The Best Romance Tropes According to Me

What are my favorite romance tropes?

The more I thought about this question of what are my favorite romance tropes the more I noticed that my interest in different tropes often depended on whether or not the story was an original story or fan-fiction. This brings me to a trope I have confusing feelings on-

Enemies to lovers

Enemies to lovers? Great in fanfiction. You get to explore what a romantic dynamic would look like between characters that are rivals/enemies in their canon universe. Depending on the writer this could be done brilliantly and even give you a sense that the original material cheated you.

However, how many cases of enemies to lovers done well exist in canon stories? I can’t even think of any at the top of my head. I want to say I like enemies to lovers but how can I when I only like the concept and potential but can’t think of a single example where I liked it?

Rivals to lovers, this trope’s sibling, is another good trope. Probably easier to find, but even this one you’ll mostly see in fanon. Could this have to do with rivals and antagonists often being the same gender of the protagonist? Probably, but there’s also a risk of toxicity being associated with any couple that forms out of this trope that I think a lot of writers want to avoid. There’s also the fact that in most cases love interests and rivals/enemies are planned and established from the very beginning of a story. Odds are the rival and love interest are separate characters that both interact with the protagonist on a regular basis from the start of the story. Their purposes are different. The only way enemies to lovers will ever happen is if the author planned for that enemy to eventually become a love interest.

Does that mean more authors should consider stories where the rival/enemy eventually becomes the love interest? Maybe? This could also lead to the rivalry being toned down as a result. Bottom line, it’s a complicated trope.

 

Love triangles

Love triangles are interesting to me because they seem to be consistently popular while also being one of the most criticized tropes even outside of the romance genre. Love triangles can be well written, gripping, and generally make a story better…but it’s hard. A good love triangle is hard to pull off and will usually have costs. Getting characters involved in love triangles will in most cases make them less likable. Which is fine. We all love-loving the bad guys. You know, so long as the story knows they’re a bad guy. Don’t try and make the audience sympathize with someone that’s stringing two people around. It. Won’t. Work. That is only one form of love triangles though. Not all of them are made up of this one person who is trying to pick between two people you often see pushed in many teen dramas. Love triangles can also take a form that goes more like A likes B, B likes C, and C likes A. What makes this form of love triangles work so much is that the characters know what they want. There’s love triangles where no one involved will admit their feelings because the person they like is the same person that their friend likes. You’ll grow impatient at times, but it works wonders for making the characters more empathetic. There’s also the love triangles that aren’t really love triangles and more of a hectic, love web.

An example of a love triangle I really like would be Toradora. The short lived love triangle in Orange is the New Black was well done. Gilmore Girls did a sort-of good job on the love triangle between Lorelei, Luke, and Christopher mostly just because Lorelei’s relationships with the two paralleled and contrasted in interesting ways.  Ranma 1/2 and School Rumble would be examples of the love web I described earlier. Glee would also be a contender for good love webs, and would be an exception among teen dramas. I still have issues with most of the love triangles in all of these. Toradora is the only one that gets a complete free pass.

 

Childhood sweethearts

God I love this one. It has similarities to friends to lovers but I think this trope stands on it’s own as well. Often times these stories will involve a separation of sorts. So really, it’s childhood sweethearts to strangers to lovers. There’s so much character development and character change necessary here and I love it. It has a lot of campy potential despite most of these tending to end rather sadly.

You see this one in love triangles a lot too. In most cases the childhood sweetheart looses. I think this has a lot to do with the childhood sweetheart being framed as “the safe route” and the “safe” love interest never wins. I could get into how much I dislike The Passionate vs The Safe Love Interest trope, but that’s a different blog post.

My Girl is kind of the go-to movie for this trope, I think. Though there won’t be a ‘to strangers to lovers’ part. There’s Anohana, 5 Centimeters per Second, No. 6, and do you see what I mean about the trope being cursed with sad endings.

Not much to say on this one. It’s a solid trope with not that many exceptions to discuss.

 

Friends to lovers

A trope that I think is necessary to separate from Childhood Sweethearts or Childhood Friends. Friends to Lovers often has a different pacing and tone compared to childhood sweethearts and it doesn’t run into bad endings nearly as often as the prior. What I really like about friends to lovers is that it works really well in both, dramas as well as romances that take themselves less seriously. It works in fanfiction really well (it’s the dream for most ships after all) as well written in canon. It’s an easier trope to do well.

When it comes to examples of Friends to lovers…the thing is that almost anything could technically count. There has to be some degree of friendship or acquaintanceship for romantic feelingss to develop from. I think the key is specifying long term friends to lovers.

Ron and Hermione. Easy. Toradora is here once again. Toradora is kind of perfect for a blog post like this since it’s layered with romance tropes and still manages to be amazing because it holds substance and that’s [I’m about to go on a mini tangent but I think it’s worth keeping in here] what I think is most important when it comes to tropes: does the story carrying the trope have any substance? It’s not the tropes or cliches that make a story bad. It’s how they are used and if there is anything there besides them. However, I firmly believe that it is easier to command substance from some tropes more than others [End of tangent]. Lorelei and Luke could fit here too. There’s also one of my favorite manwhas to date, ‘Our Relationship is…’. In Our Relationship the trope is the very core of the story unlike the other examples I’ve given. Please read ‘Our Relationship Is…’ it’s so good.

 

Fake Relationships

I’m just gonna come out and say it. I love fake dating stories. For one, they technically skip all the steps a usual romance takes since the chase takes a unique form. Here, the love interests are being thrown at each other’s friends and family right off the bat. They’re normally introduced to each others flaws and insecurities earlier than usual romances and if done well, do it without feeling out of place. It’s a pace I can get behind. There’s also guaranteed humor somewhere in there, which is nice.

The best part is that it’s just as entertaining to see in fanfiction as it is in canon material.

Bonus: if one of them tells their friends they’re “dating” s/o and the friends are like finally lmao, leaving the one involved having to internally question what do you mean finally we’re not even actually dating.

I just talked this trope up so much and the only good example I can think of is The Proposal. I don’t care what the ratings say, that movie is amazing. While You Were Sleeping, another Sandra Bullock movie, while I’m not the biggest fan of it personally, the movie fits the trope pretty well. There’s also…Nisekoi….I’m really not making a good argument for this trope

 

Return to Hometown

This isn’t a trope that only belongs to romances but man, if there isn’t something romantic about the concept. Something I really like about this one is that it puts the reader/viewer in the shoes of the main character. This trope can also be pretty broad. Do they meet a new person that moved into their small hometown while they were away and as a result, allow the main character to see the place in a new way? Are they forced to run into an old lover from their hometown, causing them to remember the things they loved but also hated about it? You can do so much with this one.

It’s campy. It’s nostalgic. It’s probably, definitely set in the fall or winter…which is the kind of atmosphere I can get into.

The only example of the trope going through my head right now is Kanon, which is a wonderful example please watch it if you haven’t. I looked up ‘return to hometown romance movies’ on google to see if something would spark my memory and the first search result was ‘hallmark movies’ so maybe there’s something in that pile of content I’m fine with avoiding for now.

 

Childhood Friends to Lovers

Ah. Last but not least, my absolute favorite trope, childhood friends to lovers. The best thing about childhood friends to lovers is that it can fit into almost every other trope that I’ve already mentioned at the same time. I know I’ve been saying this word a lot but I’m going to say it again: It’s campy. The campy potential is so strong. This trope is also just kind of guaranteed to be a slow burn, and I love my slow burns.

The characters have a deep understanding of each other, but often realize as they get older that there were things they might of misjudged about the other because kids aren’t exactly the best at empathy or understanding other people’s circumstances. There’s more opportunities to see character development. It shares a lot of strengths that childhood sweethearts has, the main difference being the romance comes later in this one.

Our Relationship is… fits here as well! Please read it! I’ll mention Kanon once again too. Ron and Hermione…again. Okay um. Let’s go with saying something I’d like to see in this genre more often: make it gay please.


That’s all I got for this one guys.

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Our Relationship is…(something about us/woori)

This webtoon made it reeeeaally hard for me to study last week. I would be studying terms for my history exam coming up in the next few days, and in the back of my head, I just kept thinking I need to read more chapters. I need to read more chapters. So when I thought it was time I should take a break. I would tell myself I was going to read one chapter. And then I’d end up reading like ten.

Our Relationship Is… is a perfect example of that you can have a cliche premise/plot and still manage to have a really enjoyable, good story. The two main characters, Doh Gayoung and Han Woojin are very likable characters. You know exactly what it is that they like about each other and you know when each started liking the other (at least friendwise). Gayoung at first thought of Woojin as intimidating. It wasn’t until she realized his genuine friendliness towards her and others that she warms up to him, which was hard for her due to being bullied by a close friend of hers in middle school. Woojin feels that Gayoung is someone he wants to be friends with after seeing her get along with and making his mom really happy. Something I admire the webtoon for is that it didn’t need to give Gayoung and Woojin personalities that contrasted to an extreme extent. They actually have a good number of similarities. I don’t know I just don’t see that a lot of these kinds of stories about romantic friendships.

You see how the way they perceive each other changes slightly as they get older along with their relationship dynamic changing. For example, at the beginning of the webtoon Gayoung described Woojin as carefree, however later in the story when they start dating she describes him as someone who doesn’t tell others about his issues because he’s afraid of burdening them and that he puts other’s problems before his own. It’s really interesting to see the two grow together and the problems they deal with feel more adult than one from a lot of romances. Like not having time for each other or taking their frustration out on one another due to work or familial issues.

I’m also very very very very happy that Our Relationship Is… didn’t turn into a story about an affair. When Han Woojin started dating Gayoung’s friend, which is around the time Gayoung realized her feelings for Woojin were more than platonic, I got worried that this would become a story including an affair, which would damage how much I liked Woojin and Gayoung. But to my happiness, it didn’t get to that so…yay.

I’m really surprised this webtoon isn’t more popular. It’s a really good read and I think I’d recommend it to just about anyone. The side characters are likable, the main characters are extremely likable, everything about the webtoon is likable. Well…aside from the last chapter which I have to say was underwhelming.

I heard it’s getting a live k-drama adaptation so I’m really excited for that. Maybe that’ll get it more notice.

originally posted here