At Cuil Press, we have what we call the “No!” tropes list. This is a list of popular tropes in fiction that we absolutely do not want to see. A manuscript with a “No!” trope is a manuscript we will not be publishing.
The “No!” tropes list is continuing to grow as we, sadly, find more and more tropes and clichés in media that we never want to see in our books. While we can’t give you the complete list (again, it’s always growing) you can find a partial list here.
For today, we want to give authors and readers some idea of what is on the list and the kind of things we want to avoid. With that in mind, here are three of the top items on our “No!” tropes list:
The White Savior and Mighty Whitey:
From TV Tropes:
This trope [the White Savior] is about a plot where an ordinary, ethnically-European (white) person meets an underprivileged non-ethnic-Euro character. Taking pity on the other character’s plight, they selflessly volunteer themselves as the other’s tutor, mentor, or caretaker to make things better.
Mighty Whitey is usually a displaced white European, of noble descent, who ends up living with native tribespeople and not only learns their ways but also becomes their greatest warrior/leader/representative.
In both of these tropes, the protagonist is the white (usually man) who is saving the PoC side-characters.
Deconstructions of these tropes will be considered if done well.
Rape as Romance
Rape fantasies are a thing, and we respect that. But rape culture is also a thing. And conflating rape with romance is just way too common in the romance genre. If you want to pitch us rape fantasy erotica, we’ll take a look. If your romance has rape or sexual assault as part of the romance plot, even the “romantic” kind, you know—
“No.. We can’t…” but his hands felt so good and she couldn’t bring herself to push him away. She felt herself melting under his impossibly skilled mouth. Finally, she couldn’t hold back any longer. She twined her hands in his hair and returned his kiss.
Look, the moment she said “no” and he didn’t stop? This became sexual assault. And if this is in the romance arc of your manuscript, it will end up in the permanent circular file.