Right now, Wattpad HQ is very focused on what it means to have an engaging story. How engaging a story is is determined by its ability to not only catch your readers’ attention, but also to keep it. One of the best ways to do that is by using tropes, and using them well. Wattpad readers LOVE tropes and using tropes in your writing is a fun way to engage (or subvert!) your readers' expectations. While everyone has their favorite tropes, the romance landscape is constantly evolving and how to best use romance tropes is too. Today, we’re ranking some of the most common romance tropes on Wattpad—from the hardest to gain engaged readers to the easiest to hook a reader with.
Bullies to lovers
Bullies to lovers is a trope that needs to be handled very delicately in order to work. To write an engaging love story, you need to have characters that readers actually want to root for. A love story that readers can feel good about believing in. However, it is hard to do that when you first see a love interest intentionally inflict harm on or bully the character they are supposed to end up with. It is best to steer away from a character bullying their future love interest. Instead, you can create more reasonable disagreements among these characters in order to establish their initial conflict, allowing the reader to enjoy the natural progression of the relationship.
This trope can be very difficult to execute in a way that both keeps and maintains a reader’s engagement. It usually has one character keep the existence of their baby a secret until they reconnect with the other parent years later, where they finally discover they have a child. The issue with this trope is that it begins with both characters hurt in some way. There has to be a reason why the birth-giving parent hid the child from the other parent, and the other parent may feel betrayed that the existence of their child was kept from them for so long.
Crafting a backstory that justifies that decision without sabotaging the reader’s investment to a future relationship is tricky and if not done well, can hurt the engagement of the story. As the creator, you must heavily consider both characters’ motivations for their initial actions and how that will be received by readers. Consider what boundaries are necessary to stay within in order for this love story to feel believable and comfortable for readers to root for.
Depending on how this trope is written, it can delay the anticipation that readers want to experience in a love story. By forcing characters into a marriage at the start of their relationship, there is naturally a conflict that can get readers intrigued. However, the conflict may outweigh the romance, making it more difficult to keep readers engaged initially. In order for this trope to grab the readers’ attention, there should be early foreshadowing that these characters will develop romantic feelings for one another. That way, the reader knows that there is something they can root for, which will help them feel more engaged with the story from the very beginning.
Similar to forced marriage, the forced proximity trope needs to be handled delicately. Readers want to believe that the characters are choosing to be together. Removing their agency can make the ship feel more like a coincidence, rather than a romance, which may not feel as engaging. However, if this trope is utilized after the characters already have some romantic development, it can help build, rather than undo, how engaging the relationship feels to readers.
This trope can be engaging if executed correctly. While the secrecy of a romance with a character’s boss may seem spicy and engaging, there are so many factors that need to be considered in order to maintain the reader’s attention. Some factors that are important to consider include:
- Can you ensure that the subordinate feels like an equal in the relationship?
- Can you clarify that any relationship issues that may occur will not also result in professional repercussions for the subordinate character?
These questions are important to consider because while readers will initially be engaged with the relationship dynamic, knowing both characters feel equal in their romantic relationship will help maintain the reader’s interest and attention in your story.
Only one bed
This is another trope that can be super fun when it is handled well. Once again, stories that are most engaging have both characters actively consenting and engaging in intimacy. This trope works best if, even if there is only one bed, there are alternatives available (i.e. a sleeping bag, blanket on the ground, etc.), but the characters still choose to share the bed. This can make the romantic arc more engaging because it leaves the reader wondering why they agreed to share the bed, and what this could mean for their relationship development.
If done correctly, this trope has the potential to be a hit. The mystery of what happened between the characters the first time around will have the readers engaged and theorizing. Little hints and foreshadowing before the reveal of what ended the relationship initially can add to a reader’s intrigue.
However, the reasoning behind why they ended their relationship the first time is what truly determines how engaging the story is. The risk of conflict from their past is possible, but the ability to move on from it with their second chance gives readers hope. Readers want to be able to see the characters have the ability to recognize their past mistakes in order to root for them getting back together and having their happily ever after.
Enemies to lovers
Enemies to lovers is a very popular trope as it can be incredibly engaging. Having two characters that initially clash shows they have some sort of passion for one another. Being able to slowly see their passion develop from animosity to romance can be so engaging for a reader. However, it is important to stay focused on your trope and not accidentally fall down the path of bullies to lovers. Make it clear that while both characters mutually dislike each other at the start, they are able to reasonably get past that in order to fall in love.
Friends to lovers
Friends to lovers is a cute, wholesome, and engaging trope. Seeing two characters who already deeply care for one another realize they have romantic feelings for one another is intriguing. Readers will likely notice the chemistry between the characters before they even do canonically. The anticipation for what will mark the turning point in the relationship is what will get the reader hooked on this love story and keep them interested throughout.
The fake dating trope never gets old! Regardless of the reason why the characters decide to start fake dating, it establishes from the beginning that they have some intrinsic connection towards each other… Whether they realize it yet or not. While the characters may think they are just doing romantic acts to maintain appearances of their fake relationship, readers will be picking up on the chemistry developing.. The ability to fall in love with their romance before the characters do, and closely follow along, eagerly waiting for when they will acknowledge and finally admit to their clear feelings? That is engaging and something readers will never get tired of.
First loves is a trope that completely captures what it is to be an engaging story. Experiencing a first love is something that all readers can either relate to or are aspiring to one day have. That personal connection to a trope will always make readers feel more interested in the characters and the story. Readers follow along as these characters have their meet-cute, first kiss, first conflict, and first love confession, and feel as if they are experiencing this love story right along with the characters. This is a trope that will have the potential to tell the perfect romance and have the readers engaged the entire way through.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of all the romantic tropes out there, but we hope that this can give you the idea of what challenges to look out for when writing certain tropes and which tropes our readers are eagerly still wanting more of.
Learn more about how to hook your readers and keep them engaged in Story School Episode 02: Immediate, Engaging, Commercial.