Writing Tropes with Amy Ruttan

This week author Amy Ruttan shares about writing tropes. She has a new book out this month, Baby Bombshell for the Doctor Prince

Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Amy fled the big city to settle down with the country boy of her dreams. When she's not furiously typing away at her computer, she's a mom to three children.
Life got in the way, and after the birth of her second child, she decided to pursue her dream of becoming a romance author.

Connect with Amy Ruttan over the web:

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Writing category, is a different little beastie than a single title book. I often get asked, what’s the formula and while there is certain beats that you have to hit to write a category romance, sadly there’s no formula.

My life, and my deadlines, would be so much easier if there was a secret formula. Alas, there isn’t.

However, there is a certain promise to the reader. There are hooks and there are tropes. A good rule of thumb that I’ve learned over the course of 27 books with Harlequin, is to have 2-3 tropes per book.

The first thing I ask myself when I’m writing a proposal or thinking about a new book for romance (which isn’t just aimed toward category) is what is keeping the hero and heroine from finding their HEA. And it’s not just the hero and heroine, whoever your two main romantic protagonists are, that’s what you should be asking yourself.

What is keeping them from finding their happily every after with each other.

That’s when I take a look at the tropes and the hook. Tropes are always tried and true devices that are the promise to the reader. When you pick up a certain series line, you know that line will deliver what you like.

Hooks can be either well known or brand new. They dictate characters reactions with others and to situations.

 For example: “I was burned in love, but now I’m stuck working with my ex, who I miss and they’re now my boss” [Reunion Romance, Forced Proximity, Workplace Romance and depending on the characters, the hook could be Alpha Hero, Doctor, Military, Royalty]

It makes you question more about the character. Who they are, why they’re forced to work with their ex? What happened to break them up? Already, there is conflict building with just those simple devices which will be a definite obstacle to your characters HEA.

A well crafted category that can stand out is adding unique twists to reader favourite tropes & hooks. Each line has it’s favourite tropes too, I’ve listed some of the more popular ones before.

Category romance is a short book that packs a powerful punch, so adding tropes and hooks really helps tighten in on the focus between hero and heroine. In a short piece of work the focus really has to be on the hero and heroine and what is keeping them from reaching a HEA and how are they going to overcome these obstacles. It’s an emotional journey.

There’s not a lot of room for overcomplicated plots and secondary characters. You have to hook the reader and pack that emotional punch.

Common Popular Tropes:
Marriage of Convenience
Secret Baby (especially twins, I find)
Working Together/Workplace Romance
Forced Proximity
Jilted Bride
Runaway Bride
Mail Order Bride
Enemies to Lovers
Blackmailed Bride

Popular Character Hooks
Bad Boys
Alpha Hero
Single Parent

I love the movie The Proposal. When it came out in 2009, it was before I sold to Harlequin and it really helped me understand how to pack an emotional punch. It was one of the movies I dissected a bit to learn my craft.


The Proposal with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds

TROPES: Marriage of Convenience, Boss Romance, Enemies to lovers, forced proximity

The Boss, Margaret (Sandra Bullock) has to propose to her employee Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) so that she can stay in the country.

HOOK: He really wants to be promoted to editor, she can make that happen. Also, Margaret is the boss. It’s flip in gender dynamic. It’s also a nice fish out of water story. City girl Margaret thrown into the “wilds” of Alaska.

As we learn more and more about Margaret and Andrew, we start to not hate Margaret so much. We see what is driving her, no family, orphaned, bad relationships because men were intimidated by her. And we see what drove Andrew, his bad relationship with his father and not meeting his parents expectations. And we see the characters GROW and open up, together. Margaret isn’t so closed off and cold. Andrew, he finally stands up to his father to fight for what he loves which is editing and books.

With every scene, ask yourself, what has changed for your hero and heroine? In what ways has that particular scene altered their relationship? How has this particular scene moved the internal conflict of your characters on, either making them more wary or more trusting of each other? Thinking along these lines will help make sure the pace of your story stays up as each new scene moves the romance along in some way – your characters aren’t just standing still – they’re going on an emotional journey.

A great writing craft book on finding the best beats to category romance writing is Gwen Hayes Romancing the Beat. I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s one of my go to writing craft books.

Also, read the line you’re interested in. Read the newest stuff in the line your interested in so you get a feel of what editorial is looking for. Reading the older stuff in the line is great, but you really want to read their newest stuff when you’re targeting a specific category.

When I was going through the revision process before I was signed with Medicals I was told to read Amy Andrews.

Do you have any questions about tropes? Are you struggling with it? Can you pick out your favourite tropes from your common rereads? Inquiring minds would like to know!

Baby Bombshell for the Doctor Prince

His secret: he’s a prince!

Her secret: she’s carrying his baby!

After ER doc Lev Vanin shared one unforgettable night with gorgeous Dr. Imogen Hayes, he never expected to see her again. He couldn’t tell Imogen he’s actually a prince! But when a revolution at home forces Lev into hiding, he ends up working in Imogen’s hospital and his secret is out! Plus, Lev’s life is about to be turned upside down once again…because Imogen’s pregnant with his heir!

Buy on:

Amazon Aust                Amazon UK

Harlequin US                M&B UK


Apple Store                   Harper Collins UK 


  1. It took a while for me to really get tropes. Now I feel more comfortable with them. Whatever you do, don't go to Don't do it. I'm warning you.

  2. It is lovely to see Amy's work featured across the blogosphere.

  3. It was very interesting to read, stay safe and healthy everyone ☺

  4. It's hard to find English books here and English authors are translated into French. Often the title changes too and I am a bit lost. I always try to read in the original language and not the translation.

  5. Great explanation of the things to consider when you're writing a romance novel!

  6. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Amy.

  7. That list of tropes is interesting – I can see most would result in situations were it would take time for the couple to find happuness.

  8. What an interesting post. I saw the movie The Proposal and love that Amy dissected it and learned more about her craft from it. Thanks for sharing. Amy all the best!


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