Let’s Talk Bookish: Clichés and Tropes

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s discussion is all about clichés and tropes, and it’s a topic that I suggested, so I’m looking forward to diving in.

A trope is an element that occurs regularly across literature and media, and could be related to plot, character, or setting etc. All books have tropes, but it’s how the author utilises them that makes each book unique. A cliché often occurs when a trope has been overused, or has been used too similarly too often. Clichés can be irritating because we see them so often, they have become something that makes us roll our eyes because it’s become so predictable.

Tropes are the backbone of literature. Identifying tropes can be a great way for readers to find new books they might enjoy, and they are great for marketers too. If a reader knows they enjoyed a trope, they can look for other books that have that trope. Examples of popular tropes include enemies-to-lovers romance, friends-to-lovers romance, the chosen one and the outsider protagonist.

I don’t often enjoy clichés, unless they are done in a tongue-in-cheek way. If I know what tropes I like and dislike, I know which new books to avoid and which to hone in on. Though I think I’m still learning what kind of tropes I enjoy, and some of it can be down to how the author has used the trope. I love it when an author takes a well-known trope and puts a really unique spin on it. But at the same time, the familiarity of tropes can also be very satisfying.

It’s also great to see tropes being told in different ways by diverse authors, whether they are AOC, LGBTQ+ or disabled. Tropes and cliches that we’ve seen told over and over again by straight, white, able-bodied writers can be told a totally different way by other authors who have a different perspective on those stories.  

Another thing I’d like to discuss is another angle to clichés, which lies in clichés/stereotypes around particularly groups of people in society. Some clichés can be harmful for marginalised groups. When clichés about race, sexuality, disability or mental health are used in literature or media, they often present an unrealistic view and can perpetuate harmful stereotypes. It’s important for authors to be mindful about these so they aren’t contributing to misrepresentation and misperceptions, which is just one reason why sensitivity readers are important.

To round off this discussion, tropes aren’t a bad thing. They are a vital part of a book’s makeup. They can be done well, and they can be done badly sometimes, but one thing I’ve learnt is not to dismiss a trope having read one book with it that I didn’t enjoy. Because there are so many ways to write tropes, that even if I didn’t like one book, I might love another author’s take on it.

What tropes do you love? Are there any you avoid? Chat with me in the comments!

Overused Clichés in YA Fiction

As much as I love YA fiction some of it is just so repetitive and similar. It may be marketable for books to be this way but it just gets kind of annoying.

1) The love triangle. It’s just been overused and has become boring and off-putting for many readers. Nobody ever seems to do anything different with it and it’s got to the point where I just find it so irritating.

2) The nice girl falling for the idiot/jerk character. Really? Why would the MC even want to go out with this guy? It just doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps she considers him for a while but I can’t fathom why she would actually pick him to be with.

3) The character describing themselves in a mirror. Just no. Who walks up to a mirror and describes their appearance in detail? Unless it is character/plot relevant (e.g. they have bags under their eyes from lack of sleep due to *insert life issue here* or their skin has turned pink overnight).

4) The main character is the chosen one. They have been picked out by a higher force and there’s some kind of prophecy involved. See Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, The Matrix, Star Wars, Terminator, and the list could go on…

5) Dead or non-present parents. Unless it is plot relevant or plays some MAJOR role in the arc of the main character why are there never parents around? And if they are around they’re always really stereotypical and 2D. This is especially in realistic teen fiction stories because the most likely scenario is their parents are going to be around ignoring them for convenience just annoys me.

6) Good vs. Evil. Now, I’m not saying we should ditch this completely. Sometimes it’s nice to just read a simple good vs. evil story.

7) Insta-Love. For a start love at first sight is not biologically possible, only attraction at first sight. You love someone when you have got to know someone and they have got to know you and you understand each other. You can’t know that from the first moment you see them. Insta-attraction is, however, definitely possible.

8) The “strong” female character. A strong heroine does not constitute making a girl do man stuff. What makes a strong character is the same for male and female characters. They have to be rounded, believable, have back story, have a character arc etc. Just making a warrior of the female gender does not make that character a strong female character.

9) The girl who is super pretty but believes she is ugly. To some extent this is kind of realistic for many people. But it has just been overdone in fiction now.

10) Everyone is super attractive. Not everybody is super hot and looking like a model. Yes, some characters may be pretty/handsome, but that’s not everyone in the world! One of the things I love about Jane Eyre is that emphasis is put on how neither Jane or Rochester are at all conventionally attractive and that they fall in love because of their personalities.

These are just some things that annoy me whenever they crop up. Do something new people! /rant over