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5 Worst Tropes in Fiction

To begin, a disclaimer: these are my own personal opinions. There are readers who adore these tropes and will consume them with pleasure (otherwise, I doubt they’d be so prevalent!). There are examples of books that adopted these tropes so well, even I can’t hate. No matter what you enjoy reading or writing, keep enjoying it! As the saying goes, you can’t please everyone. I’ve had readers beg me to stop killing the characters they love…and I have no plans to do so. With that in mind, let’s dive right into the five tropes that make me want to put a book back on the shelf for good.

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5. Only the innocent/virgin girl survives (The “Final Girl”)

Admittedly, this one applies to the horror genre. I find it more in films, but there are examples of it everywhere. The 2012 hit film Cabin in the Woods poked fun at this trope. Why? Because it’s ridiculous and predictable.

From the time the group of teenagers or young adults enter the Creepy Setting of Doom, it’s pretty easy to guess who’s getting munched first. Minority character in the book or movie? Say goodbye, he’ll be the first to die. A couple sneaks off to hook-up in the corner? See ya later! Drugs or alcohol come out to play? Yep, that character is gone.

For some reason, the only person to make it to the end is the pure, chaste character who tried to warn her idiot friends. There are never any adults (or if there are, they’re either evil or too stupid to figure out what’s going on). The other characters suck almost as much as the monsters they’re facing, so you don’t feel too terrible when they end up dead. The only character left standing happens to be the only one with any decency. If only her friends listened to her…

For the love of all things creepy, make it stop! I love seeing a strong female protagonist survive and succeed as much as the next feminist. But, the “final girl” is usually not much of a badass. She’s just the only person in the book with an ounce of common sense. I’d rather read about a female MC who battles her way through the Big Bad to reach the end using her wits or strength. The obsession with ‘purity’ is, quite frankly, boring.

4. He hurts her because he *loves* her.
This is a trope that will irritate me enough to return a book. I don’t mind reading about toxic or abusive relationships if they are depicted as such. Let’s be honest: in the real world, love ain’t always beautiful. That’s not what I’m talking about here, though.

I’m talking about books that feature and glorify relationships with physical or emotional abuse, extreme power imbalances, or other dickish behaviors in the name of “love
.” Sure, he took her car keys before he left for work, but it’s not because he’s controlling! He’s protective and wants to keep her safe! He chased away all her family and friends because he’s ‘territorial,’ not crazy and jealous. He only hit her because she wasn’t listening, she needed it! They’re so cute, right? Vomit.

I have no idea why this is so wildly popular in fiction these days. Maybe it has something to do with the archetypal Bad Boy being ‘saved by love.’ Perhaps some readers find it hot. Don’t care. Do not like, and will not read. There are other ways to depict an emotionally unavailable character or a troubled relationship. ‘He hits her because he loves her’ is about as far from sexy as it gets for me.

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3. The Love Triangle
This one has been done to death. It’s been done so many times, it’s hard to write a love triangle readers won’t roll their eyes at. For one, the character’s end choice is usually pretty obvious to everyone but them (did anyone expect Bella to pick Jacob? Come on). Love triangles don’t make me speed through books to see who the MC picks. They make me cringe and roll my eyes, and I generally find the MC rather selfishStringing along two love interests because (s)he “can’t decide who they love more” is unfair to both love interests. It’s cliche, and it cheapens the eventual romance for me. After all, MC couldn’t love their choice that much if they struggled so hard with the decision.
2. The Mary Sue
Imagine knowing someone in real life who was perfect in every way. Her hair and skin were always flawless, even if she said she spent the night sleeping in her car or camping in the woods. She’s strong, but not unapproachable or aggressive. She always knows the right thing to say. She never makes a bad decision or a mistake. You’re pretty sure her farts smell like a garden in the springtime.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine wanting to be friends with this chick. I wouldn’t have anything to talk about or relate with her on. Her constant perfection would get on my nerves more than it would endear me to her.

Guess what?

Readers feel that way about Mary Sue characters, too.

Humans are flawed by design. That’s part of what makes them so interesting to write about and compelling to read about. We make mistakes. Even the most successful people have flaws. Characters without flaws feel unrealistic at best and boring at worst.

And the trope I hate the absolute most is…

beautiful beauty bloom blooming
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1. This was all a dream!
If it’s not obvious, I read and write a lot of horror/thriller/suspense type stories. Plot twists and surprise endings are my not-so-secret addiction. The single worst plot twist imaginable is a story ending with, “And then she woke up.” Or it was all a hallucination or any other variation of “none of this actually happened.” It’s a lazy way to write an ending, and many readers (myself included) might feel like it’s a betrayal of the time and emotions they’ve invested in the storyI love seeing mental illness in fiction, especially when the mentally ill character isn’t the antagonistUnless you can pull it off as well as Shutter Island, if the whole story turns out to be one giant hallucination/dream, I will hate you.
How about you? Are there any tropes in fiction that get under your skin? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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