A choice of tropes: my preferences in fiction.

I was going to write about what appeals to me in the books I give four and five stars then I saw this meme. It’s one a few of my friends have done. I think it was originally conceived for the world of fanfiction but it works for original fiction tastes too, although it doesn’t cover crime stories which I also like. If you want to play, copy and paste the whole thing then post substituting your choices.


Slow burn OR love at first sight

Slow, please. Love at first sight always seems more like lust at first sight and either unrealistic or realistic but doomed. It can be fun, but not for longer stories or novels. Besides, I like following the details of decisions made over time.

Fake dating OR secret dating

Fake dating, because it’s fun to read as it gradually turns into not-so-fake. Secret dating – if that means people are in the closet about their attraction to each other and don’t want to be seen together – no, not for me. Again, if it means one or the other is already in a relationship, it’s a no-no. Not that I don’t think it can happen, and might make a good topic for a novel, but it isn’t a trope I go for.

Enemies to lovers OR best friends to lovers

I like both. If I have to choose I’ll have best friends to lovers because, as with the previous tropes, I like the slow realisation. With the enemies trope it sort of depends why they’re enemies in the first place.

Oh no there’s only one bed OR long distance with correspondence

I like long distance correspondence fic. I find it amusing and it’s usually a nice slow burn. I’m not keen on the one bed trope – it’s been done to death, and I don’t find it all that realistic.  

Fantasy AU OR modern AU

I write fantasy… So I’ll say fantasy but I prefer urban or sci fi fantasy and don’t go much for the heroic kind unless it happens to be Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. Modern AUs are fine in their own way – I assume this mostly refers to fanfiction. I can’t be bothered with many coffee shop fics, and college fics are a turn-off, but sticking the characters of e.g. SGA in an urban American setting can be interesting. I’ve personally written modern police characters in a mediaeval setting and find using a different period/location is a good way of exploring the core character. I do think quite often the writer ends up with an original story, merely hung on the names and character traits of the originals.

Smut OR fluff

I don’t really like smut if that means erotica. I tend to skim long sex scenes to get to the next bit of plot. I don’t really like fluff, either, since I like stories to have something serious about them as well as the romance element. Above all, I’m there for the story, not the details of the sex or romance. If I have to choose, I suppose fluff. I have read some very sweet short stories but I would quickly lose interest if they were longer.

Mutual pining OR domestic bliss

Mutual pining can be interesting. Domestic bliss rarely is. The details of other people’s domestic trivia simply don’t appeal. Having said that, I do like domestic details – if the characters don’t seem to shop, cook or eat I start to suspend disbelief.

Alternate universe OR future fic

Both please. In fanfiction I’m very happy with AUs in which canon characters don’t die, or make irrevocable bad decisions. I’ll even write it/have written it. I like future fic – I think good sci fi lets us explore our own society in a new context, and the same goes for any story set in a future, near or distant.

One shot OR multi-chapter

I have read lots of short stories I’ve enjoyed, but if I have to choose, the longer the better. And I do like people to break their work into discrete chapters, preferably with chapter headings. I actually seek out trilogies, too. I have a horror of unfinished WIPs, though, so each book has to stand reasonably alone. Think Robert Jordan… until Brad Sanderson took over there were a lot of angst-ridden fans, and at the moment the same applies to George RR Martin

Kid fic OR road trip fic

Kid fic if it’s well written. But I suppose that goes for anything, really. Road trips are OK as part of a longer story but I wouldn’t choose to read something with a road trip as the focus unless it was written by a friend and I felt obliged…

Reincarnation OR character death

Neither if it can be helped. I am very wary about reincarnation or anything similar that presupposes religious premises. And I dislike major character death quite intensely though I don’t mind if someone is recovering from losing a loved one who died before the story starts.

Arranged marriage OR accidental marriage

I think arranged marriage is interesting as a concept. In fact, I’ve just written a novel based around it. I find accidental marriage unlikely and can be irritated by the trope. It almost has to be a comedy and I don’t choose comedies often.

Time travel OR isolated together

Isolated together stories (e.g. snowed in cabin) can lead to some good character exploration. I don’t like time travel much.

Neighbours OR roommates

I think I prefer neighbours. Room mates tend to be college fic or very young adult fic which is not really my scene. Neighbours demand some serious world building which I enjoy.


Sci-fi AU OR magic AU

I like sci fi – as I’ve mentioned once or twice already. I also like magical universes and write them… So both, please! If I have to choose I’ll go with the magic but be sad about abandoning the space. Having said that, I don’t much like space opera any more than I like earth-based military fiction. So it rather depends on the context.

Bodyswap OR genderbend

I’m not particularly keen on either of these. Bodyswap is difficult for authors to present in a way that lets me suspend disbelief. Genderbend can be interesting, but frankly, I’d sooner read a story about someone who was trans, or cross dressing, or something more seriously in need of fictional exploration.

Angst OR crack

What a strange pair of tropes to set against each other. I’ve read brilliant versions of both and can’t choose.

Apocalyptic OR mundane

I quite like post apocalypse future fic but am rarely keen on zombies. Mundane modern stories have to be extremely good to hold my interest over a whole novel but some authors do a fantastic job.

4 thoughts on “A choice of tropes: my preferences in fiction.

  1. Interesting answers – as might be expected, we share some and not others. I’m sure I’ve done this at some point.

    I quite like secret dating when the couple have to work together and know that if the relationship became common knowledge then this wouldn’t be possible. But not long term, just while they’re deciding whether they are going to commit or not.

    Definitely with you on the one bed trope – although watching a Poirot recently Hastings was complaining he had to share a room with Inspector Japp ‘and there’s only one bed’, which made me laugh.

    I like background domestic bliss, when it enables the main characters to get on with their work without angsting about relationships.

    And most certainly both angst and crack.

  2. It’s interesting to have to make choices, but of course sometimes I couldn’t! Some of the tropes were quite odd to set against each other.

    I recall one Pros fic where they had to share a bed because the beds had been pushed together like those big hotel ones – but if that was the case, they could have been separated. It removed the entire basis for the fic…

    And yes, I like background domestic bliss if there’s another focus to the story like a case fic where Lewis and Hathaway, or Holmes and Watson are in an established relationship, but I don’t choose stories that are only about domestic bliss.

    • Whenever I stay in one of those hotel rooms with my daughter she instantly pushes the two beds as far away as possible! I did once write a Spooks fic in which Lucas and Ros ended up sharing a bed…
      “Please tell me it’s not one of those occasions when two people are forced to share a bed and then realise that they’re meant to be together,” Lucas said.
      “You’ve been reading Jo’s trashy romances again, haven’t you? Well, I can assure you this isn’t one of them. Now lie down and go to sleep!”

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