I am literally SO EXCITED to talk with you about my favorite and least favorite writing tropes today! I wasn’t 100% sure at first whether I was going to include this in my writing discussions, but it’s such a fun topic that I figured why not?
Before we begin, I’ll go ahead and define what the word “trope” means for those that may not be familiar with it. A “literary trope”, according to Wikipedia, is described as “commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs, or cliches in creative works.” Tropes can be things like “True Love’s Kiss Breaks the Spell,” “The Evil Stepmother,” and Love Triangles, just to name a few.
My Favorite Fictional Tropes:
- Love Triangles Done Well. Most people hate love triangles with a passion, and normally so do I, but as long as they’re done well, I really enjoy them! What do I mean by done well? I mean that the love triangles can’t be two boys and a girl or two girls and a boy just thrown into a book and they need to fight for who gets to love who. If a love triangle is the entire plot of the book, then I’m not interested. If the love triangle is cheesy, I’m not interested. If it’s inserted in the book just because the author thought it’d be neat and there’s no depth to it or real reason for it to be in there, I’m not interested. When a love triangle is done horribly, we wind up with this: Exhibit A (I see you, The Hunger Games).
- Love as a Subplot in general – normally between the main character and a side character, but two side characters falling in love are super sweet too. I normally don’t prefer to read an entire book about a romantic quest, but I do feel like a romantic subplot adds more depth to a book, depending on what kind of story you’re trying to tell. Clearly this is why my books tend to have a romantic subplot. 😉
- The Girl with the Tragic Past. Honestly, one of my favorite tropes to write or read about. I love to see how these characters take shape and grow, learning not to live in the past but to embrace the future. Bonus points if there’s friends and a love interest involved that reminds her that she is wanted and loved and that her past doesn’t define her. (For those of you that have read Smoke and Mirrors, I’m sure you can see how big of a deal this is for me. <3)
- SASSY BOYS. All the sass. Though in all honesty, I prefer snarky male side characters over snarky male main characters (the exception being Percy Jackson). Jesper Fahey from Six of Crows is one of my favorite snarky characters ever. That being said, I’m not super good at writing snarky characters. I am a snarky person in moderation and depending on who I’m around, but one of my pet peeves is people that don’t know where to draw the line between snarky and downright rude. Because of this, I tend to have snarky sayings or expressions in my books, but never any snarky characters. I just feel like I’d do a poor job of writing them. 😉
- Anti-heroes. Anti-heroes have recently become a bigger deal with authors like Holly Black and Victoria Schwab absolutely nailing them. Anti-heroes are described as “morally grey” characters, meaning they’re doing their best to be good but honestly they make more mistakes and do more on the border things instead of being the Perfect Hero(tm) who saves everyone and never makes poor decisions. I haven’t written an anti-hero yet, but I’m hoping to experiment in a future novel…
- Tragic Backstories. Tragic backgrounds for characters in general are my favorites. Of course, you do have to get a little creative if you have a huge cast of characters; you don’t want them all to have some variation of the same exact tragic backstory or you’re dealing with a huge, problematic cliche. But I do enjoy painful backstories, both in reading and in writing.
My Least Favorite Fictional Tropes:
- Characters with No Backbone. Unfortunately there seems to be a problem in fiction where vulnerability = whiny, wimpy, unlikable characters. This is highly disappointing to me. Yes, strong heroes are likable in stories and we do need them. But vulnerable characters can still be badass. I really wanted to show that in Smoke and Mirrors with Christina’s character, and I really hope I pulled it off well. We need strong, vulnerable characters, not characters that show “vulnerability” by being flaky wimps. That isn’t the proper way to show characterization.
- Love Triangles Done Wrong. I think Exhibit A was enough said, don’t you? 😉
- Cheerleaders and Jocks are Bad People. This is one of the worst ever tropes in fiction, and I don’t even understand why it’s still around. Being popular in a public school or in college doesn’t mean that the popular kids can’t have souls or feelings or problems of their own. Being popular doesn’t always mean you go around being mean to everyone. It’s just so stupid. Please stop.
- Character Must Show No Emotion to Seem Cool/Tough. This is another huge disappointment in fiction. Emotions help us care about the characters more. Crying, or just feelings in general, are not a sign of weakness for either female or male characters.
What are some of your favorite or least favorite tropes to read or write about? Can you identify with any of the ones I mentioned above?