5 overused fiction tropes that should just die now
Updated: Mar 22
If pre-tested success recipes were irrelevant, cookbooks won’t exist.
The world of literary creation has for long disowned tropes, deeming them to be a tool of genre and fanfiction writers, while at the same time surviving on its crumbs. But contrary to the collective belief of the author community, tropes aren’t lazy writing, they’re just the promise of feelings readers crave.
The jock-nerd friendship, the brooding hero, the haters turned lovers and the furious female assassin with daddy issues. Nothing can make your heartstrings hum like the eagerness to read something new about characters you feel like you already know. Because at the end of the day, we are all looking for different endings to the same story, until we find our favourite one.
A trope is the promise of a feeling, nothing more.
But despite the dearness of tropes to the readers, a few bad elements sully the reputation of the whole bunch. The world already has enough mean queens and Cinderellas, and too many run-ins at the airport (has anyone actually done this? We have phones!). Here, we present you an exhaustive (and exhausting) list of braindead tropes-
“She’s not like other girls”
There are too many authors who have never seen a woman play a video game before. So when Ms My-mom-died-in-my-childhood defeats Mr I-hate-my-dad in a friendly kart rider match, magic happens.
I want this to be known to everyone: while merely liking and playing video games is not an enormous feat, many girls love it. Many girls also do the following unbelievable things: wear sneakers, not like pink, not sing, be intelligent, breathe, eat desserts, eat carbs, eat anything, care about how they are being portrayed in modern literature.
Doing all these perfectly normal things does not make a girl “not like other girls.” There is no one blueprint for women. Stop generalising half the population of the world, fiction authors. Please?
2. Ugly Duckling turned Swan
From Disney’s Cinderella to SRK’s ‘Mai Hoon Na,’ a girl puts on a different dress and suddenly violins are playing. The idiot who would never even look at her suddenly wants to father her children. And the people she lives with can’t even recognise her.
Please! If completely altering your appearance were that easy, the writer of this article wouldn’t look like she does.
“You have a ponytail, hormonal acne … and GLASSES? Ewwwwww gross!”
3. Love Triangle
If only we could all choose between the hot guy with a six-pack and the hot guy with an eight-pack. We apologise in advance for objectifying men but in most teen-fiction narratives, this is the extent of characterisation they get besides being hopelessly in love with the female war hero. Most authors provide only negligible distinction between two love prospects. And you know what’s the worst part? The lonesome heroine ALWAYS chooses the less attractive one.
“ And only Peeta can give me that. So after, when he whispers, "You love me. Real or not real?" I tell him, "Real.”
-Katniss Everdeen, Mockingjay
Well, why did you kiss Gayle then, Katniss?
4. Saving the World
We get it, Steve, you have the destiny to fulfil and save the freaking world. Now can I know more about your character’s real motivation?
The ‘saving the world’ trope has ruled the comics and fantasy world since the dawn of time-which is where it should’ve been left. The growing readership is becoming increasingly intelligent and doesn’t wanna invest in characters whose only motive is doing what they have to do… just because...
“Because THAT’s what heroes do!”
5. “Sexy and I don’t know it”
Let’s make one thing clear: wearing glasses cannot make you less attractive. Whether it’s Melissa Benoist in Whiplash, Anne Hathway in the Princess Diaries or Sandra ‘gorgeous as hell’ Bullocks in Miss Congeniality. Miss, you are beautiful! Why do you need a guy or an old grandma to tell you that?
You probably undress with blindfolds on and never look into the mirror. Because that's the only possible explanation for you to not know how beautiful you are!
This is a call to action for writers. If you are looking to employ any of these tropes anywhere in your stories, make sure you give a very strong reason for them. Most of these tropes account for taxing readings and poor reviews. And we don’t want the critics to find out that there is some truth to their opinions now do we? We ought to prove them wrong!
Let’s make the tropes great again!
And never forget,
The world’s most immersive art form depends on you!