Discussion: Annoying Book Tropes

Discussion: Annoying Book Tropes

I’ve seen a number of posts like this, but I wanted to dive a little deeper into some of my bookish pet peeves. Let’s get ready to RAMBLE!!!!!

Heroes having a huge moral debate about killing the bad guy

I absolutely hate when the protagonist agonizes about killing the villain. It’s an interesting moral question in general, but it gets old really fast. I much prefer J.K. Rowling’s approach to this topic. Harry continues to use ‘stupefy’ or disarming spells and finally the adults around him point out “THIS PERSON IS TRYING TO KILL YOU- REACT ACCORDINGLY!”

This internal debate is also the backbone of countless movies and T.V. shows (season 3 Aang comes to mind, from Avatar: The Last Airbender). Every single time a protagonist decides to jail their opponent I think of the final scene in the X-men trilogy, when Magneto realizes he has some power left. Leaving them alive is not a good idea. It’s going to come back and bite you in the ass.

Having re-read that paragraph, I’m not sure what this attitude says about my personality… something not good, probably. In real life, things are seldom so cut and dry, but in fiction, I want my good guys to commit to a course of action and move on.


Sex is either amazing or traumatizing, there is no in-between

This one really makes me angry. Generally speaking, there are two types of sexual content in books: it’s either mind-blowing and orgasmic, or it’s some kind of deep, dark secret. On the mind-blowing side, you have the unrealistic first-time experiences, or sex that is always phenomenal and earth shattering. On the dark secret side, sex is the source of shame or emotional distress.

Both of these approaches have their place, but what about middle-of-the-road experiences? Your first time can be perfectly pleasant, but unremarkable. Sex with a new lover can be awkward and mediocre. Additionally, sexual trauma can be dealt with in a healthy way.

I really think that this topic would benefit from more nuanced writing. At a bare minimum, can we please see some more dialogue about sex? I’m not talking about moaning or screaming of names, but actual discussion between consenting partners.


Diversity as the driving force in the plot

I write about diversity. I read books specifically looking for diversity. Diversity is amazing and representation is incredibly important and undervalued.

Having said that, I would love to see diversity incorporated into books without it being the source of conflict. I love when a book includes diverse characters, but doesn’t go out of their way to draw attention to that fact. ‘Shadowshaper‘ does this really well. The characters are racially and sexually diverse, but that diversity isn’t the source of conflict in the book. The characters are all different, but equally valued and their race/gender/sexual orientation is simply accepted as fact.

Racism, sexism and general bigotry have their place in literature. I 100% believe that those stories are important to tell. However, it is actually possible for different people to peacefully coexist.  For example, I’d love to see more LGBTQ+ characters who have already come out, and are accepted unconditionally by their family. As another example, the story line for a character with disabilities doesn’t need to revolve around that disability. I want more books that feature a fat character who isn’t trying to lose weight.

Again, I just want more nuanced writing, and more inclusion of real-life situations.


What do you think of these tropes? Do you have any others that really annoy you?


8 thoughts on “Discussion: Annoying Book Tropes

  1. I have the same issue with mental health that you have regarding diversity in books. Mental illness is either a plot device to create tension or it’s written as a gimmick. Drives me bananas!

    1. YES!! Mental (and physical) health problem are a part of life, but they don’t have to define your life, you know? I don’t understand why that concept is so difficult for publishers to grasp.

  2. Ugh, I so agree with #1! If you don’t kill the bad guy, he’s going to find a way to come back! That’s just the way it is. Just deal with it, once and for all.

    1. Right?! And then when the villain does inevitably return, the heroes are always shocked and have the debate all over again. Ugh.

  3. Yes! Yes! Yes! All of these are on my list too! My others are YA novels where the love interest acts like a stalker (looking at you Twilight), and when 16 yr olds find the ‘love of their life’ – it’s like, you are a child! You have no idea!

    1. Oh my gosh- the stalker thing! I feel that same way about many romance novels (intended for adults). I get that the relationships are supposed to be intense or whatever, but a lot of the time they end up being super creepy and domineering.

  4. I totally agree about the sex thing. It took me SO LONG to find a few books that gave me that “sex is normal” message in YA. I *think* it’s starting to get better– or maybe I’m just better at finding them?? But I have been reading some where the sex is just a thing that happens and the person who does it doesn’t have to have some kind of karmic punishment because of it. I really liked Kissing Ted Callahan by Amy Spalding bc of that!

    1. I’ll have to look into ‘Kissing Ted Callahan’! The trope annoys me at every reading level, but it’s especially important in YA reading. Maybe if we gave teenagers a more realistic view of sex and relationships, it would help them to become more emotionally prepared adults. That benefits everyone, so I’m not sure why publishers have such a hard time with it.

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