If you’ve been around these parts for awhile, you probably know that I read a lot. I haven’t always read a lot of books; in fact, several recent years have gone by where I’ve read exactly zero books. Combine this with my lack of rereading, and you get me trying to catch up on all those books I’ve never read while trying to read all the fun books that have come out in the last few years. I could probably live to a hundred and still not run out of stuff to read. It’s a real problem.
All this reading means that I’ve come across a lot of things that appear in many books: some that I love, some that I would be happy never to see again. Here are a few tropes that fall into the latter category.
First person present narration. While I’m not a big fan of present-tense narration in general, present tense combined with first person strikes me an excuse to get lazy with the writing. In many of the books I’ve read, first person present narration means we get a deep look inside what the narrator is thinking right then, complete with ponderings of past events. Heck, I narrate things inside my head all the time but not in the constant style that you’d read in a first person present book. (Does anyone do this? I’m genuinely curious.) There are only so many narratives going on inside the narrator’s head that I can take (without plot, of course) before speeding through the book to get it out of my life as soon as possible.
Instantly falling in love. Current young adult novels are particularly guilty of this one. You know the one, where two characters meet and instantly fall in love without any time to get to know each other. Throw in the fact that the world is ending and the fact that their romance is a major plot point despite this (oh, and they’re the ones who have to save the world–you know, instead of letting the grownups do it) and you have a lit trope that I try my best to avoid.
Love triangles where a girl has to choose between two boys. I’m getting tired of romance in general, but I’m getting especially tired of the love triangles. The ones that show up the majority of the time, where a girl has to choose between two guys, is the worst. It’s even worse when the love triangle is a big enough part of the plot that the non-romantic elements and the main storyline start bending to the romance. Most of this frustration is directed toward a girl choosing between two boys, since that’s the kind of love triangle I’ve encountered the most in the last few years. Bring on the non-straight triangles, or at least get more creative in the shape of your romances. I wrote a love heptagon (yes, heptagon) with some same-gender links for Script Frenzy one year, which was a good time.
Multiple narrators that sound the same. I’m fine with multiple narrators within a book, provided that some way to distinguish between the narrators is available, and the characters’ voices are distinct enough that I can tell them apart. Just saying the narrator’s name in the first couple of paragraphs doesn’t count; those can easily be skipped over. The problem is that many books don’t do this well, and it’s frustrating when the book otherwise has an interesting premise. I find myself confused throughout the entire book in situations like these, which makes me like the book less and less as it goes along.
Hinting at some event pre-story where the revelation is a major plot point. This one has really been bugging me over the past few months. The narrator keeps hinting at some tragic event that happened before the beginning of the story but never tells anything more about this event. The intent of this narrative technique is to make the reader wonder what this event was and how it affected the character so badly. For me, this technique ends in frustration as I hope to Baty that the narrator will get to the freaking point. Oh, and the event itself? It usually isn’t such a big deal after all and makes me wonder why it was even mentioned as a story element to start with.
Then the event in question is revealed, only to disappoint the reader. “That’s it?” I find myself thinking, because the event or secret is something that doesn’t affect the plot at all (besides to give the narrator chances to hint at this past event for pages).
What literary tropes do you find annoying, both in your reading and writing?