Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Less Is More - Bookish Tropes We'd Like To See Less Of

The book world is full of brilliance ... but sometimes, one little part of that variety gets overused. And then that overuse progresses to the points that you can smell it coming from a league away, like your grandmother's suspiciously sentient lasange.

Relevantly deployed, there is nothing henious in the use of these tropes - au contraire, many have formed the base for some of the greatest stories of our history. Sadly, though, as enthusiasm for various sorts of story comes and goes, some see far too much use, and their relevance and usefulness degenerates into mundane typicality.

We know these tropes well, by now - we know them, we love them ... but maybe we see just a little bit too much of them thesedays.

Love Triangles

Arguably the greatest whinge-producer of any trope this side of fridging, love triangles have been going strong in particular since the rise of new Dark Romance series, where the female finds herself torn, often, between two worlds represented by a pair of brooding, preening supernatural beefcakes.

Like most romance sub-plots, the un-neccessary angst and limitations of character development can really tangle up a story, and while tensions between characters are wonderful grounds for tension and emotional drama, it might be nice to see them coming from other sources than one member's uber desirability.

Chosen Ones

Ah, the great universal Get Out Of Jail Free card for authors trying to shove reluctant characters into their boots and on the road to their great adventure. But sadly, as easy as it is to apply, this archetype and plot arc have been used to an extent that it almost seems like more of a substitute for actual motives than, as it should be, being used as part of an ongoing developmental cycle. Perhaps it's time to give the Oracle Of Vaguaries a week off, and find another reason to save the world.

Party Of Tropes

You're writing a story, not constructing a party for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. While a wide variety of skillsets, outlooks and character types is wonderful, letting those things define the characters' personalities and plot-related arcs entirely is a surefire way to draw criticism from every concievable corner of the readership - if they're not all asleep by this point anyway.

"Open" Endings

I'm looking at you, Mockingjay. While I'm glad to see that "Happily Ever After" has been handed its coat and shown the door, the new trend of supposedly ambiguous endings has been lying on the couch for a disconcertingly long period now - and it's starting to eat its way into parts of the pantry we'd rather it kept its sticky fingers out of.

Closure is not something to be afraid of, and you are not denying the readership anything by giving them a satisfying, conclusive ending to a story that demands one. There is nothing more distressing than dangling plot threads, and it is by far preferable to wrap things up in a way that may not please everyone than to leave everything hanging looser than a 14-year-old boy's boxers.

Besides, for those who don't like your ending, there's always fanfiction.


I'm not one for negativity, so I'll be back next week with a companion post for this one, listing a few things I would love to see making a comeback in the world of writerly creativity.

Feel free to leave me suggestions for that post, or even additions to this one, if you feel I've let some grevious swollen cliché slip through my net and make off with a bystander's sausage roll.

~ Charley R


  1. Eeeh, I agree with Chosen Ones. Just a little teeny tiny bit OVERDONE. I'll probably poke my own eyeballs out if I read another love-triangle. BUT. I actually like the open endings! No closure? Yes please. It allows me to suffer and stew and then shake my first at the internet-world and scream. Happiness.

    1. It's not open endings per se, but open endings where there doesn't need to be one. Sometimes closure fits in better with the tone or style of the story, y'know?

  2. I read a series with a love triangle in it the other day and at first I was like, "...mehhhh" but then IT ENDED WITH A POLYAMOROUS RELATIONSHIP. :D Yay for subverting tropes! Yay for not caring what society thinks!

    And I laughed so hard at the comparison of open endings and boy's boxers.

  3. Ooh, great post. For me, all these things depend on the book, though admittedly I am so so so sick of love triangles. I could do without them. Chosen Ones also bother me a lot. I'm not really a fan of open endings either, though again, if it suits the story, it would be fine. It all just depends for me.