Horror Romance Subgenre: Tropes in Horror Romance

A trope is a well-known story convention or plot device. You can find many examples of tropes at TVTropes, a comprehensive tropes wiki. If you browse the wiki, you’ll find that tropes tend to have names/labels, though they will vary depending on the community discussing them. For example, fanfiction communities will often have unique names for their tropes.

By nature, tropes come about through many stories using the same conventions. Horror romance, being a small subgenre with a modest number of successful stories within it, does not have many tropes. But dark romance, a broader romance subgenre, has cultivated many. Like horror romance, dark romance can incorporate frightening subject matter, but the content of dark romances doesn’t have to be scary. Instead, these stories can include non-heroic characters and/or situations which are distressing but not necessarily fear-inducing.

I recently wrote and published a nonfiction book about M/M romance tropes. In this post, I’ll share the definitions of three tropes from the book which could make appearances in the horror romance subgenre.

One of the main characters is a supernatural creature, and the other main character is human. Almost always, the supernatural creature is humanoid or some type of human/creature hybrid. Examples include werewolf, vampire, ghost, witch/warlock, mage, etc.

In a horror romance story, the paranormal main character could be the horrific element. Though paranormal romances generally present the vampire, werewolf, etc., character as mysterious and alluring, in a horror romance, this character would retain their horrific qualities.

Stockholm Syndrome
One of the main characters kidnaps the other, and their romantic relationship develops over the course of the captivity

This is a classic dark romance trope which could veer into horror if the captor is someone truly terrifying such as a serial killer.

Dubious Consent
In erotic scenes between the main characters, at least one character’s willingness to participate in the sex is ambiguous. For example, they have not explicitly consented, they have said no but are secretly happy about participating (not the same as rape play, though, which is explicitly consensual), they are reluctant but end up enjoying the sex, and/or external circumstances mandate that they participate in the sex, which has removed the ability to consent. Dubious Consent lends itself to darker, angstier romance stories.

Another classic dark romance trope, dubious consent can often come into play as a result of one character’s fear of another.

It is my hope that one day horror romance expands to include a wealth of tropes and therefore many more than just these three.

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