Friday, November 15, 2013

Stop! In the Name of Love...please.

Oh, tropes, you gotta love them. Actually, no, I don't. I hate them. I think they deserve more eye rolls than I can give out and some of them deserve to be banned from fiction. So please, say, "Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey-ey, goodbyeeee" to these tropes. 

20 Dollars to My Name

If you have read any YA book, specifically of the dystopian variety, you'll see some strange names. Names that make you want to slap their parents on the head or more realistically, the authors who actually birthed these characters. What happened to good names? Not everyone has to be Jane or Anne, but do you have to name the poor girl Pirabella Mindinkle? What is so painfully obvious is that authors name their main character, and sometimes love interest, a cringe-worthy name while everyone else has "normal" names. So what does that do? Make your character stand out! It's hard to believe that a character named Lockerwind Majestic is no one special and doesn't get attention while her best friend Rachel Smith has the spotlight.

When you name your character something ridiculous, the value of her or him just went down. They aren't even worth 20 dollars anymore.

Nobody's Perfect

Well, except for the main character, of course. She can run! She can jump! She can fly! She's good at everything she does and makes all the boys slack-jawed. There's an antagonist who challenges her? No problem, she miraculously beats him at his own game...while singing and doing the Irish jig too. Making your character so well-versed in many areas decreases the connection with them along with the realism. Stop making the protagonist be the answer to all the world's problems. 

Cries of the Past

On the other side of the spectrum, you can also have the trope of the tortured hero. Her past is dark and gloomy and to her, her future doesn't seem much better. What can she be good for? She's so useless! Her parents are despicable, her friends ditched her, her crush doesn't know that she exists (or he's dead), and wah wah wah, she doesn't deserve happiness. I've now gotten pleasantly surprised when a protagonist doesn't seem to have some deep, dark secret...or a dark past that she complains about so much so it can't be labeled as a secret. 

Call Me Maybe

I hate the song and I hate insta-love. You do not love each other. DO YOU EVEN KNOW THEIR LAST NAME? 

Man or Muppet

In YA terms, this would be uttered more of a, "What am I?" question. Human? Superhero? Dragon? Some unidentifiable creature? OMG, you suddenly have an awesome, world-saving power. How original. Even more trope-y is when the character finds out right when they need it the most. And of course, it doesn't appear until later in life, in the late teenager phase. How can a power suddenly show up that late? Does this mean I can have telekinesis any day now?
Note: I do have to admit that I like this plot when spectacularly done. It just seems to be way overused.

Uptown Girl

Money + Looks = Mean girl, apparently. Why do all the wealthy girls have to be perceived as snobs? And when does looking pretty equal to being a "slut" or some other dirty term. Please, tell me, why is it the girlfriend's fault that she's dating the protagonist's crush? TELL ME. Thankfully, I haven't run across it lately, but I am very intolerant when a protagonist will try to rationalize why another girl is not as good as her because she's more beautiful. Does that really make you feel good? If so, you are a sad human being who needs help. No guy should be in a relationship with an unstable girl like that. 

White Stuff

Normally, I don't pay attention one way or another what nationality or features a protagonist has. I just forget, which may be a bad thing to admit. But in these last few months or so, I have become more agitated with the fact that all protagonists seem to be white along with their love interest. It's like I'm reading about a sitcom. If you notice, most sitcoms have the lead be a white person and their love interest also white. If it's considered a "black" show, then both the main character and their love interest will be black as well. You know, it would be nice if more interracial couples were being shown love. Even more, I know that I see many author pictures and they are all white so it might not even cross their mind, but what if it was about an Asian or black or Puerto Rican or someone different. I KNOW, it's a crazy idea. 

With that, I have to mention a subtrope that would go along with this. Making your character non-white does NOT mean that the story has to center around his/her culture, family, skin color differences, heritage, etc. They can be JUST [insert description here]. It's possible. However, I do enjoy skin/heritage/culture-centered books so I'm okay with this.

What Doesn't Kill You (Make You Stronger)

At the Fierce Reads tour earlier this year, I got the lovely opportunity to hear authors talk, one of them being Leigh Bardugo. She gave great advice to authors: diversify your characters and don't think that "strong" has to be the only defining trait of your protagonist. Do I want a whiny, weak character? No, probably not. But do I want every character to feel the same? No, not at all. They can be brave, courageous, sensitive, human.

I might be absolutely wrong, but it seems as if, ever since The Hunger Games became popular, there are more and more YA female protagonists who start out weak or insecure or not realizing their full capability. Then, something happens and they have to toughen up. Usually, it progresses through a series and they go from, "This is horrible, I don't know what to do!" to "No matter what, I can do this!" to "I went through something very traumatic and now I'm not the same person anymore and since I'm so cynical of life, I would like to die, but hey, I can't because I have killer survival skills." Other times, they only go through an obstacle and have to tough it out, avoiding that nasty business of going through PTSD. I'm not asking for simpering girls, but not every girl has to go through blood, sweat, and well, actually no tears since big girls don't cry trauma? 

Can't she shed a tear? Like I said, she doesn't have to be whiny (as I see happen in some sequels), but your character will fall flat if strong is the only trait that you want your character to be remembered as. Make her normal. Make her a girl. Don't make her annoying, but still make her human. It's a big task to take on when you see so many "strong girl" books succeed, I know, but I know that I at least want a more dimensional and non-predictable girl character. Strong does not have to refer back to physical strength, but instead, can show a different kind of strength. 

Mr. Mysterious

I like my men strong. Who doesn't? When faced with a tough situation, I think most girls would rather have a guy with a smokin' body and determination of steel except when he's being stubborn and won't listen to you than a timid weakling. However, that doesn't mean all of YA love interests need to be described the same. Does every guy really need to be dark and mysterious?

Dark and mysterious can increase the swoon factor by a lot and along with much of the girl population, I think they can be very attractive that way. But sometimes authors think that this type of guy is the only type and force the character to be a trend. When done that way, I feel nothing and wish that the love interest was anybody else. Love interests can be nice. They can be geeky or goofy. They can be the nice guy. They can be normal. It won't hurt your book if that's where your main man belongs, in fact, it will probably improve it if that is who he is. 

Leigh Bardugo advised to give your love interest a mission and I wholeheartedly agree. For some reason, there's a common trend that the main man has to be dark and mysterious then have his focus just be on the protagonist. No, no, no. Don't just make them a love interest. Give them a story. Otherwise, they resemble a guy in a Dear Abby letter, a needy abuser who makes the girl his focal point. Not attractive, authors. By making him "dark and mysterious," you are not suddenly creating a swoon-worthy, substantial character. 

And that's all I have for you lovely folks, a few tropes that have either been happening for a ridiculously long time or just starting to become eye-roll-worthy. 

What are you some tropes you hate to come across?


  1. -20 Dollars to My Name; I like it when they try to come up with a more unique name and some of them are actually really good, but the examples you gave *snort* It's the same with a book I saw on instagram: the boy was called 'Butterfly.' Well, I'm sorry, but how am I supposed to take him serious?

    -Nobody's Perfect; I think I hate this one the most together with the combination of "Man or Muppet". The moment she/he is about to die and BAM, superpowers that normally take ages to control and they use them to save the world. And for me, flaws make a character so much more interesting!

    -Call Me Maybe: Instant attraction doesn't mean you love someone.. Ugh.

    -What Doesn't Kill You (Make You Stronger); I like it when a MC is strong and vulnerable at the same time. It makes them human and easier to relate to.

    -Mr. Mysterious: this can go two ways. It makes a book spectacular or laughable. It really depends on the situation and how the characters are written.

    1. BUTTERFLY?! Are you serious? That's just so wrong on so many levels.

      I agree. Like, Katniss was great in areas, but she also had many flaws and I think that's what made her really dimensional.

      Exactly! They can be vulnerable AND strong and strength doesn't have to refer back to actual physical fitness.

  2. OMG AMEN! This post has perfectly identified pretty much all my pet peeves and managed to throw in some awesome GIFS as well. I hate Insta-love with a passion! I've never been in love so do correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure you have to be pathetic and shallow to see someone and instantly think, I love you. I mean how can you appreciate a relationship that happens within a page, I think it's called duh, an attraction! This annoys me to no end.

    Don't get me wrong, I hate whiny characters and I love that we're seeing some strength, some girl power! But when a large majority of these characters are labeled strong because they can use a weapon or don't care what anyone thinks, I don't think that's all that factors into strength. Strong characters are characters who make it through their hardships and who aren't nesicairly fighting actual demons but instead, their inner demons!

    I could go on for ages but I don't want to explode your comment box any more than I already have. Fantastic Post as usual Sunny!

    1. You are so not wrong. The book loses me and all of its sanity when they do that. It's called attraction. And even when authors try to write that "Oh, I'm attracted" some of them STILL lean more towards insta love by having their MC imply there's more. You can NOT have such strong feelings for a person when you meet them. It's just impossible. If you think you do, you're pretty sad.

      *applauds* That's what I think! A lot of the things that contribute to this YA strength isn't what should make a character strong all the time.

      Haha, you're welcome to explode it anytime you want :)

  3. YES to a lot of the things on your list! Esp. Man or Muppet (If you can expect telekinesis any day, I want to be able to fly. (; ), Uptown Girl (This is one that annoys me more than most.), and Mr. Mysterious (I really want more nice guys in YA, it seems when there is a nice guy in the book, they're made boring compared to the mysterious guy and you already know who is going to "win" the main characters heart.). Great post!

    1. Now wouldn't that be awesome? For all the bloggers who has had to deal with book tropes, we now earn superpowers! I agree. If there is one, we know we shouldn't get attached because the other will win out.

  4. Those are some really good points! Like you said, a lot of them are fine in moderation but get ridiculous when it seems like they're a prereq of every YA book on the shelves.

  5. I've actually noticed an increase of multi-racial characters. They don't always come out and say so-and-so is Asian/Latin/etc, but you can tell in their physical descriptions. So I think it's getting a little better. That reminds me of something, though! I remember when I read the Immortal Rules, the MC was obviously of Asian decent, but the girl on the cover sure didn't look it. I just found it interesting that they put a more Caucasian looking girl on the cover instead.

    1. Oh really? I'll have to find those books! Now that would be incredibly annoying. I know that's happened once or twice for me and I was so annoyed because they changed her descent on the cover.

  6. I do agree that the number of white protagonists outnumber those from different racial backgrounds. I wonder if it is because most YA authors, or at least a large portion of them, are white themselves? It could be a possible reason. Honestly, I don't pay much attention to character appearances either, but diversity is one of those things that I can always get behind. Also, good point about the perfect main character! I totally agree that it makes the protagonist less believable, and in turn, a lot more difficult to connect with them. I like my characters to have flaws. And to not be predictable! Great list, Sunny. :)

    1. It would make sense if that was the case because I think naturally, it's our own race that we think of and it's not exactly intentional. Thank you, Sam!

  7. YES. I agree with all of these, and I love your clever section titles.

    I've mentioned this before, but I'll say it again: weird character names are turn-offs for me as well. A good name can enhance a character's personality, but if an author tries too hard to make the name stand out, I get annoyed. I'm no longer paying attention to the character development; I'm cringing at the awkward name every time someone says it.

    I also wish there were more books in which characters just happen to be Asian, although maybe there are plenty and I just don't notice/remember them because I rarely think a lot about what characters look like. I also see this a lot when it comes to romance. Single characters can't just be single and LGBT characters can just be LGBT. If someone isn't in a heterosexual romantic relationship it's a Big Thing and is an important topic of the book. Again, this is not always a bad thing, but I still wish there were more characters who just happen to be something.

    I could voice agreement on all your other points as well, but you did such a good job that I don't have to. Authors need to read this post! :)

    1. I always wonder about minor characters' ethnicities. They don't really matter unless they're the best friend or something, but I always wonder if THEY are the "different" ones. And THAT. Yes. I wish a character could be something and not make it a big deal.

  8. I really like some of thr thoughts in the "What doesn't kill you (makes you stronger)" section- I haven't read her books, but Leigh Bardugo has really thought-provoking comments. Thanks for including those!

    Another thing that made me think was the character name thing- I like unique character names myself, and whilst some are quite difficult to pronounce, I think it makes the whole thing mroe memorable.

    Great post, I found it really interesting!

  9. I can only tolerate the crazy names in fantasy because in those stories, even the places have weird names. But it's part of the reason why I think I could never write fantasy do they even come up with some of those names?!? I agree with everything else in this post, but especially the strong protagonists and mysterious love interests. I'm tired of reading the same old characters...could authors please change it up a bit? I love a girl who's not sure of herself, not afraid to show a little emotion. Likewise, I don't mind a love interest who's a little quirky and has a sense of humor. Another great topic, Sunny!

    1. That's what I think! I'm in awe of some of the names actually. Thanks, Jen!

  10. Great post Summer! :) I completely agree about the lack of diversity in books! Do they all have to be white? I'm getting tired of listening to their white people problems, and I hate it when black people end up with other black people just because they're black! This isn't realistic. I hope to see more POCs (even Asians please) in future books.

    1. Ha, white people problems. THANK YOU. Yes. That's why I get annoyed with tv shows and movies. If they happen to be interracial (which is rare) it's because of a plot and not just because.