“The course of true love never did run smooth.” ~ William Shakespeare
This quote got me thinking – which is the point of these quotes, after all. One of our main jobs as romance writers is to make sure Shakespeare’s axiom lives and breathes in our stories. If the course of our lovers’ true love ran smooth, who would want to read the book? We have to constantly figure out new ways to torture our characters and keep them apart.
Or do we?
One of the biggest complaints about romance novels by non-romance-novel-readers is that they’re all the same; they’re too predictable. We all know this is baloney. The number of individual treatments of the same broad themes is limited only by the number of romance writers. We could each write a story based on the same basic plot, and each story would be unique. Just look at what the Roses of Prose can do to a Christmas story starting with the same first line!.
That being said, there are a number of popular, tried-and-true romance plots that have stood the test of time. I came across this list on a loop many years ago.
- Secret Baby
- Cinderella (rags to riches)
- Opposites Attract
- Second Chance/ First Love Rekindled
- Love Triangle
- Marriage of Convenience
- Beauty and the Beast
- Sleeping Beauty/Ugly Duckling
- Fish Out of Water
- Forbidden Love
- Mentor/Protégé (boss/employee)
- Princess/Pauper; King/Beggar Maid
- Bad Boy/Good Girl (or vice versa)
- Best Friends
- The Road to Adventure
Nearly every romance novel I can think of is some version of one or more of these basic plots. When I look at my own published books I can see that Harvest of Dreams is basically a Bodyguard story. A Man Like That is a Bad Boy/Good Girl. The Treasure of Como Bluff is a Fish Out of Water. And Unwritten Rules is another Bodyguard story.
Certain tropes resonate with us while others leave us flat. For example, I’d be very surprised if I ever wrote a Blackmail/Revenge or Mentor/Protégé story. They just don’t push my buttons. Which are your favorites to read? To write?