A couple of weeks ago I shared some of my favourite tropes – the sort of things that make me want to watch a movie or read a book regardless of what it’s about or what the reviews are. This week I decided to do the reverse – the tropes that pull me out of a story or make me likely to put it down and never pick it back up. The sorts of tropes that can really ruin an experience.
For obvious reasons, I’m not going to call out any books or movies that are guilty of this. Many of these are common enough, that I’ve no doubt you can think of a few that have one or several of the tropes I’m about to mention. I’m not here to spill any tea.
But I do find tropes fascinating, and I want to share mine and open up a discussion. So here we go – a list of five tropes I cannot stand:
I hesitate to call this a trope when it really seems more the result of poor planning or bad writing, but I cannot stand when poor communication is what’s driving the conflict between characters. If things could be resolved by one character saying a sentence or two to the other, it’s not enjoyable, it’s just frustrating! Miscommunication is not a valid plot device, it’s just lazy.
2. The Prodigy
I like struggle. I like my protagonists to have to go over the top to try and achieve something. To sacrifice. To risk everything. To go in unprepared and still have to find a way to come out victorious. What I don’t like is someone who is uncannily good at something and doesn’t have to work for it. That’s not interesting. It doesn’t add tension, and it really doesn’t make me root for the character. And that’s not to say I don’t enjoy reading competent characters. On the contrary, those are my favourites – those characters who are smart and capable but still have to work hard. They’re still challenged. Things still go wrong. In spite of all their abilities, they make bad decisions. It makes them more compelling. A protagonist that can do anything is just not fun to read about.
3. The Secret Evil Sibling
Probably my most hated trope. I hate it every time I see it. It’s stupid, cheesy, and contrived. It’s the sort of thing I expect for a cheap thrill in a soap opera, but not in a more well-thought-out narrative. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done well and I will probably never like it. Not to mention, that sort of thing is always telegraphed from the flipping moon so it’s never a surprise. It’s just annoying and immediately turns me off the story. A secret twin who is also evil is always so unbelievable it’s an immediate immersion breaker. Secret siblings are fine. Siblings who are, or become villains are also fine. But the two of them together? Just no.
4. Forced Love Interest
I don’t know why people feel the need to force a romantic subplot into a story. Romance is nice when it supports the narrative and adds something to the characters, but not every story needs to have it. It’s especially frustrating when its a friend of the protagonist who suddenly forced into the role of a love interest for no other reason than to check the romance box. I’m not a big fan of romance, I’ll admit it, but even I can appreciate a well-constructed romance plot that elevates the other aspects of the story rather than muddle the characters and drag the pace. Thankfully, we seem to be moving away from the poorly shoehorned romance plot because I for one am tired of seeing them.
5. The Orphaned Hero
This is especially true with YA, but the parents of heroes have an alarmingly high mortality rate. It’s been used so often as motivation for the protagonist that I’m almost desensitised to it at this point. It feels cheap and lazy as a motivation and an easy way of getting rid of a character and potential obstacle. I understand why – it’s hard to save the world, especially for a kid or a teenager, if their parents are still around. I just don’t like it. Especially since it is so often the mothers that get the axe. And that’s not to say there aren’t stories that do it well, because there always will be some stories where it’s justified. Unfortunately, it’s not all of them, and I just don’t enjoy it.
I want to hear from you!
What are your most disliked tropes? Do you like any of the ones I’ve listed here? Have you seen any of these tropes done well? Let me know in the comments!