Just in case you’re not in the know, a trope is a term used to describe a reoccurring literary device, often to the point of being cliché, and they are impossible to avoid in fiction novels. But there are so many tropes out there we don’t always realize we’re in the presence of one. Some just aren’t that common, some we actually love (breaking the Fourth wall can liven up any story), but some are just so overused, so stupid and so painful to see that it’s about time I made a list about the ones that annoy me the most.
The list is not exhaustive and entirely subjective; feel free to share your own!
#6 – Uniqueness Value
Humans value the useful, the aesthetically pleasing, and the rare — so it is not surprising that we have a deep fascination with characters, races, or objects that are unique.
As seen in: Harry Potter, Throne of Glass, Gates of Thread and Stone, Divergent, Tiger’s Curse
I like heroes who are heroes because of their actions. I like heroes who earn their status by what they do, or how they react, or even their personalities. I don’t like heroes who are heroes because they are special, because they’re the only one with magical abilities, or because they’re actually an angel, or just because they are.
I know this is very personal preference, and lots of people who enjoy reading about special people. But my heroes will always be the everyday man. The Frodo Baggins. The ones who achieve greatness, not those who have greatness thrust upon them.
Bonus – Related but slightly less annoying : Special Snowflake Syndrome
I know for a fact I’m not alone in this one. A special snowflake is a character who is special, or just believes he/she is, and demands special treatment because of it. I have had the tremendous pleasure of reading very few books with special snowflake characters, and those I have read are silently burning in the repression complex of my subconscious.
#5 – Insta-Love
Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but I’m so totally completely utterly head-over-heels in love with you and our love shall be eternal and forever omg.
As seen in: Twilight, Cinder, Fallen, Masquerade, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, The 5th Wave, Evermore, Divergent
I feel like the only people who actually enjoy insta-love in their novels are the ones who actually believe in soul-mates. The ones who are literally waiting to meet someone’s gaze across a crowded room and just…know. This consequently makes me feel intellectually superior to said people. I really can’t help it. I don’t care if it’s a matter of preference, can anyone explain why you like that shit? Why are you into something so cheesy, so unrealistic, so cringe? It shows poor writing skills, it feels fake, and oftentimes so damn forced. STOP THE INSTA-LOVE.
Bonus – Related but slightly less annoying : Longing Look or Held Gaze
If you didn’t have a problem with these tropes before, just read Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor and that will kick-start your hatred, no problem. I mean, I don’t mind if once or twice a character does that cliché look towards the character of their affection. It works better in films, but whatever. But I’ve found that if an author does it once, they’ll do it a million times within 300-odd pages. Think of the waste of paper. Think of just how often two characters just spend time looking at each other, all emotional, instead of actually getting to know each other or deepening their characterisation. And I can’t help but imagine them played by the master of awkward facial expressions, this guy:
#4 – Switching POV
The story works better when we switch up the narrative and tell it through different characters’ eyes. Often with no way to differentiate between them. Because that would involve effort.
As seen in: Gone, Heir of Fire, Stolen Songbird, The 5th Wave, Masquerade, The Raven Boys
In principle, there is nothing wrong with switching up the POV in your novel. Sometimes it really helps the story you want to tell, it’s true. But my hatred for this trope is so strong because of the amount of times I’ve seen it done wrong. It didn’t piss me off in LOTR, it didn’t annoy me in All Our Yesterdays, but that’s about it. It’s got to a point when I will sigh, out loud, when I start reading a book and discover the POV changes. I don’t even give it a chance to be good, I’ve already judged it. And that’s bad, but it just goes to show how terrible this trope can be.
I don’t care if you think POV changes adds depth to your story, if you switch it up every single chapter, if your haven’t bothered to characterize your characters enough to make their voices distinct, my head is gonna be out of that story and onto the next novel.
#3 – A slap in my suspension of disbelief
Plotholes, trope-topias, shitty messages, crappy world-building, stupid infodumping, anything that takes me out of the story and makes me say “hang on…”.
As seen in: Divergent, XVI, Cinder, Fire & Flood, Tiger’s Curse
I’ll admit, I’m very critical of novels. I know what I like, I know a good book, and as a result there are a lot of things that piss me off that don’t piss everybody off. The thing is, I think these things really should piss everyone off. If a book’s entire world is based on a plothole, I cannot get over that. If a book appears to condone domestic abuse, slut-shame, gay-bash, or anything else I am opposed to, then I cannot get over that. Unrealistic world-building will usually invoke my rage, but I admit there have been a few exceptional novels that have had so much going for them that I didn’t care about the shoddy world-building. But that’s rare. It’s not a guarantee. I will usually rage review your novel for committing any of the above crimes.
Bonus – Related but slightly less annoying : Love triangle
There is nothing more unrealistic to me than a love triangle, especially the ones that are portrayed in YA. I’ve never met anyone who’s had two guys (or girls) be utterly and unequivocally in love with them at the exact same time. But I have enjoyed a couple of books with love triangles, though I forget which ones, so I feel I have to be a bit more forgiving on this one.
#2 – Relationship Sue
A love interest, often male, who exists merely to be the perfect partner to the protagonist.
As seen in: Twilight, Shatter Me, Masquerade
There is a reason my “Book Boyfriends” list has only two names on it. I see book bloggers with dozens of names on their lists, names I recognize, and I just…don’t understand. There are far too many books out there with utterly flawless love interests, the kind that are too perfect to be even remotely believable. The kind who only exist to love and protect the protagonist, who are often a million-year-old vampire who falls in love with a clueless mortal teenager. They play the piano, quote the classics, are forces of tremendous good, yet they aren’t people until they meet the MC. And, of course, they’re always gorgeous.
I don’t understand why it’s so hard to find a book where the love interest is a well-developed character.
Bonus – Related but slightly less annoying : Mary Sue/Gary Stu
Most people with half a brain hate these characters: protagonists who are faultless forces of good and can do no wrong. Personality of a pea, often author inserts, they hold no interest whatsoever. Luckily, they’re fairly easy to ignore if you’re enjoying the plot of the book.
#1 – Action Girl
An Action Girl is a female Badass who is just as tough and kicks just as much butt as the guys do. Damsel in Distress? Not her. She proves, just by existing, that girls aren’t just “not helpless”, they’re strong.
As seen in: Snow like Ashes, Divergent, Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner Trilogy
I cannot stress this enough, just because your protagonist is a girl who can wield a sword, does not make her a strong, female character. It doesn’t mean you can do away with any other form of characterization; you haven’t got it covered just because she’s as strong as the boys. NO. Stop doing this.
There are plenty of MCs out there who are fighters but also have a personality. That’s great, but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the ones who have no other personality apart from being kickass. Which, in some authors’ minds, equals feminism. Look, women can fight too! Just like men! No. I get what you’re doing, but that’s sexist towards both men and women. Give us flaws, give us a person, give us some strength to admire that’s not physical. Give us brains, give us kindness, give us a bitch if you have to. Don’t tell us that equality can be defined by physical strength and nothing else.