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Emails to my Therapist

What’s Your Trope? Even better than: What’s Your Sign?

Dear Nicholas, A curious new kind of personality labeling has evolved out of the world of books and book reviewing. I only just learned about it as I’ve been getting the word out about my own new novel. The trait is your preference in tropes in stories you read.  What is a trope anyway? And what’s yours?

The traditional definition is an over-used plot device or phrase. The new way of using the word–new to me at least–is as a label for the kinds of stories you or I seek out and like.  I’d never consciously identified a pattern in my own choices.

Also new. It’s no longer a negative term. It’s simply a handy label.

Here are some of the popular story tropes. You can use these online to find books that fit these very specific descriptions.




#unexpected baby





And so on. There are hundreds more.


Here I am being cool and talking tropes on TikTok video, online hangout of young people.



I discovered that to draw attention to the upcoming (May 1) publication of my novel I need to use tropes. My Life On Earth And Elsewhere is a fantasy story about a teenage girl with an astral boyfriend.(“mesmerizing…magical …compulsively readable,” say advance reviews,) So what kinds of tropes are effective for drawing people to info on this book?  What works is #shyguy #loveinotherrealms #tenderhearted #beautifulalien. And a weird one that’s very popular: #therapydupe.  I’m guessing this suggests that my novel is somehow emotionally therapeutic.




I never would have guessed that a substantial number of readers are looking, consciously or unconsciously, for stories about shy guys in other realms.

When I told my friend Jan about this trope business, she started thinking of her own preferred tropes.

She immediately identified hers as #womenspiesinworldwartwo.




I realized that one of mine in books is urbanintellectualsincomplicatedrelationships. In my choice of TV and movies, I favor #attractivetroubleddetectivefindinglovewhilehuntingmurdererincoastalsetting.

What does that say about either of us? I’m not sure. But to me it’s just as interesting as “What’s your sign?” or that INFJ Myers Briggs stuff.





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  • Robert Braxton
    April 19, 2023 at 2:14 pm Reply

    I S T J – raising my hand

    • Peggy Payne
      April 19, 2023 at 2:26 pm Reply

      Yes, but what’s your trope, Bob? Or one of them. I do think most of us have more than one. Sometimes I get tired of troubled detectives.

  • kenju
    April 19, 2023 at 2:27 pm Reply

    Or even more interesting! This is a new thing for me – never heard of it before – but then I don’t read as much as I used to – pre-cell phone/laptop era.

    • Peggy Payne
      April 19, 2023 at 2:30 pm Reply

      Was entirely new to me, too, kenju. (Do keep in mind you can read books on phone and laptop.)

  • Peggy Payne
    April 19, 2023 at 2:48 pm Reply

    Friend Robert Braxton has just sent me a link to a quiz for identifying which character trope I am. Which of the stock characters in stories that I most exemplify. I took the test and I’m The Skeptic In A Ghost Story. This is not a good test. In real life, I seek ghosts. I long to meet one. But here’s the link. I hope it’s not a scam.

  • Anonymous
    April 19, 2023 at 6:55 pm Reply

    This trope idea is fun. But I know it will morph into something I no longer understand so can no longer play. My trope is definitely “cute meet happily ever after.” I’m not complicated!

    • Peggy Payne
      April 20, 2023 at 11:20 am Reply

      Sounds as if you have a good trope firmly installed, Anon. And I think there will always be a good supply of stories like this.

  • April 20, 2023 at 2:48 am Reply

    tropes seem a useful shortcut. bob

    • Peggy Payne
      April 20, 2023 at 11:18 am Reply

      Yes, and you told me yours many years ago: battle between large forces of good and evil with good prevailing.

  • April 22, 2023 at 4:42 pm Reply

    yeah, that’s me

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