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What is a Marriage of Convenience Trope?

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A marriage of convenience trope has been used in storytelling for centuries. While it may seem like a simple plot device on the surface, there’s actually a lot of complexity that makes this trope so compelling for both authors and readers.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the nuances of a marriage of convenience, why it remains a popular trope, and what readers can gain from stories that use this trope effectively.

What is a Marriage of Convenience?

A marriage of convenience centers around a couple who marries for reasons other than love. There is no romantic feeling between the partners initially. Rather, they enter the marriage arrangement to serve some other practical purpose.

Some common scenarios that fall under the marriage of convenience trope include: A marriage done for political or financial gain, such as merging wealth, land, or alliances between families/kingdoms. A marriage used as a cover for one or both partners’ true sexual orientation, which may be taboo or illegal at the time.

A marriage where one partner provides protection, resources or status for the other in exchange for something like heirs. A marriage meant to legitimize an illegitimate child or inheritance. Regardless of the specific scenario, the defining aspect is that the marriage is primarily a business arrangement or one done out of necessity rather than passion.

The Appeal for Authors

For authors, the marriage of convenience opens up intriguing possibilities for crafting dynamic relationship development. When two people are thrown together by circumstance rather than choice or affection, it sets the stage for interesting character arcs.

A marriage of convenience introduces juxtaposition from the very first page. Partners who never chose each other must now cooperate as a married couple. They come to the arrangement with differing agendas, backgrounds, wants and needs. There is built-in conflict which drives the story forward in an engaging way.

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Authors can explore how initial indifference, distrust or even hostility between the partners evolves over time. As the couple interacts more, small acts of kindness, shared experiences and understanding can plant the seeds for other emotions to blossom—like respect, care, comfort and potentially even love. It’s a transformation that keeps readers turning pages to see how the partnership unfolds.

The lack of choice also introduces poignancy. A arranged marriage highlights both personal freedom and societal expectations. Characters may feel trapped by their circumstances or yearn for what could have been. This complexity adds layers for readers to ponder.

Overall, a marriage of convenience is a rich source of dramatic tension and character growth potential for authors to tap into. It launches relationships off on an intriguing non-traditional footing.

The Appeal for Readers

For readers, the appeal lies in the promise of an evolving relationship that isn’t instant or easy. We become invested in seeing two people overcome their differences and unwilling beginning.

The marriage of convenience satisfies a desire to witness intimacy develop gradually through adversity. Readers can relate to characters who aren’t perfect soulmates from day one. We root for partnerships that are built through small moments of understanding rather than grand, perfect declarations.

By its nature, a marriage of convenience introduces doubts, prejudices and reluctance that people likely felt in past eras of arranged marriage. Readers identify with characters struggling to find connection despite barriers. We want to believe two individuals can work through hardships to discover caring where before there was apathy or even hostility.

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This hopefulness is a large part of the appeal. A marriage of convenience assures us that feelings, once planted, can blossom through perseverance and compassion. It’s an inspiring message that love isn’t easy but can grow from unlikely places when nurtured.

For romance readers especially, a marriage of convenience hits all the satisfying plot beats – mutual dislike transforming into mutual respect and partnership, then companionship, vulnerability and finally love against the odds. It’s a journey that keeps us glued to the final pages to see our investments in these characters rewarded.

Variations and Subgenres

Due to its flexibility and character development potential, the marriage of convenience trope works across many genres and contexts. A few popular variations include:

Historical Romance

Historical romance is a natural home for marriage of convenience plots. The social and political customs of past eras provide legitimate reasons for arranged unions. Readers enjoy experiencing different historical settings and customs through this trope.

Romantic Comedy

A marriage of convenience introduces plenty of comedy potential as incompatible spouses butt heads. Their sharp tongues and misunderstandings entertain readers before inevitable softening occurs.

Fantasy/Sci-fi

In speculative genres, marriage alliances could unite species, factions, or planetary houses. Cultural and physiological differences between partners bring richness.

LGBTQ+ Stories

For LGBTQ+ characters historically, a marriage of convenience offered protection from persecution by providing a false heterosexual facade. Modern spins explore self-discovery within such marriages.

Young Adult

Teen protagonists finding independence within unconventional family dynamics make for compelling YA fiction empowerment stories.

So while grounded in tradition, the marriage of convenience continues reinventing itself across subgenres to new audiences and eras. Its flexibility ensures this trope remains fresh and adaptable for storytellers.

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Building a Believable Marriage of Convenience Story

While initially dramatic and compelling, a marriage of convenience must feel credible to keep audience investment long-term. Here are some tips for crafting a believable portrayal:

Establish clear motivations driving each partner to agree to the arrangement. Both sides need believable stakes. Develop multifaceted characters on opposing sides of the match who feel like real people, not caricatures.

Show natural friction and tensions emerge as strangers adjust to intimacy and cooperation as spouses. Avoid rushed resolution. Introduce nuanced feelings that evolve gradually, from tolerance to understanding to affection, through shared experiences.

Highlight societal pressures and expectations that maintain barriers as the relationship deepens. Address logistical matters like living arrangements, public presentation, intimacy levels over time. Complicate the dynamic with additional cast members’ motives, clashes or misunderstandings.

Foreshadow happier outcomes without rushing there. Earn relationship milestones through ongoing challenges and growth. When built with care and nuance, the marriage of convenience can depict realistic relationship progression that resonates long after the final chapter.

Conclusion

The marriage of convenience trope has stood the test of time due to its rich storytelling potential and affirming themes of relationship growth through challenge. While socially driven unions raise complexity, this trope assures readers that intimacy can form where there was once apathy or hostility given willingness to understand another fully as an individual.

For authors, it launches dynamic character arcs and invites social commentary. Readers remain engaged by slow-burn relationships that feel authentic rather than perfect from the start. Variations across genres attest to this trope’s versatility.

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