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.
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.
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.
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.
Readers feel that way about Mary Sue characters, too.
And the trope I hate the absolute most is…