The Tropening: Book Tropes that I love (or hate)

“Colloquially, people use the term trope to mean recognizable elements of storytelling that audiences associate with specific genres. Like clichés, tropes act as storytelling shorthand and can apply to both plot lines and character types.“- SuperSummary.com

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about things I love (or hate) to see in books. There are clichés that I see as overdone and lacking, but there are also some that I’d love to see more of. I’m kind of changeable that way. It’s always just a matter of preference, of course, but here are some that I love and some that I’m sick to death of. That being said, there are exceptions to all of these for me. As long as the trope is well written, I’m flexible.

“I’m immortal!“- Authors spend a ton of time on their characters, so of course it’s hard to say goodbye. However, when a character is being constantly put into situations that they shouldn’t survive, and they survive anyway, it lessens the stakes of a book. If you don’t want to kill your character (completely understandable), maybe don’t chuck them into the depths of hell, light them on fire, and have a squad of rabid Jello Jigglers attack them.

On the flipside- I love when a character is brought back from the death, or the brink of death (once!) and it changes either them or another character irreversibly. Used correctly, that makes for some major character development. An author that knows when to save a character and when to let go is awesome.

Mental illness as a criminal motive- I’ve read a few mysteries/thrillers in the past year where the villain’s sole motive was that they were “psychotic” or had a mental illness of some sort. To me, that smacks of lazy writing, not to mention that it perpetrates a harmful stereotype. People with mental illnesses are not automatically dangerous or violent. Dovetailing off of this: I would love it if authors wouldn’t use suicide as revenge. Just stop.

On the flipside- I love when mental illness is represented accurately and well. So many people struggle with mental illness of some sort (myself included) that it is a breath of fresh air to see it written as something other than an excuse for horrible actions. Some authors that have done this amazingly are Ricardo Victoria, author of The Withered King, and Heidi Heilig, author of For a Muse of Fire.

Love Triangles (octagons, hexagons, or other shapes)– Of course I have to mention this. I can’t stand one person mentally making a pro/con list regarding which of their wanna-be lovers is best. Let me say something: if you’re waiting with bated breath for someone to choose you over ye random rival, just walk away. No one should be compared to someone else like that. And Wishy Washy obviously isn’t mature enough to be in a relationship anyway.

On the flipside- I love seeing a friendship grow into something more. Not as a main plot point; I think it’s pretty well established that I’m crotchety regarding literary romance. But seeing two characters who respect each other and enjoy spending time together become closer is pretty great.

One person against the world- I can’t stand it when a character immediately loses every single person they care about and it becomes the catalyst to take on the world. Alone. That’s boring. Give me a tragic backstory, sure. I’ll even take a whole slew of corpses left behind, but give the character someone to interact with.

On the flipside- If the main character picks up allies/co-workers/found family after losing someone or even on the way to take bloody revenge for losses, I’m totally good with that. I just want to have a chance for that character to grow.

The dreaded info dump- I’m not a “here it all is at once” kinda girl. I’ll either lose interest or miss something incredibly important. My brain just doesn’t work well with a ton of new information all at once.

On the flipside- I absolutely love it when information is shared naturally throughout a book, especially when a world is fully developed. I love reading about different histories and mythologies in fantasy or science fiction books, I just don’t want all the information to be chunked at me at once.

Anyway, there’s really no point to this post, except as a way to generate conversation. What do you think? What are some tropes that you love? What about tropes you hate?

25 thoughts on “The Tropening: Book Tropes that I love (or hate)

  1. I absolutely hate love triangles. I think it’s just overdone so much that it has become frustrating in books! I do love hate to love though. It’s been my jam lately. I think because the banter makes me laugh out loud and that’s much needed! Fun post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! I love how you provided ways to make these trends better.

    I particularly like when characters team up and face problems together. I’m not fond when one person tackles everything alone. It’s not very realistic. I think it’s important to show a sense of community, even if it’s only two people who have befriended each other!

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  3. Fun post! I loved reading all your thoughts! I agree with you about the issue of characters surviving all these crazy circumstances. There are multiple books that just feel fake to me because everyone lives and is fine even though the odds were stacked against them!

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  4. You make a valid point about the immortal character trope. If a character actually returns from the dead (Otherworld Realm what have you) realistically that should change a character. Whether it be some internal struggle with a religious or spiritual inconsistency or even adapting to a new world they returned to (I think this could include characters who might have changed due to grief etc.) It’s an interesting topic I might want to explore (so thanks for the food for thought! 🙂 )

    Also I think my recent favorite trope is the ‘found family’. Something about it gives me the warm fuzzies.

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      1. I’m not sure it entirely counts but I enjoyed Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children series. I enjoyed reading how their circumstances left them with each other and that it forces the main characters to grow in unexpected ways. I haven’t read the last one yet so ‘no spoilers’ and/or ‘my opinion is subject to change’.

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  5. Ah I love this!! I kind of love when a character gets killed off because especially if it’s a series, you never can trust that anyone else is safe and that to me adds some real tension to it. This was such fun to read – and so many of these I agree with!

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  6. Just as a matter of interest, can’t someone develop as a person even if there’s no one else left? Although it’s probably redundant. Wouldn’t previously fragmented relationships take on a different light when they’re gone and you have time to mull them over? If you haven’t already, you should check out A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World. I heartily recommend it, it’s quite unique.

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  7. I really enjoyed reading this post. I read a lot of romance, so insta-love is obviously one that is overused. I prefer stories with a gradual relationship developing. It can be over a traumatic event, loss etc. but not fall in love and jump in bed during the first couple chapters. Your thoughts made me think about why I like particular books and some of your bugaboos also bother me, but I am not so eloquent.

    Liked by 1 person

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