Thoughts On: Tropes/Cliches in Books

I’d like to preface this post by saying what said below is entirely my own personal opinion, and to take what I say with a grain of salt. If this offends you, or you have to dislike what I am saying, feel free to exit this page. Otherwise, enjoy!

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1. The Chosen One

This trope is classically best in novels such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson or the Hunger Games. These three main characters from these novels went from a normal (-ish) mundane life to suddenly on an epic quest. These quests can only be completed by the chosen ones.

Now, I don’t mind this trope. In my head, I don’t mind the fact that somewhere in another realm, the boring character’s lives suddenly changed to something dangerous and adventurous.

I like the notion that someone can be mysteriously chosen to save the world- or the collective group of people.
Whether that is Harry Potter saving the wizarding world from ‘he who shall not be named’ (aka you-know-who). Or even Katniss Everdeen who has to destroy the capital, be the Mockingjay and save the districts.
In sum; I like this trope. I support it for its contents despite the controversy.

2. The Dormant Evil Trope

This trope is the classic residing evil, hidden away for hundreds to thousands of years, waiting for the right moment to awaken. Quite usually this occurs with generation (Great-great grandchild cursed to complete the quest and destroy the evil). This could especially be seen in novels with witches or powers.

Personally, I’m indifferent to it. I don’t actively seek novels with this trope, but I also don’t actively turn away when it contains it. I have read and will read, novels with this trope. To face it, it’s a classic. Whether reviewers or readers enjoy it or not.

Now, when I do not like this cliche is when it is used with the same trope of wanna-be normal teenager reaches the prime age. When suddenly they notice things going wrong- and only they can stop this evil force because their great-great-grandparent cursed them to be the one. Usually, this is because they couldn’t handle it. Almost always, it ends up with the main character not wanting to do the quest, wishing to be normal.
My biggest gripe here is, why can’t they just be excited about it for once? Like why do they always fight destiny or hate their powers/talents?

Like damn, if I found out I had this mysterious, magical power or talent that could destroy this all power-full being, my egocentrism would go off the charts.

3. The Powerful Artifact Trope

My precious”

Alright, the evil has arrived, only one thing can save it and its lost. The main character has to find it, fighting off evil and restore peace to the land with the artifact. I get it, Indiana Jones it, but it is overplayed, I even have a novel (not finished yet) that features a powerful artifact.
I see the desire to have it in novels, it ties in questions that otherwise would have no answer, it fills in the blanks and pushes along a plot.

All I’m asking is for one daredevil author to have the powerful artifact to be a child. I feel like it would be amusing and vastly entertaining to read, as well as a little sick.

I don’t have much to say on this trope as I personally have used it in my writing. It is just one of those things that are overplayed, but when in doubt, is used. I support it, even if I have differentiating opinions on it.

4. The Secret Heir Trope

I haven’t actually seen this trope enough, very few novels on my bookshelf feature it. So this section will be shorter than the rest. However, I do have to say, when I have read it, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I enjoyed the aspect of not knowing, to knowing. Like, it’s hard to explain, but I find a sick enjoyment in reading a character’s confusion or shock.

How the plot quickly ties together, with either the secret heir doing all the work behind the scenes or the secret heir stepping into play and ruining all the main character had built.

However, in saying that, whether it is mutely selective or unintentional, I haven’t read any novels featuring this, as I do enjoy a happy ending- victorious for either the protagonist or antagonist. I like the final hoorah for the characters, the battle or the final death scene. It literally has me on the edge of the seat nearly every time.

5. The Elder Mentor Trope

Again, this trope is always evident in fantasy novels. Where they go from a total novice to an expert in a few pages. All due to the elder mentor character. Not much info is given on this mentor, hardly any backstory, and only present when training the main character, most novels don’t even feature where they found the mentor!

This is the most annoying trope I can read. No backstory, no personality besides harsh and tough, and disappears once the main character is trained.

Stop this trope or fix it! Argh!

6. The Reluctant Hero Trope

Alright, this trope annoys me. When I read it, it deeply gets under my skin. It makes me mad.

Why can’t the main character be happy they have a chance to save the world?

I’m the biggest daydreamer, I can power through the day by just sitting there- eyes open or not- in another realm. I can usually accidentally daydream at least 5 times a day. That is when I can recall I was in a daydream. This is especially evident when I am doing homework, unfortunately.
Now that point of this paragraph was to say that most my daydream’s- on an embarrassing note- focus on me (not exactly me, but someone as a focus of the daydream) saving the world, going on adventures or fighting.
Like I’m a total badass in my dreams, on an honest note. Like try to fight my daydream character and they will annihilate you.

So, when this trope is brought up and the character refuses to go along with the plot, or they refuse their destiny or try and break it, it breaks my heart. Like I would switch places in a heartbeat. I would kickass.

In sum: I am a badass in my daydreams, and I disprove of this trope.

7. The Orphan Trope

The only times I have seen this trope conducted well is in Anne of Green Gables or Harry Potter. Otherwise, off the top of my head, I cannot remember a decent orphan trope. I feel like it is badly done and overdone. Simple as that. Does it really take that much effort or pages to have a character remember they have parents exist?

Makes me feel like the only way a good plot or a character can be free to do what they want, is if their parents are dead.
Unless you, the author, is an orphan yourself and honestly doesn’t know any other way, then stop doing it! That is, of course, if it isn’t apart of the plot.

I feel like Harry Potter doesn’t it brilliantly, it has a deep backstory that is engrained in the plot of why his parents are dead, it fuels the plot, adds to the story. It isn’t just a plain sentence saying his parents died when he was young, cut and dry.

Or, Anne of Green Gables, it isn’t a significant focus of the story, but it is part of the backstory and main story. It is how she got where she is now, with her current caregivers. Perhaps my opinion on these are skewed because these characters still feature primary caregivers. But if these significant novels can do it, why can’t more?

8. The Only Child Trope

I am one of 7 children, so again, my opinion may be skewed. But why can’t novels include siblings? I can name ten novels on my shelf currently that features main characters as only children.

According to statistics, in 2017 over half (55%) of lone-parents had one child, 51% of cohabiting parents and 40% of married couples had one. Now it is clear that it is a significant proportion of families, but it is still low enough for novels to feature more than one child.

Now, I get how it is easier to not have siblings for main characters in novels, but it makes it entirely less relatable. A part of me wished some of my favourites novels would feature siblings, opening up a wider grasp on the differences between them. How the plot would be entirely different if the main character was the sibling instead. But, that is just my opinion, like I said, I am used to having several different personalities and siblings in one household.

9. The ‘I’m beautiful but I don’t know it’ Trope

I know I’m not ugly, but I also know I’m not gorgeous. In saying this, I can dress up and look pretty if I wanted to. Like I don’t describe myself as plain and boring because I don’t want to look or be that way?
If I was reading a novel about myself and read a description of “She had muddy brown hair, her eyes a dull brown. Her nose was oddly large but her eyes piercing.” I would be super offended!

I’m not vain, but I would hope I would be described in a positive way, which is why I try to describe myself that way personally (That is, not talking myself up). Which leads me to the question, why do characters -and authors- describe themselves like that? It isn’t vain to like how you look.

On the other hand, authors attempt to combat this low self-esteem with overcompensation. I saw this in the Throne of Glass series where she overly described herself, flaunting and just talking herself up.
Now I’m not crossing this over with her personality, but from the get-go, she seemed almost self-obsessed. I love her character, and the series is in my top favourites but it slightly bothered me.

10. The Love Triangle Trope

This trope is ever evident in Twilight, Hunger Games or generally most of Young Adult genre novels. Now, I wouldn’t call this just a novel trope, because surprisingly, this happens in real life. Unlike tropes such as the powerful artifact or overlord evil. Which is why this trope, to me personally, it tolerable. More so than tolerable really, I get giddy like I’m a teenage girl again.
I love the dramatic, will they or won’t they. The drama of hopings she/he will choose one and either getting overly happy or overly mad when she/he chooses between the two.

The only time this trope gets annoying to me is when it is the main focus of the entire novel. Unless it is a designated romance novel, then it shouldn’t be the main focus! It should be a desirable sub-plot that has you sitting on the edge of the seat when it gets brought up.

Perhaps this trope would be significantly more tolerable is if authors took the focus away from the love triangle, adding it as a background focus rather than a primary focus of the plot. I should feel like the main character is more invested in their task at hand, rather than worrying about love during a time of crisis.

However, take my opinion with a grain of salt because I do prefer darker themes for novels, and I do not enjoy reading primary focus romance novels, or novels without a significant plot.

Thank you all for reading! This was a long one, took a few days to actually write everything out, as I had to do quite a bit of research.

Now if you agree with what I say, or have a different opinion, feel free to share below.
If that doesn’t work for you, feel free to go to my Instagram at @in_another_realm and dm or comment there!

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