The Ultimate Romance Trope Master List
by Greer | Content Lead | Writing Tips | Planning
Love 'em or hate 'em, romance tropes are here to stay. And for one good reason: they work!
How many could you name off the top of your head? To save you the headache, we have compiled the ultimate master list of all romance tropes for your perusing ease. Yup, you're welcome.
Want to see what the We Got Story audience voted as the best romantic tropes? Check out Top 30 Romance Tropes!
What Exactly Are Tropes?
Have you ever had a niggling feeling reading a new book that - gasp - you are reminded of a plot you have read before? It happens, and likely because the author has used a trope or two within their story. A trope is a theme or literary device which has been used in numerous works for a similar impact. In fiction, this is usually a type of plot line or character/sitation which has appeared often enough to be recognised by readers. Many are genre-specific but others can straddle multiple.
Tropes exist in near-all genres out there, and are not restricted to literature! TV shows, movies, music - they get into every nook and cranny. The 'Final Girl' trope is a popular sight within horror flicks, and science fiction enjoys playing around with the concept of parallel universes to comedic or tragic effects.
However, romance takes the cake when it comes to successful, if at times overused, tropes. The options ahead of you may be a tad overwhelming but take your time and enjoy our ultimate master list of romance tropes - in alphabetical order in case you want to check if your favourite is here!
Ultimate Romance Trope Master List
Against The Odds – A couple in love fight against the odds, overcoming all obstacles which naturally come up against them.
Age Gap – Two people with a distinct age difference become entwined, often to other’s alarm.
Afraid of Commitment – One or both partners struggle with commitment or downright refuse to see it as an issue.
Alien Romance – Our protagonist falls for an alien creature, possibly through abduction or needing to look out for their love on earth.
All Grown Up – Characters reunite after one or both of them has had several years to mature.
Alpha Hero – The protagonist navigates a relationship with a domineering, strong-willed and possibly financially powerful hero.
Amnesia – One half of a romance suffers from permanent or temporary amnesia, forgetting all or part of their live and possibly their love for their partner resulting in the journey to love once more.
Anti-Hero – The romantic interest plays an anti-hero role, being the unwilling saviour and gaining adoration despite not acting like the typical ‘good guy’.
Armed Forces – One or more of the characters work within one branch of the armed forces, usually in uniform and displaying disciplined characteristics.
A.I. - The protagonist falls for some form of Artificial Intelligence, such as a robot, and must face the principles and relationships between man and machine.
Arranged Marriage – Romance ensues right before or after an arranged marriage.
Athlete in Love – One or both romantic leads are athletes.
Au-Pair – The protagonist finds romance, usually abroad, after taking on the role as au pair within a household.
Bachelor(ette) Auction – One character is ‘bought’ by another at some form of charity auction for some form of experience such as a date.
Bad Profession – One of the characters greatly despises another’s profession, bringing out the question can a compromise or sacrifice be made or will principles overrule.
Beauty and the Beast – The romance stems from a traditional beauty or handsome individual and someone considered unattractive or beastly. This can also be linked to good and bad natures.
Belated Love Epiphany – One character realises their feelings for another very late (perhaps too late).
Best Friend’s Ex – The protagonist begins to have romantic notions towards their best friend’s ex, causing feelings of guilt or betrayal.
Best Friend’s Sibling - The protagonist begins to have romantic notions towards their best friend’s sibling and must face the barrage of awkwardness.
Beta Hero – Unlike the Alpha Hero, the Beta Hero is a more reasonable and measured love interest who is considerably less forceful and may also be less confident.
Betrayal – The protagonist is betrayed by their lover, either through misunderstanding or deliberate acts.
Billionaire – One character (usually the love interest) is extraordinarily wealthy and their life reflects this.
Bisexual Notions – One character is bisexual and is able to have romantic feelings towards both genders.
Blackmail – The protagonist is blackmailed, either by their love interest or another, into entering into a relationship or more.
Blind Date – Romance blossoms after a couple who have never seen each other meet on a blind date
Blind To Love – Romance blossoms after a couple who have never seen each other meet on a blind date.th their leading man or lady, usually fighting the opinion of others who see it clearly.
Bodyguard – One of the characters acts as a bodyguard to another, protecting them from danger, leading to romantic feelings to bud.
Boss and Secretary – Romance, whether mutually or one-sided, sparks between a boss and an underling (usually in a secretary-like position).
Boy Next Door – The protagonist develops feelings for a male living very close-by and uses a lot of their energy watching them in everyday life. This male is usually sweet-natured and uncomplicated.
Break Up To Save Them – At one point in the story, one half of a couple breaks up with their partner in a form of self-sacrifice because they believe a very real threat or negative outcome will befall their partner otherwise.
Broken – One or more characters in the story are in some way ‘broken’, leading to difficulties in the relationship and the notion they may be fixed back together by their partner.
Bully Crush – The protagonist falls for their old bully, confronting their past fears and seeking some form of retribution or apology.
Can’t Confess – One or more characters develops feelings they cannot confess to for some reason, usually leading to prolonged emotional pain or a sudden outburst of love.
Celebrity – One of the romantic leads is famous, for example an actor, musician, writer, personality, sportsperson etc.
Christmas Love Story – The main bulk of the story takes place during the Christmas period, and the settings and atmospheres reflect this.
Circle of Friends – Three or more protagonists who share a social or working group search for love and explore relationships.
Coming of Age – Usually a story of a first real love, whether a sweet innocent romance or dark attraction to the wrong person.
Coming Out – One of the characters decides to reveal their true sexuality or identify which leads to a romantic interest. The character may undergo a physical, mental or emotional journey (or all three) while exploring this new relationship.
Countryside – Typically one character from the city finds themselves within a countryside environment where they meet a local, causing sparks to fly and a tussle between two mentalities and customs.
Cowboys – One or more of the characters is a rancher, ranger or something similar, displaying qualities akin to the American Frontier hero (strong moral code, courage, integrity with perhaps a dash of chauvinism.
Cursed – Typically found in fantasy-romance, one or more of the characters finds themselves cursed and the help from their love interest is the only thing that can save them.
Cyborg-Human Romance – The protagonist falls for an electronically enhanced cyborg, part human, part biometric. This may be due to an accident, experiment or something similar.
Damsel In Distress – One person finds themselves in a bad situation and requires saving from another.
Dangerous Attraction – The love interest is physically, mentally, or emotionally dangerous. This person may be a criminal or shows a degree of being an abuser.
Dare Setup – One half of a couple is dared to pursue the other half by a third party, with genuine feelings possibly developing later.
Dark Secret – Though a romance exists between two characters, one harbours a dark secret, for example within their history, intentions, identify etc.
Dating Game – The protagonist enters the world of dating, getting involved in the likes of speed dating, blind dates or the digital age version of online dating.
Disguised Hero/Heroine – The love interest or protagonist establishes a romantic connection whilst being in disguise, either deliberately or accidentally.
Divorced…Or Not! – A couple who believed themselves divorced finds out their separation was not completed and that they are, in fact, still married.
Dominant Male - One of the characters is a dominant male, possibly into BDSM but at minimum continuously demonstrates a dom-like attitude and actions towards a submissive partner.
Dominant Female – One of the characters is a dominant female, possibly a dominatrix or into BDSM but at minimum continuously demonstrates a dom-like attitude and actions towards a submissive partner.
Enemies to Lovers – The protagonist detests the hero, usually due to an antagonist history, yet attraction develops and eventually love.
Fake Date – For one reason or another, two people agree to pretend to be together. This could be to impress at a family wedding, make an ex jealous or mutually help one another achieve a desired effect, however they begin to catch real feelings along the way.
Fairytale Retelling – A classic fairy tale, such as Cinderella, is given a modern or otherwise different twist. Maintaining the bare bones of the original story and bringing it into the 21st century is one example on how this can be done. Sometimes, heroes and villains trade places as you discover the original story may not have been as straightforward as you first thought.
Female-Female-Male – Usually found in erotic fiction, this involves a romantic entanglement between two females and one male.
First Love – The protagonist reunites with their first love , such as a high school sweetheart, and together they explore how each has matured and changed with the possibility of a rekindled romance.
Fish Out of Water – The protagonist comes from a small town to the ‘big city’, or from the big city to a small town, and is wholly unprepared for the differences, eventually falling for a strongly-abled local who helps them find their feet.
Forbidden Romance / Star Crossed Lovers – A couple falls in love despite coming from two extreme places, with family and friends forbidding the relationship causing the couple to defy their orders to be together.
Forced Close Proximity – Against their will, a couple are made to be close with one another, initially causing negative responses but eventually they bond. This ‘close proximity’ could involve being trapped in a small space like an elevator, forced to work together on a project, or cohabit a space such as a home.
Foreigner/Outsider – One of the characters is not native to the place the story is set. This could involve cultural differences, languages, or just being from out-of-town.
For The Kids – A couple are pushed or somehow manoeuvred together because one or more children desire the two of them to be together – this could also work in reverse with a couple being pushed apart because their kid(s) don’t like the romance.
French Love – The protagonist falls for a French love interest. Though many romance stories include a variety of nationalities as ‘heroes’, the Frenchman has always been a favourite.
Frenemies – Two people straddle the line of being friends and rivals (frenemies) until they begin to fall for one another or develop strong physical attraction.
Friends to Lovers – After being friends for a considerable time, two people begin to feel attraction to each other. Debating whether or not to risk the friendship is usually a sticking point.
Gay For One – An otherwise straight protagonist finds themselves attracted to someone of the same sex. That other person may be gay, bi or straight, but nevertheless they must work through the complicated new emotions coming to the forefront.
Ghost – Either one or both romantic leads are ghosts.
Girl Next Door - The protagonist develops feelings for a female living very close-by and uses a lot of their energy watching them in everyday life. This female is usually sweet-natured and uncomplicated.
Grieving Widow – The protagonist finds themselves attracted to a widower who has not long lost a spouse or lover in death.
The Guardian – One character, typically male, is charged of looking after a younger character who, when they become of age, falls for their protector. The charge may come from some self-imposed responsibility to care for the younger person or through some legal/practical reason.
Hidden Identity – The protagonist conceals their true identity or uses a fake persona to hide their connection to events or a group, usually relating to their history.
Holiday Romance – The protagonist travels abroad and meets a captivating stranger, through their intense passion has an expiration date as the return journey looms.
Home for the Holidays – The protagonist returns to their hometown for some event, such as a national, cultural or local holiday, and reunites with someone from their past or a newcomer to the area.
Incest – The protagonist falls in love with a sibling or other close relative, either knowingly or unknowingly, and this leads to intense conflict and tension within their family and in society. Rarely used outside of fantasy or period dramas.
Injury – A character is badly injured in some form of accident and is either permanently or temporarily unable to continue as normal. They may require assistance physically or emotionally, which a love interest may enter to facilitate.
Jilted Lover – A character must contend with being scorned, for example left for another lover, left at the alter or otherwise kicked aside. This could be the protagonist, or the antagonist who deems themselves done wrong by another and seeks vengeance.
Kidnapped – The protagonist is kidnapped but steadily, and usually against their better judgement, falls in love with their captor. The kidnap trope also works with someone needing to be saved.
Learn to Love – The protagonist seeks to learn a new skill and falls for their instructor/teacher/mentor.
Long Distance Romance – The main couple struggle with the problems connected to maintaining a relationship long-distance.
Love At First Sight – Two characters instantly feel deep attraction or love for each other after meeting or seeing each other for the first time.
Love/Hate – The protagonist struggles to cope with newfound romantic feelings towards someone they have become accustomed to hating.
Love Potion – At some point within the plot, a love potion is used (or is intended to be used) on one character to manufacture romantic feels towards another.
Love Triangle – The protagonist is torn between two lovers and must wrestle with their contradicting feelings to choose their eventual partner.
Magical Hero(ine) – The protagonist or their lover possesses a magical ability, such as a witch or warlock, or has psychic or supernatural powers.
Makeover Time – The protagonist undergoes a physical transformation which then catches the eye of the romantic interest. There are also many takes on this trope where the real romantic interest knew of their beauty all along, and must fight the more shallow newcomer for the beauty’s affections.
Male-Male-Female – Usually found in erotic fiction, this involves a romantic entanglement between two females and one male.
Marriage of Convenience – Two character get married to solve one or more problems that have nothing to do with genuine feelings, though that may change as the story progresses.
Marriage Pact – Two characters agree to get married in a certain situation, for example when they both reach a certain age.
Mary Sue – The protagonist (usually female but can also easily be male) is a protagonist found most often in romance than any other genre. They are usually fairly perfect, acting as a conduit for the reader to experience the love story from their eyes without any jarring characteristics which would make them stand out. It is typically an insult to use this term, as most writers and readers dislike this type of character, yet Mary Sues exist in countless romantic novels so it is not a trope dying out anytime soon.
Matchmaker – Two characters are set up together by a mutual connection, their matchmaker.
Matchmaker Goes Wrong – One character acts as matchmaker to two other people and regrets it once they realise they have feelings for one of them.
May-December – This romance is a love affair between two characters with a 15-25 year age gap.
Medical Romance – Romance blossoms between two people, at least one of which will be some form of medic (doctor, paramedic, vet etc). The second person may also work in the same field, making it a workplace romance too, or be a patient.
Mediterranean Romance – This story will largely take place in the Mediterranean and involve a lot of location-specific sights, activities and customs. Usually one half of the couple will not be from the area and may be visiting, and their love interest will be a devilishly beautiful hero from Europe, such as Greek, Italian, or Spanish, and possess Alpha Male tendencies.
Mermaid Magic – One or more characters will be mermaid/merman-like and possess similar Undine-like characteristics.
Mistaken Identity – The love interest mistakes the protagonist for someone deemed ‘more important/impressive’ and the protagonist goes along with it, at least in part.
Mistress – The protagonist finds themselves the ‘mistress’ of a very desirable but also very taken lover.
The Nanny – The protagonist hired to be a nanny winds up being the object of desire of their employer or someone in the household.
New Girl – One of the main characters is new to the school/workplace/area and becomes the instantly wanted ‘new girl’.
Not Good Enough – The point of view that one or both of the main characters is considered not good enough for the other is held by anyone in the story.
On The Rocks – A couple who were once together find their way back to one another.
One Night Stand – What was supposed to be one night of passion only turns into an extended connection.
Opposites Attract – Both characters are polar opposites in a number of ways (e.g. attractiveness, beliefs, deposition, social standing, moral compass etc) yet still are drawn to each other. They find that they complement each other pretty well.
The One That Got Away – One character had a great love in their life before, but they lost them. Usually thig happens without them realising the loss, and they are left with bittersweet memories. Any second love has a hard time helping them past this.
Parent-Teacher Crush – A parent develops romantic feelings for their child’s teacher. Usually the parent is single. This may also play out with the teacher having a crush on a student’s parent.
Partners Against Crime – Usually a crime-fighting duo, such as a lead detective and their partner, find love as they strive to keep their town safe.
The Playboy – The lifelong playboy character finds themselves considering hanging up their player threads to be with someone who does not fall for their charms, or the protagonist sets upon a notorious playboy to improve them.
Pen Pals – Two people who have only ever corresponded in writing (handwritten or digitally) develop romantic feelings, usually meeting and exploring the relationship in person.
Political Marriage – An arranged marriage takes place within the story for political reasons, such as to create an alliance between two strong forces.
The Politician – One character is a politician, typically at odds with their love interest on a number of issues.
Priest Crush – The protagonist finds themselves attracted to a ‘man of the cloth’, unable to engage in a romance due to restrictions.
Prisoner – The protagonist is incarcerated in a prison or similar facility and starts to feel romantic notions for a fellow inmate or guard.
Prom Date – A main crux of this story is the finding of a date to a prom-like dance.
Rags To Riches – A previously dirt-poor character finds themselves suddenly extraordinarily wealthy.
Return From The Dead – Brought about by a faked death or false reporting on their demise, the protagonist is shocked to find their past love ‘return from the dead to rekindle their romance. Romantic horrors may also include someone really dying and returning somehow, with sinister explanations.
Revenge – Within the story, either one half of the main couple or a third party seeks vengeance for a past wrong-doing, wrecking havoc on true emotions.
Rich Vs Poor – One half of a romantic couple is very wealthy, the other is very poor, and together they face the many obstacles such differences create in a blossoming romance.
Riches to Rags – One character who was initially very wealthy finds themselves losing their money and status, and must struggle through the new life they find themselves with.
Rivalry – Attraction suddenly sprouts between two characters who usually see each other as rivals.
The Rock Star – A sub-set of the ‘Celebrity’ trope, the Rock Star is typically romantically linked to a nobody who sees another side to them others don’t. The rock star lifestyle or the celebrity status causes issues, with one usually needing to adapt to another’s way of living.
Royalty – One or more of the characters is a member of royalty. This could lead to arranged marriage issues between royal families, ‘Prince and the Pauper’ romances, or take a multitude of other forms.
Runaway Bride – A main character decides last minute, usually on their wedding day, not to go through with a marriage. They run and are either pursued by their jilted love or they meet someone they are better with.
Second Chance Romance – After breaking up, a couple have a second shot at happiness. Usually they have changed enough to not make the same ‘pivotal mistake’ they made before.
Secret Admirer – One character discovers they have a secret admirer who makes themselves quietly known through gestures, notes or gifts. This can easily turn dark if the secret admirer is profoundly jealous of any other love rival, and takes their feelings to the extreme.
Secret Baby – After having a baby in secret, the protagonist must deal with the father re-entering her life wanting to be the father he didn’t know he was.
Secret Billionaire – The protagonist or their love interest keeps their extreme wealth secret to test the love of another.
Secrets & Lies – Someone close to one of the main characters reveals a secret or tells a lie which causes the couple to break up without explanation. There may also be a true antagonist behind this with the intention of replacing one of the two in a relationship.
Sexuality Confusion – One of the characters becomes confused as feelings for one gender goes against what they thought their sexuality to be.
Shape Shifters – One or more characters have the ability to shape-shift.
Shared Pasts – The main characters have a shared history that they must confront and resolve in the present.
Sheikh Hero – A ruler of a fictitious Arabian land, tribe or country is the love interest of the protagonist. Usually this ruler is different in the sense they may disrupt the norm and go against expectation.
Sibling’s Best Friend – The protagonist develops feelings for their sibling’s best friend, usually causing emotional confusion as they develop their own relationship separate from the sibling.
Sibling’s Ex - The protagonist develops feelings for their sibling’s ex. This leads to feelings of guilt and betrayal as they try to work out if their feelings are bigger than the risk of the friendship.
Single Parent – One character is a single parent and kindles a romantic attraction with another, navigating the complications of single parenthood and introducing a new person into the family.
Small Town – The plot is mainly set within a small, quaint town, though such places may also conceal sinister undercurrents (think: suspense romance).
Social Standing World Apart – The lovers come from wildly different social scenes, with each being from one extreme, such as extremely wealthy and popular to poor and lonely.
Soul Mates – Regardless of the obstacles (of which there are many) the romantic pairing know they are meant to be together and nothing will take the place of the other.
Stranded Together – Whether it is at an airport when flights are grounded or in a log cabin waiting out a bad snow storm, the characters are left more or less with each other as company and they must stick it out or work together to resolve the situation.
Superman Complex – A love triangle with only two people, there is a case of mistaken identity where one person is mistaken for being two different people (much like Superman and Clark Kent).
Step Siblings – Family life gets a lot more complicated when one or both step siblings start to feel attracted to the other, possibly also stemming from a familial love which becomes romantic.
Teacher Crush – The protagonist develops romantic feelings for their teacher or mentor.
Terminal Situation – One character is terminally ill and together the couple do what they can to help one another through the heart-breaking time.
Time Traveller – The protagonist falls for a time traveller, but their love is strong enough to make them keep seeking each other in different places and times.
Transgender – One or more of the characters is either pre-transition, in the process of transitioning, or has fully transitioned from one gender to another. Typically part of the romantic plot will deal with different character’s feelings towards the transition.
Trauma – The protagonist suffers from something in their past, such as abuse, sexual assault or some other trauma, which causes issues in relationships until a specific person comes along.
Twin Swap – Love mayhem ensues when identical twins swap places and unintentionally become romantically entwined with someone their twin would never normally be with.
Ugly Duckling – A character once considered ugly in their youth is found to have grown into a beauty, usually finding someone from their past is now pursuing them.
Undercover Romance – A character finds themselves in a romantic entanglement whilst undercover, pretending to be a different person with different motives.
Unexpected Heir/Inheritance – A character discovers they inherited a vast fortune or empire once someone unassuming or distant passes away. This may put them in the path of a different type of person or butt heads with someone angry at the result – cue romance.
Unexpected Parent – When a friend or family member unexpectedly dies, a protagonist finds themselves becoming guardian of one or more children. This sudden parenthood leads them towards a new love interest who is connected to the children.
Unexpected Pregnancy – After a one-night-stand, a couple find themselves pregnant and they must work together to decide what they do. This may also involve the father abandoning the expectant mother, bringing in a third party ‘saviour’ to safe the day.
Uniform - One or more of the characters is in a profession which requires a uniform, for example a police officer, fire feature or doctor.
Unrequited Love – This devastating trope sees one person develop strong romantic feelings for another who does not return the feelings.
Vampire - One or more characters is a vampire. If only one, they or a human develop a strong desire for the other. Some stories include vampirism as part of their physical interactions, and in others they don’t. This may also reach to other mythical beings.
Drunk In Vegas - two characters find themselves alarmingly wed after a night of drinking and sharing vows in a Vegas-style wedding. They must deal with the consequences or try to undo their mistake, usually falling for each other more in the process.
Virgin - this troop can be used in a variety of ways, for example one character may see another’s virginity as some form of ‘prize’ to be won, or the virgin may be keen to lose their virginity to a specific individual.
Wallflower – One character is a shy bystander, unassuming and otherwise ignored until someone takes a romantic interest in them.
Want Different Things – This to-and-fro dynamic balances on the one fact: both characters want very different things, either in life, family, romantically or something more mundane-but-immovable.
Weddings - A romance blossoms at a wedding, for example the protagonist may run into an ex, meet a new suitor, or be paired up with someone they do not initially like.
Werewolf - Either the protagonist or their love interest is cursed to turn into a werewolf. The curse may be broken or it is a simple case of navigating the romance with this ‘hindrance’.
Working With The Ex - The protagonist must work or complete some form of project with their ex partner, initially resulting in negative emotions but eventually lead to a rekindled relationship.
Workplace Love - This romance takes place within our workplace environment.
Wrong Side of the Tracks – Either the protagonist or love interest falls for a ‘diamond in the rough’, usually from the bad side of town and with a very different homelife. This challenges their relationship, possibly with opposition from friends and family.
Did we miss any? Let us know over on the We Got Story Instagram page or shoot us a message in the Contact Us section! Check out these related posts to get more romance knowledge in your life!
Want tips like these sent straight to your feed?
Connect on Instagram!