cat ever again. His mother had been right with all those lectures he’d had to sit through. Now he had seen for himself how fast the situation could turn bad. As he watched the cat being carefully guided off the stage, Sammy wondered if the rest of the show would prove to be as exciting.