The word “trope” is used to describe commonly recurring literary devices, motifs and clichés in creative. Clichés are usually viewed as a bad thing, but that’s not the case every single time, at least when it comes to tropes. Tropes, as overdone as they are, are usually what keeps the genre going forward in the world of literature and/or entertainment. They’re safe, they’re familiar, they’re comforting, and they’re usually what helps people connect stories to each other, like, when someone goes “If you love ______, then you’ll love _____.”
You’ve probably heard the phrase “The same…but different” before, which basically means that editors and agents of creative fields want something that seems different, but actually has a lot of qualities that have been used before. What I’ve deduced is that people want the same basic plot points to have as a comfort blanket, but they still want a new twist on it that makes it new, exciting, and original. Easier said than done, believe me…
Below here is a list that I generated thats composed of tropes that typically appear in the books/genres that I tend to read: Sci-Fi/Fantasy (both Adult and YA), Romance, a splash of Mystery and a dash of Horror. Some tropes I love and can’t get enough of…but then there are some I roll my eyes at, and hope that something else saves the story, so help me god…
Tropes that I Love:
- Fake Relationships. Whether it be to make someone jealous, to have a last minute date for a wedding, or to bring someone home to meet the parents, two people pretending to be in a relationship, then *gasp* unexpectedly falling for each other for real before their deal is up is a romance trope that I can always get behind! I find it amazing when they appear as a new couple in love to the masses, but get snappy once they’re alone, the sexual tension rises oh so amusingly until they reach the climax [of the story].
- Enemies-to-Lovers. Instead of Insta-love (which is mentioned down further), the two characters meet and absolutely HATE each other. Whether it be over opposing views, a misunderstanding, or maybe one of them is just a huge asshole; they don’t get along to any degree and readers always wonder “how will they ever get together?” How indeed…this romance trope usually leads to some comedic/touching moments where they have to team up and sort out their differences before they eventually, but inevitably, get to sexy time.
- Player falls for “Average Jane.” So, in the past it’s usually the popular guy who falls for the invisible girl, and she’s just entirely clueless to it all. How could he like her right? She’s so weird, so geeky, so not cool, and the guys would give him so much shit for it…Sometimes it’s a bet amongst the bros, or maybe its because she sees a side of him that he never opened up to before; the boy unexpectedly falls hard. Usually, he doesn’t see it until the girl gets a dramatic makeover (ladies, quick reminder that in 2019 you don’t need to change for your man), which is kind of ugh…but I can’t help but swoon when the guy gets that shocked, starry-eyed look in his eyes and he becomes a total sweetheart to her from then on, and maybe all douchey-ness is forgiven.
- Forced to share a room/bed. In a lot of romance books, there comes a moment when the two love interests check into a hotel room, or they’re with a group of friends and all crammed into a room, or some other similar reasoning. As it turns out, they are forced to be in an enclosed space together, there’s usually some sexual tension, and there’s only one bed…So, will they or won’t they? I don’t know, but OH it’s so much fun to find out! A similar set up is the ever timelessly popular “trapped in an elevator” together; nowhere to go, the two are forced to acknowledge the elephant in the room.
- The Alpha-Hole. The ever-popular “bad boy”: he’s broody, he’s gorgeous, he usually has dark (maybe ruffled) hair, stunning blue eyes, that smirk, plenty of sarcasm, a sketchy past, and loves to irritate the lead female to no end…but I love him, all variations of him. He’s usually one of my favorite characters because he usually has the smartass remarks, the one-liners and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Dreamy, right?…I know, I’m going to be single forever if THAT is my type…
- Fights that lead to Sexy Time. Now, this could mean they have a huge blow up at each other and battle it out in a combat of words, or maybe they go fists flying, literally kicking ass in a Mr. & Mrs. Smith style, but then leads to them hooking up because tensions are high, as are other emotions, and passions consumes them…I just live for the intensity of these kinds of scenes, okay?
- Secret Relationships. Kind of like “Forbidden Love” in a way; there’s two people that decide to get together, but they can’t tell anyone else about it. Sometimes it’s the boss-employee set up, teacher-student, opposite social circles/cliques, friends with benefits, wrong for their image, etc. but one person isn’t ready for everyone to know or even admit their feelings to themselves, so they suggest getting in a secret relationship. This trope is fun, especially when the two have to get creative at sneaking around and make hilarious excuses when they’re almost caught together. It’s even better when their friends secretly find out anyways, as the couple always eventually either gets caught, or one of them blabs because they’re in love and want the world to know (i.e: The Friends episode where Rachel and Phoebe try to crack Chandler when he’s been secretly seeing Monica).
- Sassy Heroine. Yas Queen, slay…She may not be big and strong, but don’t think that she can’t tear her enemies down with her sharp tongue and those snarky clap-backs. Usually, they are strong though, because usually they’re assassins or warriors that have killed men twice their size and flipped their hair like a queen while doing it. Celaena Sardothien, I’m raising my brow to you, girl. Love her and pretty much every Sarah J. Maas character (3/4’s of her male characters are on my book-boyfriends list (coming soon on here FYI)).
- The Second Chance at Love/Reunited Lovers. There is a difference between the two, believe it or not. The second chance is where the couple breaks up, but then gets back together again. Reunited is when they’re torn apart by circumstance, like a job causing one to move away, or one goes off to war, etc. but meet again years later. Either way, it’s way tragic and I swoon at the big scene where they’re reunited all that time later and all is forgiven.
- The Quest. In Fantasy books, the reluctant hero, along with his small group of secondary characters, set out on a long and perilous quest with a specific goal in mind. I like this one because it still leaves a lot of potential for something new and exciting because its so broad and open-ended. Anything can happen in Fantasy!
Tropes that I Hate:
- The Chosen One…This one feels like its in literally EVERY YA fantasy novel out there, just slight variations of it. It’s where the main character discovers through some prophecy or mentor that they’re incredibly special, and they’re the “savior” with extraordinary power that could defeat evil and change the course of time. It’s not entirely a bad trope/cliché, and it really works for some stories, but for the many that have come out all these years later after Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, it’s hard to be able to make it seem effective or original in terms of driving the overall story. I could still enjoy stories with this idea, but authors need to get more creative with how they use it in their stories moving forward.
- The Main Characters an Orphan…This is usually a package deal with #1, but the main character is usually an orphan who doesn’t have their parents in their lives anymore because they’re dead, missing, or just absent.
- Girl doesn’t see her beauty, despite instigating Love-Triangle(s)…She’s awkward, she’s clumsy, she’s mortal enemies with the mean girl (more on that bitch later), and is pretty much the Bella Swan or Lizzie McGuire of fiction in these modern times. She thinks she’s just average or even ugly, usually thanks to the mean girl putting her down with their own inner insecurities, but is actually incredibly attractive and has multiple guys chasing after her anyways. I no longer find it endearing or adorable, I’m just over it.
- Kinky, Emotionally Traumatized Millionaires…“Mr. Grey will see you now…” According almost every romance/erotic work of fiction, those readers LOVE the ultra rich, 20-something, gorgeous, brooding CEO of a company or some sort of position of power. Unfortunately, he usually had a pretty messed up/traumatizing childhood which made him get into some really kinky shit, BDSM usually. He also gets incredibly possessive with their love interest, gets upset if they wear too revealing of clothes and probably says these lines: “I want you so bad” “You’re mine” “I’m so hard for you” or something creepier or about their penis…Men, you have a lot to live up to…
- The Nerdy Best Friend who’s been in love with the Main Character for years but never said anything…So, the main character is falling for someone else, and things are going great, but their best friend begins to get moody and distant themselves. The main character confronts them about it, and then their best friend comes out and reveals that they’ve been in love with them for years…Usually it’s the smaller, skinny, sensitive guy friend with glasses, and it’s usually at the most inconvenient time. Umm this trope is also inconvenient for me to actually enjoy the story!
- Werewolves-vs-Vampires…I just want to give a huge shout-out to Twilight for that and every similar teen paranormal romance book that came out through the years of 2008-2014…thank god that this fad is pretty much over.
- Creepy Children in Horror…This one is just a big, fat NOPE. Usually they’ll giggle menacingly, or terribly sing some sing-along song that you loved as a child thats now ruined because of them. Like seriously, Ring Around the Rosie and even Happy Birthday…traumatizing.
- Insta-Love…I’ve seen and experienced insta-interest, but can someone really look at a complete stranger and all of a sudden everything but that person pops matters and the rest just fades into the background? It’s just been so overdone, and it’s not even realistic, so authors, lets develop those relationships and watch them grow before the word “love” is even mentioned, yeah?
- The Mean Girl…Like a token character, the Regina George wannabe in contemporary YA fiction is just there to be elitist, shallow, and just be the antagonist to the main character. Even worse, there’s literally no reason for them to be mean, they just are…so not fetch.
- Faithful Sidekicks…The minor characters that are literally only inserted to pretty much pimp out the main character are just so bleh…The story can move forward without them, they’re just there as cheerleaders, and are usually tokened off as a minority (either gay or as a person of color (POC)).
- The Belated Love Epiphany with a Chase Scene…You know the big romantic gesture where the person realizes they love someone, so they chase after them to catch them before they’re gone forever? Like running through the airport to catch the plane? Good luck with that in 2019…
- Token Diversity…It’s so offensive to any sort of minority who reads a character in a book that’s just been randomly added into a story just so it’s not all straight, white characters. They feel like an afterthought, and someone who just belongs in the background. It’s 2019, and representation matters so much now, especially in books, even more especially in YA fiction. The voices that feel like they’ve never been heard are the ones that are buying the books with lead characters like themselves so they don’t feel so alone and to feel like they matter, because they do.
- Revolution led by Teenager in a Dystopian World…I mean, who decides that a teenager should lead a violent revolution over a cruel and oppressive government anyways? This obviously refers to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, who did a tremendous job with that trilogy, but I’m talking about the other titles that came afterwards. For a short time, Dystopian YA was the popular theme that took over for Vampires and Werewolves, but none were really all that impressive or as close to successful with it in my opinion. Its literally just Miss Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior from Divergent that made it look good, but even the latter had a questioning ending, so I rest my case.
- Bumping into Each Other Meet-Cute…Girl is walking the halls, carrying an obviously heavy pile of books, eyes wide as saucers and she’s looking around, overwhelmed at the first day of class in a new school. Girl bumps into someone and all the books topple to the ground, the girl is embarrassed and bends over, the other person helps too, and she looks up to see a gorgeous guy assisting her with his charming smile…I’ll stop because you obviously need time to reminisce all the times you’ve seen this happen before, I get it.
- The Black and White Morality Theme…Let me say first that this has NOTHING to do with race or ethnicity, so please put those triggers away, trolls…I’m talking about the obvious line of “Good” and “Evil” in fantasy genre books. There is no in-between; you’re either a beautiful elf that shoots arrows with their hair blowing in the wind, or and ugly AF Orc that looks like a spat out wad of gum from seven years ago. I’m going to go into one of my many Game of Thrones references, but one of the reasons it was so great was because George R.R. Martin wrote many complex characters who all thought of themselves as the hero of their own story. They all had their own sets of morality and integrity, and it either meshed or messed with the others, and they all had their own justified reasons for doing what they did, even when it was downright despicable…that, my readers, helps create an interesting story.
Thanks For Reading!
— Nick Goodsell