Hi friends 👋🏻 Tropes aren’t really a hot topic in the book blogosphere anymore, but I do always like to talk about them and see what other people’s favourites and least favourites are.
My reasons for not liking a trope can be one of three things: I have very personal reasons as to why I don’t like it, I have yet to see it executed well, or I just simply don’t like it. There’s nothing wrong with not having a reason for disliking something; sometimes you just don’t like it and that’s all there is to it!
Remember: tropes are not inherently bad. A trope is simply a recurring theme that can be found in many different pieces of fiction, and using tropes does not make someone a bad writer. It’s not possible to write without tropes because you either twist them, subvert them, use them straight, or end up inventing a new trope.
This is a pretty personal one for me because I was bullied very badly throughout my childhood and that sort of thing sticks with you forever. Romances, where someone bullies another person because they secretly love them, are extremely off-putting and also kind of abusive. This trope is actually why I’m not a fan of enemies-to-lovers because too many that I’ve read end up coming across as this instead.
The entire story was a dream
When I was studying creative writing in university, we were constantly told to not end our stories with the main character waking up, and at the time I thought that was a little stifling to our creativity, but now that I’ve experienced things where the story turns out to have been a dream or entirely made up by the main character, I totally understand why my lecturers would say this.
There are great ways to end a story by saying that none of it really happened, I’m sure there are writers out there who are able to make it work, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling like I’ve wasted my time when I get to the end of the book, movie, TV show, or whatever. I prefer these types of endings to be left ambiguous, like the end of American Psycho, rather than the writer outright saying “none of this happened” because then I feel like my time has been wasted.
Characters urinating in extreme detail
I don’t consider myself to be a prude and gross things don’t always phase me, but the way that some people feel about sex scenes is the way that I feel about scenes that depict characters using the toilet in extreme detail: this does not advance the plot and is unnecessary.
We all pee and poop, that’s just a fact, but I don’t need to know about it in extreme detail because it doesn’t add anything to the plot, or the character, and it’s just too much. And not to make a sweeping generalisation, but I have only ever seen one female author do that, and that was The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. That wasn’t the worst. The worst is this bizarre passage from The Witches of Eastwick:
But she was, for the bathroom door didn’t altogether close, due to the old frame of the house settling over the centuries, and she had to sit on the toilet for some minutes waiting for the pee to come. Men, they were able to conjure it up immediately, that was one of their powers, that thunderous splashing as they stood lordly above the bowl. Everything about them was more direct, their insides weren’t the maze women’s were, for the pee to find its way through.
Why did you write this, John Updike? Why did you think this was a good idea? This is almost as bad as when Stephen King had a character describe another character’s anus as being so tight that it “must make it hard to take a shit.”
Fat characters’ personality revolves around food and eating
Thanks to the body positivity movement, this one isn’t seen very often outside of crass adult cartoons like Family Guy or American Dad, and I see it a lot on RuPaul’s Drag Race because for some reason a fat drag queen talking about food or eating food is something that makes RuPaul scream with laughter.
It’s not just fatphobic as hell to have your fat characters constantly obsess over food, but it’s not exactly accurate to real-life either. There are skinny people who eat all the time, and there are fat people who don’t eat mukbang sized portions of food for every single meal. And even when there are fat people who are foodies, portraying them this way is usually used as a joke, and they are portrayed as being grotesque slobs whose minds revolve around food and eating.
Bury your minorities
Originally I was just going to talk about the “bury your gays” trope, but this happens to minorities from all different backgrounds in fiction, and it’s always going to be annoying to see it.
In horror, there has been the joke about how the “black guy dies first” since the 1990s, and thankfully that has seen a huge decline thanks to black writers and directors being given more of a chance in the genre, but we still get shades of this in mainstream media. Minority characters are often delegated to being sidekicks, comic relief characters, the best friend, and throwaway characters that aren’t that important to the plot, and it’s why diversity and representation are so important. People from minority groups deserve to be able to see protagonists that are just like them, instead of every character being a white cis-hetero power fantasy.
I’m glad to see this one slowly being chiselled away at, but we still have a long way to go until it’s gone forever.
This is another one that is very personal to me because when I was a kid, I remember being so glad that Mia from the movie adaptation of The Princess Diaries had hair just like mine. At the beginning of the movie, that is. She’s then given a makeover that straightens out her hair so that it’s no longer a “frizzy mess” and is more appropriate for a princess. I didn’t think much of it at the time because I was four years old when that movie came out, but I was bullied so badly for having curly hair all the way through school that I wished I had Mia’s stylist to give me a straight perm and get rid of my frizzy hair forever.
I feel like unnecessary makeovers in fiction send a message to little kids that who they are naturally is not okay, and that they need to change their appearances to be accepted by other people. And if it was bad enough to affect me as a little white girl, I can’t imagine how much worse it will be for black children who have people feeding them racist ideas about their hair.
Hyperfeminine mean girls
For this one, I should make a disclaimer that there is nothing wrong with femininity. There is nothing wrong with liking pink and wanting to wear skirts and dresses, or spending a lot of time on your appearance if you find it fun. The problem I have here is that a lot of teen entertainment from the late 1990s to the late 2000s would use femininity to denote that a woman is a mean person and it is demonised.
The biggest example I have of this is the movie Mean Girls, where The Plastics would wear pink every Wednesday, wore a lot of makeup, really cared about how they looked, and the “nice” kids (how nice they were is debatable because there are no perfect characters in that movie) either wore more subdued clothes or were alternative. I hate this idea that hyper-femininity is a bad thing because meanness is something that comes from the inside, not the outside. There are just as many mean goth girls as there are mean preppy girls, and the “don’t judge a book by its cover” moral does come into play.
talk to me!
What are some of your least favourite tropes? Do you share any with me?
I hate bully romances SO MUCH and sadly most of them get dubbed enemies to lovers by the fandom, so I wind up consistently being like WTF when I read them. Great post and yikes that urination quote is…. a take Why.
It bugs me so much when fans can’t tell the difference between bully romances and enemies to lovers. It really puts me off of reading them. And I really don’t know what possessed John Updike to write that passage 😬
Omg- yes! “actually this was only a dream” is such a BS ending xP with that, i’d also shove “the thriller plot twist was the MC multi-personality disorder & was doing it to themself all along! gasp!” right with it.
hahaah wait-what? over-writing about peeing is actually a thing?? I never crossed it before- but it’s actually quite hilarious 🤣 makes me think of one instance where the men writer didn’t knew how breasts worked At. All.
Oh, I hate that one too! It feels like such a cop-out whenever it turns out that the whole story never happened.
Unfortunately, the peeing one is a thing! And it bugs me so much when men write about breasts in a way that makes it seem like they’ve never seen or touched one in their life 😂
Ooooh these are GOOD! I hate all of these too, now that you mention them! I am reading a book right now that does the “fat girl cannot stop eating donuts” thing and it is making me SO angry. (Especially since I read reviews that say it isn’t like, discussed about outside of “fat character eats a lot”.) Absolutely agree with the bury your minorities, that is complete crap. And do not get me started on the “it was all just a dream”. Whoever invented that should probably be reprimanded! I hadn’t thought about the hyperfeminine mean girl thing but WOW you are right- and it definitely wasn’t just Mean Girls! I remember SO many 90s and 00s sitcoms and movies with that trope! The makeover thing infuriates me too. Like sorry fam, Mia was pretty with wavy hair and pretty with straight hair and that is that. I have not noticed the pee thing but I guarantee I will from now on! 😂
Yes! Mia was always beautiful no matter what she looked like partly because she was played by Anne Hathaway 😂
All of these are terrible tropes, I agree. Like you, I often don’t like the enemies to lover trope because to me it just feels like the guy is a jerk, and why should I root for him? And I have to agree about the makeover thing too—it definitely sends a bad message. Then there’s the hyper-femininity issue. It’s funny because I just commented on another post where the blogger talked about the “not like other girls” trope, and this reminded me of that a lot. Like the idea that certain types of girls are better than others. The trope you mentioned really reinforces that.
Ooh, the “not like other girls” trope is another one that I don’t like. I thought it died off years ago but it’s been slowly creeping its way back. I just hate the idea that certain types of girls are better than others.
Ugh yes I hate bully romance too! And the urinating one is really weird…. I didn’t notice it while reading the Cruel Prince, but the quote you pick from the Witches of Eastwick is… really offputting 😬
It’s extremely minuscule when it shows up in The Cruel Prince because it just explains how Jude is different from the Fae but I’ve seen a lot worse and it just isn’t necessary 😬