I read a lot of books and watch a lot of movies and shows. Naturally, I see a lot of tropes show up again and again and there are a certain number of them (fourteen, to be exact) that I would be fine if I never saw again.
Disclaimer: I’m not saying that anything with these tropes is automatically the worst thing in the world. These are just things that I’m sick of seeing.
NO RYAN GOSLING! THIS IS ANNOYING AND UNREALISTIC!
This is probably the number one annoyance I have with romantic subplots in books. Like, I get instant attraction or even instant connection of some sort, but you can’t base a long term relationship on one interaction with someone! You can’t know someone for a day and decide you’ll give up everything you’ve ever known for them!
I think my main problem with this trope is that it feels lazy. Most of the time, I just don’t understand why these two people are suddenly in love and willing to sacrifice anything for each other because there’s not enough development of their relationship. It feels like the writer didn’t want to put the effort in, so they just explained it away as “a magical connection.” It’s hard to support a relationship that I know next to nothing about.
Thank you, Elsa.
flat love interest
This one tends to go hand-in-hand with the last one. You know when there’s a relationship in a book and the POV character keeps gushing about their person and you’re just sitting there thinking like???? Why??? I don’t know anything about this person and you expect me to believe that you’re in love with them??
Another symptom of lazy writing is when a character exists only to be a love interest and not get much, if any, character development of their own. Instead of rooting for the two characters, I’m left wondering why they’re even attracted to each other. Presumably, the POV character knows as little about the love interest as the reader does, so it makes no sense to me that they would even want to be in a relationship.
overly attractive characters
Look, I get that writers want to create attractive characters. But . . . there’s a point. Once I read about how gorgeous the MC is, and the MC’s love interest, and the MC’s best friend, and the MC’s best friend’s love interest, I start to roll my eyes a little. Sure, attractive people tend to flock together. But what about us ordinary looking people? I just want to read a book about a plain looking character. (And not a character who claims they look plain and is incredibly attractive to everyone around them. Because come on.)
To absolutely nobody’s surprise, I am as sick of this trope as the rest of the world. Remember that 2012-2013 period when everyone was divided between “Team Gale” and “Team Peeta”? That broke up friendships, my dudes. I almost had to fight my entire soccer team on this subject.
But yeah, the love triangle has been beaten to death in the past few years and I think we’re all ready for it to be done. I’m not saying it can never be done well, but the way it tends to play out has gotten trite and predictable.
Brooding Male Protagonist™
“My entire family was killed by my enemy and I’ve been hunting him since that day and I’ve killed ten men with my bare hands this morning and I have no emotions except anger and I’m so repressed that nobody can understand me (except this conventionally attractive white girl who exists solely to cry at my backstory).” Yeah, you know the type.
This tends to be more of an action movie trope, but I know we’re all pretty tired of it in every genre. Hey, writers of the world? Let men have emotions.
“born sexy yesterday”
I watched this fantastic video on this subject and it honestly changed my life. You know when a (female) character comes into existence/goes into a new world as a fully formed adult but with little to no understanding of the world, so she has to rely on a male protagonist to teach her how to act? She has the body (and sexuality) of an adult but the mentality of a child and is completely reliant on her male companion. And . . . when you think about it, it’s pretty gross. Once you start seeing it, you can’t unsee it, and I’m already tired of it.
(FYI, Wonder Woman (2017) does a great job of subverting this trope.)
“why? because I’m a girl?”
“Hey [female character], you can’t do this thing.”
“Why? Because I’m a girl?”
“No, because [perfectly reasonable explanation].”
It took me a long time to figure out why this one bothered me so much, but I think it’s because it makes the female character look paranoid or unreasonable. Historically, women have been left out of so many situations for sexist reasons, so women have every right to be suspicious of how they’re treated. But in this scenario, she’s portrayed as irrational while the male character is applauded for not being sexist. And it’s annoying.
“not like other girls”
Everyone wants to be special, but telling a girl that she’s not like other girls is, frankly, insulting. It’s putting down an entire gender to raise up one person. Also, it’s implying that being “like a girl” is a bad thing! It’s a total backhanded compliment, because on the one hand it’s saying “you’re special” but on the other it’s saying “other girls are bad.” Is it really so terrible to have feminine traits?? What’s so bad about that???
It’s also really annoying when a female character describes herself in this way because it’s 100% internalized misogyny and it sucks.
the “smurfette principle”
This trope is where there is an ensemble cast who are all male, with one female character as the “token girl.” Obviously, this is the Smurfs, but also think of the Avengers, the Star Wars original trilogy, Stranger Things, and so many more. It makes it so clear that creators don’t see women’s stories as important, and they just exist to prop up the men around them and add a tad more diversity to the cast. It’s even better when that single female character mainly exists to be a love interest. Like, come on.
This is another trope that fully has to do with internalized misogyny. Seems like this often happens when writers (*coughcough* male writers) have the smurfette principle and then introduce a new female character just to create conflict between the two. Because two women obviously have to hate each other because they’re jealous about their potential threat to their relationships with men, right??? Yeah, no. It’s annoying and lazy and trite, and in my experience, when a woman is alone with a group of men and another women comes along, those two immediately become allies! The last thing they do is isolate themselves. (Isolation for women can be dangerous. You want allies.)
changing first person POV
This one is more my personal preference than anything else. It annoys me when there’s a changing POV in a book and they’re both in first person. I’m totally fine with third person POV shifts, but it takes me a while to get used to who the “I” in the story is, and it’s just confusing when it’s switched around! I’m not saying this can’t be done well or that I would never read a book with this in it, but it’s not something I particularly enjoy.
Not even the “it was all a dream” trope. I’m tired of writers including long sequences that are just a character’s dreams. Like, I get that they’re supposed to be reflecting the character’s state of mind and showing what’s preying on them and possibly foreshadowing what’s to come and throwing in some heavy-handed symbolism, but it feels lazy to me. There are so many other ways of showing what a character is feeling, and dreams don’t tend to do anything to move a plot forward. (The exceptions being in books like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, where the dreams are often visions more than anything else.)
Now this is just pure laziness. If your only characters are straight while able-bodied men, you’re not even trying. There’s this argument that nobody wants to read/watch media about minorities, but this is literally untrue??? What about those minorities??? People love seeing themselves represented, and if it’s done well it can add so much to a story! There’s no excuse at all for a lack of diversity. Diverse casts reflect the real world better than non-diverse casts, anyway. And in fantasy/scifi, you have complete control over the world you’re creating, so why on earth (or not on Earth, as the case may be) would you create a world with the exact same attitudes toward gender and race and sexual orientation as our world?
disappearing parent syndrome
This seems to happen a lot in YA, where teenage characters go off and do their thing without parents being present or concerned at all, even when the kids are getting into some crazy stuff. It’s basically an excuse to let the characters do (almost) whatever they want without concern of consequences. And it’s pretty unrealistic, in my experience. When I lived at home, my parents always wanted to know where I was. I couldn’t have run off to some magical world for a week without them freaking out! Also, relationships between kids and parents can be so interesting and compelling when well written.
Time for me to get off my soapbox and stop ranting, I guess. I could probably go on for days and days about tropes that annoy me, but I’ll stop here. Again, not saying that a book/movie/show with any of these tropes is automatically bad – some of my favorites actually have one or more of these tropes. But they’re all things I could really do without in the future.
What tropes are you tired of seeing? Do you agree with any of mine?