For some reason, I always have a hard time coming up with tropes that I either love or hate. My mind always automatically goes to the obvious few: insta-love, love triangles, the Chosen One, etc. I think part of my problem is that I don’t necessarily love or hate any trope. Although I think some of them are really overused, I can like almost any trope as long as it is really well-written. I also struggled a bit to think of tropes that weren’t heavily focused on romance. It’s only by really looking at some of the common factors among many of the books that I’ve read in the past few years that I’ve been able to figure out some of the tropes that really draw me to a book. It also reminds me of a course I took in university about children’s literature, where we talked about how stories are all variations on themes, and it’s very difficult to find any story that is completely unique. I have no problem with books using common tropes, as long as they do them well!
Please note that the examples mentioned for each item below are books that I know of that feature that trope, but are not necessarily books that I have personally read yet. Those that I haven’t read yet are on my TBR, and recommendations are always welcome!
Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
1) Found Family/band of misfits – This is a trope that I’ve only discovered fairly recently, and it has quickly become a favourite. I love books that bring an eclectic cast of characters together to work toward a common goal, and especially when those characters come together to become each other’s family. I love seeing the characters form such strong bonds and become such a support network for each other.
2) Fake dating – I’m not sure if this was a trope I would have picked a few years ago, but I find this trope so much fun to read now! In general, I don’t like anything to do with insta-love, and I find these kinds of relationships tend to be better developed and a lot more interesting, when they are well-done. I think part of what I love about it is that I tend to enjoy character-driven stories, and putting the characters in this kind of situation tends to give them quite a bit of development.
3) Platonic relationships that stay platonic – Bonus points if the characters’ sexual orientations aren’t the determining factor in why they don’t end up dating, since that often seems to be the case. I guess in a sense most books include platonic friendships with side characters, but I’d love to see more where the typical love interest ends up being a really good friend and nothing more than that, since that is definitely something that happens in real life.
4) Hate-to-love – I think I blame Buffy and Spike for this one, but I love to see these kinds of relationships when they are done well. I find that this is a trope that can be a bit risky since it is very easy for it to veer into potentially problematic behaviour. In most cases though, I find these kinds of books so fun to read because they have such amazing character dynamics and tend to have a lot of very witty banter
5) Friends-to-lovers/slow-burn romances – I’m putting these two together even though they are not necessarily exactly the same thing. I love friends-to-lovers as a trope because it actually gives the time to develop the characters separately and together. I find it nearly impossible to get invested in insta-love. I think it’s very interesting to see two characters start to realize their feelings for each other over time, and that tends to happen when they are friends first.
6) Fish out of water – I have no idea if this is actually what the trope is called, but I was thinking of something like the movie Enchanted, where there is a character who is taken from one world and struggles to adapt to the world they are thrown into. It could also be characters like Cress from the Lunar Chronicles, who spend a lot of time isolated, and have to adapt back to the real world. I’ve mostly seen this story done with fairy tale kinds of characters trying to survive our world, but there’s a lot of potential here for great stories.
7) Pen-pal/online friendships or romances – I’m a huge sucker for any book that has to do with social media in general, but I especially love when characters get to know each other through writing or social media before they meet in real life. I know this is something that is always a bit of a risk since you can never be sure if the other person is 100% honest, but I find it so interesting to read these kinds of character interactions. I think it’s so important that books are starting to acknowledge that online friends or even romances are a real and important part of many people’s lives.
8) Social media – I originally wasn’t going to include this as a separate trope, and I’m not entirely sure it really counts as a trope, but I love books where a character’s online presence plays an important role. I find this is becoming a lot more common in thrillers, where someone has to piece together a person’s life or what happened to them based on their social media accounts. I know this runs the risk of making the book come across a bit dated, but right now it is something that really catches my attention. Aside from thrillers, I also love where a character’s online presence or persona plays a role
9) Anti-heroes/morally grey characters – Essentially, I love anything that makes you question who the real heroes and villains are in a story, or who the real monster is. I was originally thinking something along the lines of many Disney movies like Beauty and the Beast or The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where the one who seems to be the monster isn’t really. Think of characters who are literally monsters or demons but don’t behave as such, or the many monstrous human characters that most would mistake for normal. I’m also thinking of characters whose actions might be heroic, but it is questionable whether the ends really justify the means.
10) Superheroes – Bonus points on this one if the heart of the story is the hero grappling with what it means to be a hero and how to try and live their lives with the weight of their responsibilities. Think anything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Incredibles, or even some of the more recent Marvel and DC movies. This is also not one that I thought of right away, but soon realized that it was a story that I always tend to love when I do read or watch it. It tends to be a very character-driven story with a lot of interesting ethical questions, and something that definitely intrigues me.