- Millionaire hotty heroes
- Lost loves regained
- Arranged marriages
- Unknown baby stories
- Overheard conversations
- Ugly duckling stories
- Marriage of convenience
What writers need to understand is that using a trope is fine, but misusing a trope (or multiple tropes) does result in a story that sounds formulaic. This will also lead to stories that come across sounding very forced and unnatural.
We see this a lot in series romance. Authors have this assumption that a particular series line has to have a plot that is constructed 100% around those tropes. Take, for example, the Harlequin American line. When you read the description, you can see how easily an author can fall into the trap of overusing tropes:
You love small towns and cowboys! Harlequin American Romance stories are heartwarming contemporary tales of everyday women finding love, becoming part of a family or community—or maybe starting a family of her own.
But here is the thing. The real element that makes a story great for the American line is the second part of that description. "...heartwarming contemporary tales of everyday women finding love, becoming part of a family or community - or maybe starting a family..." The comment about the small towns and the cowboys would be the trope elements, but this does not mean it IS the story.
Digging deeper into the submission guideline information further supports that the tropes DO NOT make the story:
Stories showcase comforts of home
Strong family elements such as pregnancy, young children...
Please note, there are suggestions of certain tropes (cowboys, ranchers, law-enforcement) but this does not mean you have to incorporate all of these.
When we talk about using tropes, we are basing these ideas around common themes market research is showing that the readers like and gravitate to.
The thing to remember is the trope does not make the story. As seen is this single submission guideline, it is the theme that creates the story. It is the theme and the message that dictates the plot you want to use and the characters that you want to tell that story.