Do you ever get that feeling of déjà vu when reading a book? You’re positive that you’ve never read it before but it just seems so familiar. So much so that you can almost guess the ending. Chances are, you’re reading a book that is filled with over-done tropes.
Haven’t heard the term before? Don’t worry – I’ve got your back! A trope is a commonplace, recognizable plot element, theme, or visual cue that conveys something in the arts (yourdictionary.com).
Basically, it’s something that happens so often that you come to expect it. A great example is the comic relief in a film or book. They’re there to offset the tension and to give the audience a few light-hearted moments amongst the action or drama.
Some tropes though are so over done that they make the book seem formulaic and predictable. The following tropes, in my most humble opinion, need to be given a rest. Pop them on the shelf, let some others out to play, and then once we’ve been given a chance to miss them, then let them have a comeback.
The Damsel in Distress: This one pops up often, even in books with ‘strong female characters’. Despite spending most of the novel getting along just fine by herself, come the climax of the novel, the antagonist suddenly needs the love interest to come and save her. As Neil Gaiman has famously said, “I don’t have a lot of patience for stories in which women are rescued by men.”
The ¾ break up: A romance novel trope that is so predictable, it takes all of the angst out of the plot. The characters meet, fall for each other, and everything seems fine. Then there will suddenly be a miscommunication or other clichéd plot device that causes them to break up (and don’t even get me started on these miscommunications!). Don’t worry though – they always get back together and have their happily ever after.
The love triangle: Common in YA books especially, the love triangle is guaranteed to distract from the main plot so much that I sometimes question why the author didn’t just write the book as a romance instead. Wouldn’t it be nice to read a book where our teenage antagonist ends up saving the day without spending half the book agonising over which dreamy love interest is their soul mate?
The stoic detective: Grizzled, grumpy, and boarding on being an alcoholic. If crime fiction novels are to be believed, these are the prerequisites for solving crime. I’d love to read about a detective who isn’t jaded, who isn’t an utter bastard, who has emotions and a balanced and healthy family life. Could you imagine if the barriers in their way weren’t their lack of people skills or the need for vengeance due to a case-gone-bad from their past that still haunts them to this day, but instead was the bureaucracy, or external forces?
Wouldn’t that be nice? And different.