The “No!” Tropes List

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.

tropes listThe “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.

Are you sick of these tropes too? Lend us your voice to help promote our crowdfunding campaign and create original and inclusive fiction.

Breaking Tropes: Looking for a Different Kind of Werewolf

Cuil Press is all about breaking tropes. Mostly we focus on breaking tropes that are actively harmful to people. Tropes like Sexy is Evil, the Magical Minority, or Asexual=Prude.

But some tropes aren’t harmful–they’re just done to death.

Werewolves are awesome. But how many books do we really need about hierarchical werewolf packs where everyone bows to the (male) alpha, and a mystical tie joins mates for life?

Or the dark, brooding (again male) vampire whose world is turned upside down by romance?

And while we get the appeal of having a hot, sexy, billionaire fall in love with plain-jane and sweep her off her feet (Be honest: most of us would love to be jane -or john-in that scenario. The wish fulfillment is awesome.)–haven’t we seen it enough?

Cuil Press is currently accepting manuscripts, and one of the things we will be looking for is stories that are different–that break the standard tropes. Maybe by having a werewolf story about an asexual werewolf in an egalitarian pack–or maybe by not having werewolves entirely.  Maybe it’s time for some stories about selkies or tengu instead.

If you are breaking tropes and trying something different in your fiction, we’d love to hear from you.