I am so thrilled to have Lilah Suzanne on the site today with a guest post celebrating the release of Jilted, a fake-marriage rom com starring a bisexual cis male MC and a nonbinary LI! Before we get to the post about breaking down tropes, here’s a little more on the book:
Carter’s fiancé is in love with someone else. Link has just been left at the altar. After bonding over mutual heartbreak at the would-be reception’s open bar, Link and Carter pass out in the honeymoon suite—and are mistaken for the happy newlywed couple the next morning. Reluctant to deal with the fallout from their breakups, they embark on an exciting two weeks of fake honeymooning, during which Carter starts to have real feelings for Link. Against the eclectic and electric backdrop of New Orleans, Carter and Link have to decide if a second chance at love is in the cards, or if they’re only meant to be sidelined in someone else’s story.
Buy it: Amazon
And here’s the post!
Tropes are important in romance novels; they serve as guiding light for readers who like certain things and want to know what they’re getting into, and also beneficial for writers as tropes are the pillars on which a story is built. But that doesn’t mean they should be sacrosanct.
I have a few random talents that are not only mostly useless, but also very unlikely to impress anyone at a party. I have great free throw form, which would be useful if I weren’t just a smidge over five feet tall. I have a knack for finding things—unless I’m the one who lost them in the first place. I’m also particularly skilled at untying knots. I remember sitting it front of my mom’s jewelry box as a kid, methodically working all the tiny knots out her necklace chains, finding all of the intricate ways the strands wound over around and through, eventually tugging them free. The key, I’ve discovered, is taking the time to understand the knots, the structure of them; you can’t pull at them too hard nor can you blindly yank at the tangled stands hoping something will come loose. Finesse. Respect. Patience. Also, yes this is how children entertained themselves pre-smartphones.
To go with the obvious metaphor here, I treat tropes in my writing the same way I did with those knotted necklace chains. I’m not looking to break beloved tropes apart completely or discard them in frustration. I’m more interested in pulling at the strands, seeing what I can untangle from the knot and make a trope my own. This is not because I think there’s something wrong with them, in fact, I love tropes. I find them fascinating. And I spend so much time taking them apart because I don’t have a smart phone. Kidding! I totally have one. I do it because it’s interesting and satisfying and, I think, forces me to be more thoughtful about my stories and characters as I’m creating them.
For the uninitiated: tropes are essentially commonly seen themes or devices in any given media type, or as TV Tropes, a wealth of delicious tropeyness, puts it: a storytelling shortcut of situations the audience will presumably recognize. In other words, a thing you see so often that it becomes A Thing. In romance novels, we love our forbidden love, enemies to lovers and friends to lovers. We’re crazy about our sexy billionaires, royal romances, sports romances, historical romance, bad boys/girls, opposites attract, love triangles, and fake relationships. And since I cut my proverbial writing teeth in fan-fiction, I’m also partial to tropes like coffeeshop/bakery romances, forced bed sharing (oh no there’s only one bed what will happen?) soulmates, and mutual pining, and I am sucker for a good domestic PWP fluff story. Now, who’s gonna find me a fluffy historical friends-to-lovers coffeeshop story? I’m waiting…
Of course, as much as we love tropes, they can be overdone. There has to be some suspense in a story. So, yes, there is bed sharing, but they didn’t get together after that? What if it was the opening salvo of two characters realizing they had work to do on themselves instead of on a relationship? What if it was just a desperate, momentary craving for companionship and not the beginning of something? What if it was? There’s space to play within a trope. Not dismantling it, just looking closely and tugging a few strands loose. Maybe it’s because of my time in fandom, where the entire point is to play within someone else’s boundaries, or maybe it’s because of my few useless talents (I’m also pretty okay at baking!) but whatever the reason I’m glad it’s made me stretch a bit as a writer.
We all love tropes because they’re comforting—which is probably the same reason I liked to go through my mom’s jewelry box—and in romance novels that’s doubly true. Romances themselves are comforting; full of swoony love interests and happy endings for all, and in fan fiction, too, where we can imagine a thousand different ways for the same two people to fall in love. And these days especially we can all use a little more warm and fuzzy—or hot and sexy—comfort.
Lilah Suzanne is the author of Amazon bestseller Broken Records, part of the Spotlight series along with Burning Tracks and Blended Notes. Lilah also authored Spice, the novellas Pivot & Slip and After the Sunset, and the short story “Halfway Home,” which was featured in the holiday anthology If the Fates Allow. A writer from a young age, Lilah resides in North Carolina and mostly enjoys staying indoors, though sometimes ventures out for concerts, museum visits, and quiet walks in the woods.