I was checking out BuzzFeed one day when I tripped upon an interesting article about tiresome tropes. Writer Ehis Osifo listed her top 21 but I wanted to add a couple more.
Let’s Look at the Life of Tropes
For me: The simplest way to define a “trope” is that it is a cliche and in the sense of literature, the cliche follows certain path to wind it’s way through to a predictive end.
Here are some examples: Bad Boy turns Hero; The Dumb Blond; The Shy Girl; The Butler Always Did it; The Angry Step Mother; …
You get the idea.
Osifo identifies the top five annoying tropes as
- Twins… the evil one and the good one.
- The bad guy who keeps coming back for more
- The “Plain Jane” who doesn’t realize any of her own potential until told by some jerk
- A gorgeous, fit, and wealthy commitmentphobe man who is lonely and falls for the everyday woman who probably doesn’t want him.
- In fantasy, where you have an old or ancient Being who is physically stunning and always falls for the young, often mortal, 20 year old.
Yup, I think I’ve actually read all of those a zillion times.
Here are my five top least fave tropes.
We find out at the end that the narrator is dead. It’s been done to death–yes, pun intended. Stop already and find a new direction to take.
The guy, who is a real jerk throughout the story suddenly finds some enlightenment and everyone forgives him, he gets the girl, and everyone lives happily ever after. Ugh…Ugh… and Ugh…
The girl who laments her own perceived short comings and sets out to be a sex pot only to be scorned by her friends and she falls for her best guy friend who’s always secretly loved her from afar.
The (usually woman) who is an alcoholic and witnessed something happen but then the whole narrative is whether she actually saw it, imagined it, or was in such an alcoholic stupor she is totally mistaken. It’s been done… again and again. Unless you have something new to add then move on.
I actually have a few more but will squeeze them in here. My fifth is probably the city slicker who inherits the family farm and dedicates himself back to the land and the farm girl that obviously follows. Like gag me.
The windfall. Either through winning, inheritance, or arranged marriage. The sudden wealth bestowed upon those who really need it. While it makes for a nice story, it’s cliche and boring.
Any, and all, love triangles….yawn.
…And the names given–especially to the alpha male– examples like:
Though I do sort of like Chance….
The fact of the matter is that literature and life can all be cliche and trope filled. We want the Happily Ever After and strive for a middle ground with readers.
If you’re a writer, try and mix it up a bit. Don’t be so predictable. You may surprise yourself and really enjoy writing something a bit different.
Tell me in the comments below, what are your favorite, and least favorite, tropes in literature?
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15 thoughts on “Hey! Are Tropes Dope or are They a Nope? Tell me Your Fave….”
It’s funny, but when it comes to movies, those same tropes are just tried and true formulas. I will personally watch any movie based on the Cinderella theme. I like those “plain girl in high school transforms and gets the guy” movies. There’s something comforting about them. Like a favorite book you read over and over.
Hi Sally. I suppose there’s something to be said for predictability. I think that’s what a lot of people want. they like the obstacles overcome and goodness to win out. It makes us lighter some how. Thanks for commenting Sally. Very much appreciated. xoxo
I don’t know if I have a favorite or least favorite troupe. However, I do like playing with them all.
Hi! Yes. I like to play with them too. Especially in unexpected ways. Love a good surprise. lol. Thanks for stopping by. Much appreciated. xoxo
Usually I’m skeptical of most tropes, but I personally like a coming-of-age of story in any context. I think it’s because when you’re young, life is just one trope after another that everyone can relate to anyway. So I’m more forgiving about. As a fantasy/sci-fi novel fan, what I DON’T like is everyone who feels the need to invent their own language that relies on me flipping back and forth to a glossary (or even worse, if there’s no glossary at all). Bleh.
Hi Tom. I love that observation about Young Adult or Middle Grade…it’s really true when you say it’s all a big trope…stir it up and spit out a story. It’s so true. So much angst and so many different ways to go at it.
I don’t read sci fi for exactly what you say … I don’t understand most of it and unfortunately don’t have the patience or imagination in that other realm. lol
Thanks for stopping by. So appreciated. I wanna go write a ya now!! xo
Love these warnings. Things to avoid.
Hi Nancy. Tropes can be difficult to actually avoid but they can certainly be shaken up. I see that happening in some literature with the intro of new types of characters and so long as its not overly predictable the trope can carry it.
Totally be aware of what tropes are creeping into your fiction. Right now I now most of your stuff is memoir and nonfiction so you’re safe. Thanks for stopping by. so appreciated. xoxo
My all-time least favourite trope is the emotionally-abusive partner whose behaviour is excusable because it’s just comes from a place of love and therefore a need to protect their loved one. Nope. You can be protective and demonstrate your love without being domineering and controlling. Enough already. And, sigh, most of the books I’ve read which make use of this trope happen to be ones in which the abuser is the male partner in a man-woman relationship (example: EITHER Jake or Edward and their behaviour towards Bella in the Twilight series). Can you tell how tired I am of this?!
Erin! I SO agree with you. The alpha male lording over the weak female or the whole thing of the imperfect male…who ignores/abuses/gaslights/pushes for the edge/…alll of it is OLD and gross.
I’m actually currently reading a Sarah Maas book where the mc locks his young lover away “for her own good” and all out of “love”…Um..sorry. That’s not good.
Listen up peeps. Enough with the abuse –unless you’re gonna change it up. The female characters need to step up…writers?
Thanks Erin. xoxo
I’ve been having a soft spot for redemption tropes, but not in the typical ‘jerk gets forgiven’ way. More of ‘jerk decides to do one thing right in his life and it doesn’t turn out the way he thinks it does but he’s still glad that he tried to turn over a new leaf’.
Too bad I can’t recall many examples of this, but when Tyrion Lannister ‘changed’ was when I started realising that maybe I like bad people who try to do good.
Hey Stuart. Thanks for stopping by I really appreciate it. I think this is “redemption” trope is worthy as it does keep us hopeful and believing in good over evil. I like the way you think. I believe it’s human nature to root for the underdog who’s been beaten down and a has a reason for his “badness” but discovers that last small part of goodness in him. Yup…that’s a good one. Thanks for commenting Stuart. You always get me thinking. xo
You nailed it with your list. They’re the same ones I refuse to read. If I ever tracked down the writer who has a dead narrator, I’d …. yeah, you can guess.
Lol…Thanks Aggie. You’re so funny.