8 things I’m tired of seeing in books

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. 

8 Things I'm tired of seeing in books.

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 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 woman in their twenties seem 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 pony tail, glasses, shapeless clothes and let’s through 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 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.

Yawn.

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 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.

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 whose 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 dashing, 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 disrespect.

It is often written as the cute “nice guy” who just wants to be loved.  But he’s not a nice guy.  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, 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.

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 and they just 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 are sterile.  Some people just don’t want kids and it doesn’t make them less than.

Share your thoughts in the comments below :)

Okay, so these are some of mine. What are some tropes and themes you’re tired of seeing?

Happy writing

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32 thoughts on “8 things I’m tired of seeing in books

  1. I agree with your list. I’ll add three. Harem romance & Reverse Harems, Unaware parents, and unlimited cash flow of YA characters. I am not a fan of the mutated love triangles the Harem romance (one main Male) or Reverse Harem (one main girl). I don’t understand how these characters under the age of 21 are forever out all hours and at dangerous locations that no parent notices. Lastly how are these people paying for all the extras.

    • Hi Tira, thanks for reading 🙂 Glad you like my post. ooh thanks for sharing these, yes they also need to go. I know what you mean about the unlimited cash. If the characters are wealthy, fine, show it, but otherwise it ruins the reality.

  2. The old ‘I’m not complete without a man’ routine is surprising to me. There must be a market in it but I’m still surprised writer’s do it. I know it’s something I would never try.

    • Thanks for reading, Bryan. It’s when you realise so many books STILL fail to pass the Bechdel Test because they just have to have their female characters constantly swooning and pining for some guy. In a romance, fine, I’ll tolerate it… in an action, sci-fi, fantasy… nope. That’s dull and ruins good characters.

    • Thanks for reading, Alyse. 🙂 As someone, like yourself, who has no interest in marriage or kids, it does get frustrating to see that so many female characters seem incomplete without a child and those written as not wanting them just HAVE to change their mind… otherwise they’re not REAL women.

  3. I too am sick of all those things you wrote so much so that I can be in the middle of a book when some big macho character comes in to save the day. Hate that! I put the book down and shake my head as I walk away.

    I have even stopped to look back at the book and just shake my head in discuss.

    • Thanks so much for reading 🙂 Glad you liked it. I agree, these things cropping up can ruin a good book and leave me hating the characters I’m suppose to be rooting for,

  4. I agree with all the items on your list.

    I’m tired of orphans being chosen ones, being a red-head as short-hand for being feisty, and clueless parents who aren’t aware of their offspring’s world-changing issues.

    • Thanks for reading, Ivia. Glad you enjoyed this post 🙂 I was so expected people to come at me screaming when I wrote it but so far everyone agrees with me. Phew! 😀

      Oh yes, everyone and his brother seems to be an orphan these days. I had noticed that with red-heads. lol clueless parents, so true. Especially when their kids are walking in sporting massive injuries and the parent just accepts the “fell down” as an excuse.

  5. Yes! I agree with all of these. I’m also tired of the dystopian YA novel where the kids have to run around in some type of dangerous “game.” Yes, loved Ender’s Game and Hunger Games (game being the big theme), but did we really need a bunch of others trying to cash in on the trend? I guess it’s just not my thing.

    • Thanks for reading, Yari. 🙂 So true, there seems to be an obsession that if something comes out and does well, then everyone has to jump on the bandwagon and yes the dystopian survival game has been done to death.

      PS: Not sure if you received my link through Instagram messages, I still would love to have you as a guest poster (either doing an article or an interview) If you are still happy to be a guest on this blog, please check out the details on this link and complete the form at the bottom 🙂 https://arimeghlen.co.uk/guest-posters/interested-in-guest-posting/

      • Hi! My Instagram inbox is a bit of a mess rn, but I’d love to be a guest! I have filled out the form on the link you provided. Let me know if you received it okay, and we’ll go from there.

        Thanks for thinking of me 🙂 Take care,
        Yari

  6. Nice post, especially on the reasons. Personally, I’m wary of love triangles – they have a potential to get really weird and maybe the question might be when, not if. Also, characters that grow in power very fast off-screen without giving at least a hint about how it happened so it looks like deus-ex-machina for the sake of a shock (“I’d not expect you to become “).

    • Thanks for reading, Tomas. Glad you liked this post. I have to admit, I have only seen the odd “love triangle” work well, most just are so jarring and you end up hating all the characters involved.

      Ohhh yeah, there is a lot of deus ex-machina popping up in fiction at the moment. It’s like, geez,, stick in another chapter or two to explain how don’t just drop it on us.

  7. Oh man, these all ring true, but 02 and 08 especially drive me insane!!! It just really, really irks me when something basic to the character’s identity suddenly shifts and then it’s treated as though they’re “better off” or “more whole” for it. It’s unbelievably irritating, and harmful to boot.

    • Thanks for reading, Mae. I know what you mean, a book or movie can be ruined when they do this whole character identity shift. I instantly lose interest.

    • 😀 thanks for reading, glad it made you laugh. I think it would be fun to have a parody of some of these like as you said, the bloodshot-eyed girl trying to break in her contacts.

      I think what always annoyed me with the whole “nerdy girl transforms into babe and is suddenly fancied by the popular guy” is that on the flip side it is always “nerdy boy stays the same and popular babe suddenly appreciates him for who he is.”

  8. I agree with all of these things – I’m sick of seeing the “male that doesn’t understand why female isn’t into him” type. And the strange “obsession” trope that keeps trying to come back.

    • Thanks for reading, glad you liked it. I always hate those ones with a persistent male who obsesses with females and doesn’t understand why they aren’t swooning… probably because that’s too often a trope we see in real life and I don’t need it from the “leading man” in my fiction. From the asshole character, we all hate, fine but not from the protagonist.

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