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Tropes

Below is a list of tropes and typical images / plot points you'll find in the bestselling books in particular genres. Some of them will seem obvious. But what's important is they can inspire you to write novels, marketing copy and blurbs, as well as choose images for covers and promotions that will grab the attention of your genre's most prolific readers. Are any tropes missing? Feel free to contact us to let us know. 

Crime, Mystery and Thiller

Romance

Age gap

Afraid to commit

Alpha hero

Amnesia

Arranged marriage

Best friend’s ex

Best friend’s lover

Best friend’s sibling

Bet gone wrong (then right)

Blind date

Bodyguard

Bully turned nice guy

Dark secret

Damsel or dude in distress

Disguise

Emotional scars

Enemies to lovers

Fake relationship

One night stand

Forbidden love

Friends to lovers

Guardian

Honorable marriage

Injury

Innocent cohabitation

Insta love

Jilted bride

Kidnapped

Long distance relationship

Love potion

Love triangle

Loveable rogue

Lovers in denial

Marriage pact

Matchmaker gone wrong

Mistaken identity

Office romance

Opposites attract

Teacher/nanny

Pen pals

Playboy/rake in love

Rags to riches

Reality TV show

Reunion romance

Road trip

Runaway bride

Secret admirer

Secret baby

Secret royal / billionaire/boss

Secret heir

Sibling’s ex

Sudden baby (can be coupled with fling/one night stand)

Three’s a crowd

Undercover love

Vegas  marriage

Wallflower

Widow/widower

Working with the ex

Crime, Mystery and Thriller

  • Amateur Detective

  • Amnesia

  • Animal Companions

  • Betrayal by a Trusted Friend or Ally

  • By-The-Book Cop

  • Cat-and-Mouse Game between Detective and Killer

  • Clue Gathering

  • Criminal Mastermind

  • Corrupt Cop

  • Cowboy Cop

  • Dark Secrets

  • Detective with a Tragic Backstory

  • Doppelgänger

  • Family Member with a Dark Secret

  • Family Secrets

  • Femme Fatale

  • Final Showdown in a Dramatic Location

  • Forensic Investigation

  • Gaslighting

  • Hard-Boiled Detective

  • Hidden Agenda

  • Hidden Motives

  • Heist

  • International Conspiracy

  • Investigation That Leads the Detective to Question Their Own Morals and Ethics

  • Locked-Room Mystery

  • Lone wolf detective

  • Mind Games

  • Missing Person 

  • Mistaken Identity

  • Murder in a Small Town

  • Nosy Neighbor

  • Obsession

  • Perfect life / family Facade

  • Police Procedural

  • Psychological Manipulation

  • Quirky Sidekicks

  • Race Against Time to Stop a Crime from Being Committed

  • Red Herring

  • Revenge Plot

  • Serial Killer

  • Small Town with Secrets

  • Survivor Seeking Revenge on Their Attacker

  • Twist Ending

  • Unlikely Detective

  • Unreliable Narrator

  • Vigilante

  • Whistleblower

  • Witness in Hiding

  • Whodunit

Crime Scene Tape
Vintage Family Portrait

Historical Fiction

Aristocracy and nobility

Arranged marriages

Betrayal and loyalty

Chivalry and honor

Court intrigue

Cultural clashes

Dual identity and secret identities

Epic battles and wars

Forbidden love

Gender roles and societal expectations

Historical events and figures

Love triangles

Man versus nature

Moral ambiguity and ethical dilemmas

Myth and legend

Noblesse oblige

Oppression and rebellion

Political intrigue and power struggles

Protagonist as an outsider

Quests and journeys

Rags to riches

Religious conflict and persecution

Revenge and justice

Royalty and monarchy

Social class and inequality

Survival and resilience

Time travel and alternate history

War and its aftermath

Wealth and poverty

World exploration and discovery

Action

Against all odds

Badass hero

Battle in the rain

Blood sport

Car chase

Confronting the villain

Countdown to disaster

Damsel in distress

Die Hard on an X (e.g. "Die Hard on a plane")

Epic showdown

Explosions

Fight scene in a confined space

Fistfight

Heist

Heroic sacrifice

High-speed pursuit

Impossible mission

Man on a mission

Martial arts showdown

One-man army

Race against time

Revenge plot

Shootout

Standoff

Stealth mission

Superhuman abilities

Survival story

Taking down a corrupt organization

Underdog story

Weapons cache scene.

Image by Chris Yang

Fantasy

Chosen One

Coming of Age

Dark Lord/Evil Overlord

Dragons

Dwarves/Elves/Halflings

Enchanted Forest

Epic Quest

Forbidden Love

High Fantasy

Magic School

Magical Creatures

Magic Spells

Medieval Setting

Mythical Creatures

Noble Savage

Orphaned Hero

Portal Fantasy

Prophecies

Quest Object

Royalty

Sorcerer's Apprentice

Swords and Sorcery

Time Travel

Underdog Hero

Unlikely Hero

Villain Protagonist

Warrior Race

Witches/Wizards

World Building

Young Adult Fantasy

Sci-Fi

AI Rebellion

Alien Invasion

Alternate Universe

Artificial Intelligence

Bionic Body Parts

Cloning

Colonization

Cybernetic Implants

Cyberpunk

Dystopia

Faster-Than-Light Travel

Galactic Empire

Genetic Engineering

Intergalactic War

Laser Guns

Lost Civilization

Mind Control

Nanotechnology

Parallel Dimensions

Post-Apocalyptic World

Psychic Powers

Robots

Space Opera

Superhuman Abilities

Teleportation

Time Travel

Transhumanism

Virtual Reality

Wormholes

Xenofiction

Shooting
Teen

Teen

Bad boy/good girl

Best friends become lovers

Boarding school

Bullying

Coming of age

Love triangle

Forbidden love

High school hierarchy

Mentor/mentee relationship

Misfit/outcast protagonist

Overprotective parent

Popular kid falls for the outcast

Rich/poor divide

Secret societies/cliques

Small town life

Sports teams/competitions

Teen rebellion

Time travel

Tragic past/backstory

Transformation/coming into power

Unrequited love

Virginity/sexuality

Young love/first love

Literary Fiction

Literary Fiction

Artistic/musical genius

Coming of age

Cultural identity

Dysfunctional family dynamics

Epistolary form (told through letters)

Existential crisis

Flashbacks/flashforwards

Generation gap

Identity crisis

Imaginary friend/alter ego

Introspection/inner monologue

Isolation/loneliness

Journey/quest

Memory/forgetfulness

Midlife crisis

Moral dilemma

Multigenerational saga

Nostalgia for a past era

Philosophical musings

Psychological trauma

Relationship complexities

Self-discovery

Society critique

Spiritual awakening

Stream-of-consciousness narration

Timelessness

Unconventional narrative structure

Unrequited love

Witty banter/dialogue

Colourful Pile of Old Books
Horror
Image by Eugene Chystiakov

Horror

Abandoned places
Body horror

Curses and dark magic

Demonic possession

Death and dying

Ghosts and hauntings

Haunted locations

Jump scares

Monsters and creatures

Nightmares 

Paranormal investigations

Possession and mind control

Psychological trauma

Revenants and zombies

Serial killers and psychopaths

Slasher and gore films

Suspense and tension

Survival horror

Torture and sadism

Undead and the living dead

Vampires and werewolves

Violent home invasion

Witchcraft and witch hunters

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