A little while ago I talked about my favourite tropes in fiction, and now it’s time to talk about my least favourites! These are tropes I personally dislike, though I won’t say that any trope should be avoided no matter what–it really depends on how it’s done. So, with that in mind, let’s get started!
#5: The Big Makeover
We’ve all seen this one. The character (typically a female) will start out plain or otherwise “undesirable” in both appearance and personality, but somehow a makeover or something of the like will suddenly change them into a stunning, confident, and interesting person. I see this a ton in YA, but I’ve even noticed it in a couple kids’ shows (ex: Girl Meets World). I don’t like this one for a couple reasons. For one, I think it gives the wrong message about the importance of appearance. While it’s fine for a character to want to look nice, this idea of their entire sense of self-confidence and personality revolving around their looks isn’t healthy. A makeover might give you a little bit of confidence, but it can’t drastically change who you are as a person. Instead of a makeover to make somebody cooler or better socially, why not go into some deep character development? Maybe have characters encourage them to start new group activities, where they can both become more interesting, and more confident in their skills/social capabilities?
An example of this trope that I don’t like would be the transformation of Sandy from Grease:
One use of this trope that I did like was in The D.U.F.F. She didn’t change as a person because of the makeover, but gained confidence in other ways, and even the makeover wasn’t drastic enough that she was unrecognizable:
#4: It’s This Person Or The World
I see this one a lot, especially in Sci-Fi. I get its purpose, to show how much the MC values somebody, but also what they are willing to sacrifice or overcome for their goal. But, in a lot of these cases, the person they are “saving” would die anyway. The villain says “I kill Alex, or I blow up the whole planet”. The planet that Alex is on. So, either Alex dies and the rest of the world lives, or the whole world, including Alex, dies. This one can be done well when the author gives it more reason, but I find a lot of the time it just isn’t.
An example of this trope that I did like was in Infinity War.
(SPOILERS, Skip to next brackets to avoid)
Have you skipped down? Good. I liked when Starlord was struggling to shoot Gamora when Thanos had her. Thanos would takeover the Universe if he had her and her information on the Soul Stone, but Starlord thought Gamora would live, because Thanos loved her. This got rid of the “she’d die anyway” part of his decision, which made the struggle feel realer.
(Beyond here you are safe)
#3: Nobody Is Safe (Except the Main 5)
First, I’d like to say that I understand that in fiction, some things are meant to be unrealistic. I’m not saying main characters always have to die. My problem with this is when the book tries to make it seem like nobody is safe and “shock” the reader with deaths that don’t really matter to the story, while the main characters are completely off limits. It just kind of feels like the author wants that “oh no, they didn’t”, but is afraid to actually give up any of the characters the reader cares about. I see a lot of just meeting a character or hearing about them, and then being expected to really feel their death two minutes later.
A good example of this would probably be the Mortal Instruments book series. A lot of very minor characters die, but the main ones never do (or they are brought back to life soon after), and these deaths are often expected to fuel the emotion in readers for the plot. One particular example, was the death of (spoiler) Max. It was meant to drive the hate for Sebastian, in both the readers and characters, but was not nearly as powerful a moment as it should have been, due to the fact that we never really got to know/care about Max. I mean sure, it was sad that he died, but it wasn’t personal.
#2: Tough & Rude
I’ve been seeing this a lot, especially with “tough” female roles, and it’s just annoying. So many characters that the readers are supposed to feel are cool, strong, or tough try to show this by just being rude. This is actually one thing I notice a lot with one of my favourite tropes, the reluctant/anti-hero. Because the person has to be decent at their core to be a hero, a lot of the time the writer seems to try an illustrate their toughness by having them be rude or aggressive without reason. While this can be an interesting character flaw, it hardly ever seems to be resolved or improved on, and it just makes it hard for me to root for the character. If people are being perfectly cordial to them, friendly even, and they are just mean without cause, I don’t think it makes them look strong or cool–I think it makes them look like a jerk. I think as an audience we’re supposed to laugh, or say something like, “you go, girl”, but after awhile it’s not as funny, and I’m left questioning why I should want this character to succeed or be happy.
In my opinion, this trope is a character flaw, and would be better if it were developed rather than just staying “who they are”. Some sarcasm, some humour or frankness can be good and fun to read, but when it’s a character’s whole personality, they become an unlikable caricature.
#1: Love Triangles
I did mention this trope in my cliches post, but as it is my least favourite, I felt the need to mention it again. Like I said in that post, I don’t think love triangles are fair to the love interests or the readers, and are selfish on the part of the main character (or whoever else is being pursued). They are unrealistic and provide little dignity or respect for the love interests. I’m sure it’s possible to love more than one person, but this main character can’t love them that much if they’re willing to string the love interests along as they take forever to choose.
A classic example of this is the Hunger Games.
An example of this trope that I actually did find interesting was in the Matched series. The circumstances and world made the love triangle different and more believable. It’s been awhile since I read it last, so I don’t remember the exact details, but there was a lot to do with societal expectations and mix-ups with who science told her she was meant to be with. If I recall correctly, it also wasn’t dragged out too long, and the un-chosen love interest was able to move on and be pretty happy.
These are my top least favourite tropes in fiction! Are any of these on your list, too? What are some that you would add?
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