Do Not Fear the Archetype, the Trope, or the Formula

Meredith Bond
4 min readDec 3, 2023

As a romance author I hear this all the time: “Oh, I don’t read romance. It’s all the same.” Or “I would never write romance, it’s just formula.” Or “Writing romance must be so easy, you just follow the formula.”

Well, friends, let me tell you, mysteries follow a formula. Sci fi, fantasy, and thrillers do as well. Nearly all books follow a “formula”. It’s called a story structure and if we didn’t follow it our readers would either be confused or dissatisfied. Unless you are writing “literary fiction” all readers expect the same thing to happen at certain points in the story.

Open a blank white notebook, pen and cup of coffee on the desk

Ready for it? Here’s the formula:

· Inciting Event

· First Major Turning Point

· Climax

· Dark Moment

· Resolution

That’s it! That is the formula for writing a book. Easy right? Just fill those in and — boom! — you’ve got a story!

Now wait a minute, I hear you say, those are just the major beats that can be found in nearly all pieces of fiction. That’s Freytag’s Pyramid. You probably studied it in your English class in high school.

Well, I’m sorry to say, that is the formula used by romance authors. There is no other. It is the basis of all stories.

So, do romance authors write to formula? Sure we do! Just like every other author of popular fiction.

Well, hang on a minute, what about tropes? All romance characters are the same. There are only so many tropes those characters fall into. It’s true. There are some standard tropes used by most romance authors. There are also tropes used by authors of every other genre.

Is this a bad thing?

No, it is not!

Using a trope is a great place to start creating a character. There is a definition to each trope that can be used to start thinking about the character you want to create. But, please, do not feel bound to the trope. It’s only a place to start. In all likelihood, once you create a backstory and the character’s internal and external goal, motivation, and conflict, you are going to end up with a very different, very unique character.

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Meredith Bond

Award winning author, Meredith Bond's books straddle that beautiful line between historical romance and fantasy. Merry is also a writing coach and formatter.