To go along with my last post, which is my ten favorite tropes, I’m now sharing my ten least favorite tropes. They aren’t in any particular order.
Number 1: Medieval Europe Fantasy Setting
Can we please get some diversity in fantasy settings? Please, please, please? I want to see fantasy stories set in rainforests and deserts and tropical islands. Let’s get away from the standard pseudo-Middle Earth setting. I know I’m guilty of this in parts of my worldbuilding, but I have multiple locations that are nothing like medieval Europe. I’m trying to balance the familiar with the new.
Number 2: Parents Are Dead
This is super common in YA fantasy novels. Why do all the heroes have to be orphans? I know it’s typically because parents wouldn’t let their teenagers go on epic quests and participate in battles, but can we find another way around that? What about parents who actively encourage their teen to make a difference in the world? What if there are parents who know their kid is the chosen one, and they raise them to be the hero the world needs? That sounds more interesting than the orphan hero because it’s new and different.
Number 3: The Lucky Novice
This is when a character—bonus points if they’re a minor—learns a new skill really quickly, and it turns out they’re really good at it. Now they’re going around defeating bad guys who have had decades to hone this particular skill. I want to see the character struggle to learn a skill that’s imperative to their success as the hero. That adds so much more tension to the story. I want to see them struggle to take on the bad guys. Maybe their skills are mediocre for now, and they manage to defeat bad guys because they have help from the mentor and other talented characters. Or maybe they have some advantage (like they can wield magic, and the bad guy can’t). This one is just so unrealistic, and I think there are ways to meet the story’s needs without it.
Number 4: Love Triangles
This one really depends on how well it’s written. I have yet to see a love triangle that’s written in a way that makes me like it. I think this is because every single love triangle I’ve read about and see in film goes the wrong way. The main person never ends up with individual I want to see them with. Never. I’m looking at you, Shadow and Bone, The Hunger Games, and The Kiss of Deception. Those three were the most disappointing to me. (I haven’t read Twilight if you’re wondering.) If you can write a love triangle I like, you get all the gold stars because it hasn’t been done yet.
Number 5: No One Dies in the War
This one is just unrealistic. The characters go into a huge battle, and all the main ones come out alive. I’m looking at you, The Lord of the Rings. I know Harry Potter is depressing, but it isn’t guilty of this trope. I personally don’t believe in using violence unless absolutely necessary, and so I hate it when wars are glorified and everyone lives. Wars are awful. People suffer and die. No one comes out unscathed, and many don’t come out at all. War needs to be accurately represented in media. Therefore, characters have to die. Main characters. Not just the random side character we all knew was going to die from the start.
Number 6: Everyone Couples up at the End
I hate it when all the main characters—and sometimes the side characters too—have to end up in relationships with each other in the end. I’m looking at you, Six of Crows. While the stage of the relationship may vary, they all end up in some sort of pairing. What is wrong with being single for the happily ever after? Nothing. Nothing is wrong with being single. I want to see strong characters who don’t need a romantic partner to live out their happy ending. Maybe they find their soulmate later or not at all. It just feels unrealistic when everyone ends up in a relationship at the end of a story.
Number 7: Instalove
Here’s yet another unrealistic trope. I’m sorry, but people don’t fall in love when they first meet. They may be attracted to each other upon their first encounter, but they don’t fall head-over-heels in love. There needs to be some build-up to their relationship. If two people are behaving as though they’re in love right from the start, something is wrong. I’m going to assume that relationship is toxic and going to implode at some point in the story. Please give us build-up to love.
Number 8: Enemies to Lovers
This is another that I just haven’t seen done well. I think it’s possible for people to go from enemies to lovers, but I think it’s really hard to make that happen without it being toxic or even abusive. If two people are trying to kill each other or say offensive things to each other and genuinely mean it, I don’t see how it’s possible for them to truly love each other in a way that isn’t toxic. If they just dislike each other or are on opposing sides of a conflict or something, then I can see how it could happen. Or maybe one of them is raised thinking the other is a heathen, and then as they fall for the so-called heathen, they realize they’re not actually bad people, and they were raised on lies. If you’re going to have enemies to lovers in your story, please make sure it isn’t toxic.
Number 9: Resurrection
I hate this trope. When characters die, I want them to stay dead. If I’m going to go through the trouble of grieving over a character’s death, I want it to be worthwhile. I feel cheated if they’re suddenly alive again. I think on rare occasions this can be done well, but most of the time it doesn’t work for me. I would place fake deaths in this category as well. Grieving sucks—believe me, I know because all my favorite characters die—and I don’t want to waste time doing that when it turns out to be pointless.
Number 10: Anything that Romanticizes Toxic Behavior
I know I’m cheating a little because this isn’t a trope on its own but is rather a catch-all for a lot of tropes, but I hate seeing this in stories. I’ve been in toxic relationships. They suck. There is nothing romantic about them. Seeing toxic behavior romanticized makes me sick. I know many of the villains I love have toxic traits, but I don’t romanticize them. If a real-life carbon copy of my favorite villain asked me out on a date—or proposed, or whatever—I wouldn’t say yes. They are villains, bad guys, people I would never want to associate with real life. And I also think it’s important to draw the line between the good guys and bad guys. If I see toxic traits in a character who is supposed to be good, I immediately dislike them and want nothing to do with them. They are supposed to represent appropriate behavior (with the occasional mistake). The main reason I draw the line between good guys and bad is because people learn from media. Imagine a young girl reading a book or watching a movie where the female protagonist is in a relationship with a guy who is supposed to be a good guy. Now say that guy has toxic traits. That young girl is going to think those traits are normal and won’t see them as the red flags they are. I know stories are fiction, but we need to be careful about how we represent certain things because some people—especially younger people—don’t realize where to draw the line between fiction and reality. It can be hard sometimes. I’ve read books with toxic elements that I never noticed until someone else pointed them out to me. It happens. I just really want to see toxic behavior being called out rather than romanticized because ultimately I feel it’s really damaging. Toxic behavior can exist, it just needs to be addressed rather than romanticized.
Sorry to end on a rant, but that’s something I felt I needed to share. Those are my least favorite tropes. Some of them are just things I don’t like because they’re overdone, unrealistic, etc. But others are truly problematic and need to stop.
Do you agree with any of these choices? Do you like any of these tropes? How do you feel about toxic behavior being romanticized? Let me know in the comments down below.