Today I thought I’d share with you some of the themes and tropes I’m tired of seeing in books.
Obviously, these are just my own personal opinions and I know other people may enjoy these same tropes etc. They just aren’t for me.
01 The Jealous Alpha Male character
Now, I love me a strong male character – whether he is a protagonist or a villain. I like reading characters that are confident and have self-awareness. What I’m not so fond of is the constant jealous Alpha male image.
They are usually written as being overly domineering, entitled and extremely possessive of their love interest (whether ‘said’ love interest is aware of the love-feelings or not).
This is not a nice trait and yet it’s meant to come across as endearing (often when it’s not even written that way).
I’m sorry but the love interest, is a whole person in their own right, they aren’t someone’s possession or property to be guarded jealously by some guy who doesn’t like it when anyone even looks at them.
PS: Being protective, is not the same as being possessive. I love me some male character protective of his partner, his friends, his family… but possessive, that’s a pass for me.
02 The Blossoming Wall Flower
Urgh, I have so many issues with this one.
It’s almost always a high school age girl (though a woman in their twenties seems to get dragged into this role too) who appears plain, unnoticed.
She often has long hair that she keeps tied up in a bun or ponytail, glasses, shapeless clothes and lets throw in “carrying a lot of books against her chest”.
Then suddenly everything changes – either she meets a friend who shows her the ways of makeup and Wonderbras, or she’s invited to the Summer Ball and must be tended by talking mice who dress her fabulously.
We see hairpins removed so a beautiful tumble of silken hair frames her face perfectly, glasses come off (never any mention of contacts, she can just suddenly, magically see!).
Gone are the clothes she obviously enjoyed wearing so she can instead be decked out so her figure in all its curves can be revealed.
Because the message here is, change your appearance to look more socially beautiful and feminine and you can finally be accepted and get noticed. Then the Prince will be awed by your beauty. Then the high school heartthrob will see you.
03 The “I just want to be normal” rant
This is again, usually in YA where some ungrateful teenager is granted powers, abilities, a magical destiny and suddenly decides they’d really rather just be in school learning Maths.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting every kid thrust into the Fate of the World battle would just roll with it. However, I never met anyone who would have just wanted to be normal when given some great power.
Scared they might mess up? I’ll buy that. Fearful they might hurt someone? Sure. Overwhelmed into having a meltdown? Why not. But please, I’m so tired of these kids crying about “just wanting to being normal.”
Unless that power they received is to end the world or will burn them up until they are nothing, I’m just not buying it.
04 The smart, geeky/nerdy protagonist
Again this is mostly in YA. Wow, I’m picking on YA a lot today.
Male or female, it doesn’t matter, there seems to be a mass of super smart school-aged protagonists. They are almost always portrayed as nerds, with excessive book smarts who ace all the tests.
They are always geniuses in science and Maths and know advance level stuff that usually is only known by PhDs and Professors. It’s getting a little… same-y.
They are also never accepted before they are so smart. You know what? When I was going through school, the smart kids had plenty of friends!
How about some street smart kids, how about the kids that are into creative subjects like drama or dance, or even, heaven forbid, just middle of the line kids.
Not the tearaways who got expelled for fighting. Not the super smart Mensa kids who figured out Cold Fusion. Just the normal, good at some, bad at other subjects, kids.
05 The Toxicity of Persistence
I’m not sure when we started to almost romanticise persistence in regards to boys chasing after girls they liked, but I’m not happy with it.
We often have a female character who’s not interested in a male character, he chases, doing what he can to “win her favour”.
He is considered adorable for pursuing her despite her rejections. He jokingly replies he will just keep asking her out until she says yes. Smiling some dashingly charming smile.
Actually… that behaviour is creepy. Constantly pushing and harassing someone, trying to wear them down until they say yes (no matter how “cute” you write it) is not positive behaviour. It shows a deep lack of respect.
It is often written as the cute “nice guy” who just wants to be loved. But he’s not a nice guy. Real nice guys don’t do that.
06 Abuse as a form of love
It’s actually quite scary how types of abuse such as emotional, mental and sexual abuse are used in some stories to show a deep sense of love.
This can be the obsession of a character with another. This can be the need to dominate, control, manipulate another character. Whether it’s a love interest, a friend or a subordinate.
This can also include characters who threaten to kill themselves if their love interest leaves them.
That’s emotional blackmail and isn’t pretty. If it’s written as such, great, but if it’s written as some show of longing love… err… nope.
PS: Stalking, also not a sign of love.
07 The “I’m not whole without a man”
If you read my Bechdel Test post, you are probably not surprised that this one is on my list.
I’m not a fan of one-dimensional female characters whose entire story arc seems to revolve around them getting a man.
If you have a single female character and all she does it moan about being single and go on endless dates, I’m not interested.
These stories often have their male characters fully formed, often not needing a woman until they realise they can’t live without 1-dimentional girl. Urgh, PASS!
08 The sudden baby shift
I rarely read a book (non-YA, that is) that doesn’t have the main female character either having kids or wanting kids (eventually).
I guess I can live with that. What I really don’t like though is the baby shift. When a female character is happy with their life, happy being child-free then suddenly they are knocked up and bam – life-changing moment.
They realise they were missing out all along and all they needed was a baby.
Or that they meet “the one” and he wants kids so suddenly, the prospect of having HIS kids is like something magical.
It is possible to be 100% happy not to want kids and it doesn’t even have to be because one or both of the couple is sterile. Some people just don’t want kids and it doesn’t make them less than.
These are some of mine. What are some tropes and themes you’re tired of seeing?