By Elizabeth Dubos
Book tropes are recurring ideas, themes, or devices that authors use to help steer the direction of the characters or the plot. Authors enjoy employing tropes because a sense of familiarity attracts the attention of readers. For example, in romance novels and Hallmark movies, readers are attracted to the powerful CEO character who is overly stressed, so they go home for the holidays and rekindle a past love. Book tropes are successful when an author puts their spin on the plot, characters, or setting. For example, fairytale and classic retellings are book tropes that frequently used in Young Adult Fiction. Cinder by Marissa Meyer is a retelling of Cinderella, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige is a retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum. The majority of book tropes are disliked because numerous authors overuse them, making their stories unoriginal and stale. However, there are good book tropes too. I wanted to note that I will not be naming specific literary examples because I don’t want to accidentally reveal any spoilers.
1. Love triangles. Love triangles provide an exciting conflict and resolution element to stories. Love triangles are successful when they add complexity to the storyline. It’s entertaining when both suitors are viable options for the protagonist, but the reader doesn’t know which one will be chosen. I don’t like it when one-character stays with the same love interest throughout the entire series because it’s boring. My biggest bookworm pet peeve is the lack of character growth/development. For me to enjoy a book, I like learning how the character has evolved from start to finish. As living humans, our likes and dislikes change, so why can’t fictional characters change too? However, love triangles can be a hit or miss. If a love triangle is simple, then it’s cheesy and cliche. Unfortunately, they can be toxic and harmful as well.
2. The slow-burn romance. One of the reasons why I enjoy a slow burn romance is because I love to pick out characters to ship them. Character shipping is when you’re rooting for two fictional characters to have a romantic relationship. I love when characters take their time to form a relationship because it demonstrates their individual character developments. Plus, I’m a sucker for romantic tension that gradually builds and builds until the couple gets together. I strongly dislike insta-love because it lacks passion, appears forced, and is awkward.
3. The quest. I love it when characters have to travel to accomplish their goals, missions, or destinies. This gives the author the opportunity to further expand their world-building skills. The world-building is important to me because it allows me to visualize characters and connect to the story. Settings are vital since it helps establish the atmosphere and mood for specific scenes. Plus, I like reading about descriptive settings, so it feels like I’m right alongside the characters. I don’t like it when the characters stay in the same place throughout the book because it’s stagnant.
4. The impending doom. Yes, I know this one is overdone in fantasy books, but I enjoy how authors put their spin on it. I’ve noticed that many authors change how their protagonists deal with the impending doom; some protagonists prepare and face the oncoming doom while others flee because they're scared of death. I enjoy reading these book tropes because it helps bring a realistic tone to a fictional world; everyone deals with disaster in their way.
5. Antiheroes. I think stories with courageous, glorious, and unflawed heroes can be boring. I enjoy stories with antiheroes because they’re complex and dynamic characters. Antiheroes can have a major character or perspective change throughout the story. One of my favorite antihero traits is their curiosity. I don’t like it when characters blindly follow orders. I enjoy it when characters question themselves and others because the right way may not always be the safest. Sometimes fictional characters might have to break the law or disobey orders to save more people.
Edited by Princess Berry