My Favorite Tropes in Books

24 April 2020

The word "trope" is thrown around all the time in book reviews as if it's a negative thing. Some people tend to think it's something synonymous with the words cliché and unoriginal, like tropes are the sign of a lazy author. However, I do not think this is the case at all. There's absolutely nothing new under the sun. Every act of creativity is simply building off the work of the hundreds of thousands of other creatives that came before it. Tropes are a natural occurrence in the world of literature.

There are established rules for effective storytelling that have been built off of the trials and errors of other writers. With those rules come popular tropes that can be utilized in many ways to tell different stories. While there is nothing unique about certain tropes in and of themselves, the ways in which authors can use them as storytelling tools is what can really make or break their own interpretation in their book.

There are tropes in every single genre and every single demographic. They're unavoidable. Every book utilizes some type of trope in one way or another. Like with every aspect of a book, there's some personal preference over which tropes a reader enjoys, and which ones seem overdone to them. Knowing which tropes and themes you personally love can really help you understand your own reading taste so that you can discover new amazing books.

For me, there are several distinct tropes I love. Sometimes I will put a book on my TBR just because it has one of these tropes without knowing anything else about it. In this post, I'm going to be highlighting eight of my all time favorite tropes. 


This is very much a common trope in the fantasy genre, and I absolutely love it! I've read so many books with this specific theme: the Seven Realms series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, and Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, and I loved them all! I love all the mischievous, sneaky aspects of thievery in stories, but when there's a deeper underlying secret about the thief or gang of thieves, I think it's such a good set up for an incredible fantasy plot.


I love books about family in all forms, but sometimes there's a family secret that a main character discovers that sets the trajectory of the plot. I think this trope sets up intrigue so well and can go in so many different directions. Little Dorrit, Little Fires Everywhere, and Tuck Everlasting are some great examples of this trope done well across several genres.


I do love me a good romance plot line every once in awhile. My personal favorite type of romance story to read is one when two people who have been friends their whole lives discover they are harboring romanic feelings for one another. When romantic interests already have an established love for one another as friends I find it so much easier to fall for their romance. I can't share too many recommendations of this trope without spoilers, but there are so many examples that I loved. 


Coming of age stories are some of my favorites. I love being able to watch a character truly grow into themselves. It's inspiring and can help you look at your own life and find reassurance that you aren't alone in your struggles. I'm almost always brought to tears when I read a good coming of age book. My all time favorite coming of age stories are The Book Thief, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Where the Crawdads Sing.


I've always thought that books told through letters have such a unique narrative style. I feel like I'm reading the intimate, authentic thoughts of the characters, and I fall so easily into the story. I've also read so many incredible examples of well done epistolaries, such as Last Christmas in Paris, Les Liaisons dangereuse, and Ain't We Got Fun.


This trope may be my most favorite trope of all time. I love the journey of a lonely, broken character finding a new family through a group of friends or other impactful people in their life. It's so moving to see how important community can be to someone and how they can overcome obstacles together. Most of my favorite books incorporate a found family concept: The Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, and The Outsiders.


I really appreciate a character arch that ends in a redemption moment. I love seeing the resilience and goodness in people shine through in the end, even after a character goes through unimaginable circumstances. Some of the best redemption stories I've ever read are Unbroken, Daisy Jones & the Six, and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

What are some of your favorite tropes in literature?


  1. I love book posts like this. I think most people mean literarcy cliches when they say tropes, and I think the problem comes when a ungifted writer takes a trope or common plot and puts it in as if that in and of itself was good writing and then it's used in that poor way ad naseum. Like I LOVE the Benedict and Beatrice type of sparring (one of my fav tropes), but what that often looks like in popular books is actually not even the same thing, its petty spats.

    Romantic triangles often get hated on. Some say they are unrealistic, I'm not sure that is true, I think that deep love romantic triangles probably rarely exist, but silly ones certainly do. I think they are one of the most lazy and annoying cliche tropes, however, I don't think they are all bad. I do have a problem that instead of the heroine (usually the heroine is in a triangle) making a choice, a weird wrench is thrown into the plan, such as making one of the two potential love interests a jerk (ahem, Gale) so there isn't really a choice in favor but a choice in disfavor.

    I remember one person saying all Jane Austen novels were Cinderella stories, not exactly, but some certainly are if you totally stripe them, but that also goes to show how a basic plot in the hand of brilliant author works. Also, Cinderella stories are clearly one of my favorite plots/tropes.

    I've noticed some people complaing of the Not Like Other Girls alleged trope/attitude of LM Montgomery books. I have a problem when such things are declared and not shown, but I love all the uniqueness and set-apartness of the heroines and characters of LM Montgomery books. I don't think people should be trying to be like other people or NOT like for the sake of it (but I was born contrary, so there is that inconsistency).

    I think that some people see a trope or a trope that is cliched that is regularly either poorly not or not truly executed (like the attempt at witting sparring between two intellectual people that is actually boring spats between boring characters), and then they write off the trope itself.

    1. I loved reading through your deep analysis of your favorite tropes! You listed some great ones. And it's so true that sometimes whether you like or dislike a trope is totally dependent on what the author does with it. It's not as simple as calling something cliché.
      Thanks for your comment!

  2. i LOVE all of these tropes as well!! i prefer friends-to-lovers over enemies-to-lovers because having the backstory element of friendship just makes the romance so much more authentic. and the found family trope is also something i adore, i agree that it was done really well in The Outsiders! 😄 lovely post, Hannah 💖

    1. I totally agree on the friends-to-lovers verses enemies-to-lovers. I can like both at times, but you can't beat an established friendship relationship.