This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is a freebie — we decided to talk about some of our least favorite tropes.
A disclaimer: we don’t think tropes or “trope-y” books are by any means bad. Tropes are just storytelling elements, and they allow us to break stories down and find intersections between them. They’re a great tool for readers and writers.
But some of them are annoying. Here are the top ten tropes we hate:
- When all of an enemy force is wiped out by destroying a computer/creature/brain/magic item. This always feels like an anticlimax or a loophole to me. It would be so much more interesting to see what chaos ensues from a leader falling, or for the protagonists to have to actually face a seemingly unending horde of bad guys. If they’re all eliminated at once, it takes away from the dread of pitting the heroes against an army of foes.
- When the protagonist kills dozens of henchmen and then hesitates to kill the villain. Maybe I’m just reading the wrong books and playing the wrong video games, but I’ve just come to accept that this will happen in action-based stories. Why? Henchmen are probably just paid mercenaries. The whole point of this story was killing the villain! Didn’t we decide this 400 pages ago? See: The Uncharted video game series (sometimes)
- The sad old man who’s been a jerk to his family and friends and seeks redemption but continues to be a jerk but everyone loves him anyway. I find this character unbearable — they never seem to learn or change, and everyone around them supports them regardless. Ugh.
- When sexual violence is used to make a male character feel bad for a female character. It’s hard to define when this is being used as a device and when it’s a part of the character’s story, but sometimes it just feels wrong. When this is done poorly: Riyria Revelations. When this is done well: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
- Dreams as symbolism. Dreams are boring to read about. It doesn’t matter whether we’re told it’s a dream from the start or it’s revealed later (which is particularly annoying), but I hate this. It reveals the author’s puppet strings and always feels condescending to me. When this is done well: Oathbringer.
- The stupid dad: There are too many television shows and movies and books with this character. Sure there probably are some stupid dads out there, but seeing that all the time in entertainment is draining and dull.
- The nagging wife: Once again, c’mon! The only time I felt like this trope was actually done well was that scene in The Incredibles where Frozone is asking his wife where his super suit is and he says he needs it for the greater good. His wife comes back with: “I’m the greatest good you’re ever going to get.”
- Character stealing: When an author or filmmaker takes characters from traditional stories and throws them into theirs. The show Once is made entirely of this, but I’m thinking more like The Land of Stories and books that randomly bring in characters like Snow White.
- Depending on stereotypes to make characters: The smart Asian. The dumb giant. You get the picture. Make characters, don’t propagate stereotypes.
- Love triangles: Okay, I know these are loved by many. But I feel like this is a tool that’s been used to its full extent. Please. I don’t want to read or watch another one. There are some books/shows in which I don’t mind that it’s there. But it would probably be better if something else could replace it. The whole idea of “who are they going to pick?!” just makes me think of one of those Bachelor/Bachelorette shows (and that’s not a good thing).
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