My Least Favourite Book Tropes

Just to give you a quick overview, tropes are not necessarily clichés.  Rather, they’re devices authors use in the course of writing their novels and every single writer out there uses tropes.  But there are some that I absolutely can’t stand so I’m going to list them for you, using the names from TvTropes, one of the most informative and scarily addictive sites out there.  Follow the links provided at your own risk; I am not responsible for any browser crashes from opening multiple tabs or the hours you may waste on the site.

Bad Boys

1.  All Girls Want Bad Boys

This trope annoys me like no other simply because it’s so prevalent in YA.  It seems like every female protagonist out there wants the distant jerk, especially when it comes to love triangles.  You know what?  Not every girl out there wants a bad boy, but YA writers happily ignore this fact and keep writing about girls falling in love with manipulative, controlling jerks.  Of course there are exceptions to my hatred of this trope, the most notable being Strafford in Diantha Jones’ Oracle of Delphi series.  He definitely has a reason for being distant in the beginning, but the fact that he changes as the series goes on makes the trope short-lived.


2.  What Happened to the Mouse?

This trope name is actually quite fitting because the trope itself is about minor details or even characters just disappearing from the narrative for no good reason.  Usually it means that the author simply forgot about said detail or character and the editor didn’t catch the mistake.

This trope is especially annoying when you realize that something has never been fully explained in the novel once you’re done.  Take, for example, the girl zombie in the red vest that follows Mary around in The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  She’s stronger, faster and more intelligent than a normal zombie and Mary speculates that something was done to her to make her that way, but there’s no explanation as to what happens to her or even what the heck was done to her to make her this special zombie.  It’s like Carrie Ryan just completely forgot about it or really didn’t care.  It’s carelessness like that that annoys me to no end, making What Happened to the Mouse? one of my least favourite tropes.

Damsel in Distress

3.  Faux Action Girl

This one happens so much in YA that it’s almost become as annoying as the love triangle.  A Faux Action Girl is a heroine that can supposedly kick butt at will but never actually does any butt-kicking.  Usually she turns into a Damsel in Distress as soon as a man shows up.  This is annoying because all of the other characters make her out to be this awesome warrior and strong woman but her actions never actually demonstrate this.

Faux Action Girls appear a lot in YA and usually they’re just standing around waiting to be rescued.  Or, they’re the prophesized saviour of the people and learn to fight and are proclaimed ‘natural fighters’ but never actually do much fighting.  When they do fight, they usually end up needing to be saved by their love interest who is invariably male.  Yawn.

Dr. No

4.  No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine

This seems to happen a lot in fiction, not just in YA.  But it’s basically when the villain has the hero or heroine in their clutches and instead of torturing or killing them, invites them to a dinner and then a tour of their evil lair.  Unsurprisingly, this happens a lot in science fiction and fantasy because there’s usually an unstoppable doomsday weapon involved.

I get it, villains love to gloat.  Heroes are supposed to say “You’re crazy!” when they hear said villain’s gloating plan to rule the world.  But why for the love of all that is bad, do villains not just shoot the hero?  By letting them dine and tour the facilities where they’re carrying out their top secret evil plan, they’re giving them a chance to escape.  Sometimes writers try to put a spin on this trope and instead get the villain to dine with the hero/heroine so they can have a big reveal like Luke, I Am Your Father.

Tv Tropes

I spent 5 hours researching this article. It’s true!

This list doesn’t even begin to cover all the tropes and/or clichés I’m sick of, but these are definitely some of the main ones (aside from love triangles).  So now it’s your turn: what tropes annoy you the most?  Is it because said tropes are overused or are just based on a dumb premise?


  1. Annie

    Hmm sort of agreeing with everything on your list, although the tour of the evil lair can be awesome if done correctly! 🙂 And yes, some bad boys totally do it for me, others are Just Jerks. Faux action girls set a bad example! We should totally make a rule against that! Cool article. I’d like to add ‘heroines who obsess about their looks and those of others’ to the list, but again, descriptions of male abs etc are exempt! Lol. Sorry, that’s just who I am.

    • Carrie Slager

      Well, I haven’t really seen the evil lair tour done correctly yet. It usually just ends up being a terrible list of one cliche after another. Faux Action Girls do all real Action Girls a disservice and I hate how they’re so prevalent in YA. You’re absolutely right about appearance-obsessed heroines as well! They always seem to be judging themselves and others and it gets more than a little tiresome.

  2. Diantha Jones (@DianthaJones)

    You know I love me some bad boys, Carrie! (Thx for the Strafford shout-out (^_^) And yes, if your heroine is supposed to be bad ass, then she better kick some too. Details, aaahhh, details. I’m surprised I haven’t gone all Beautiful Mind with all the random notes I make with details on them. Keeping it all str8 is really HARD w/o notes. That last one, hmmm, not so sure I agree. I love when villains toy with their prey. Yeah, it gives them time to escape but it’s more importantly, good entertainment for me.

    • Carrie Slager

      Ha! Well a good author with a good editor should definitely avoid the whole What Happened to the Mouse? trope, though. There’s really no excuse, even in big series with lots of details. Evil lair tours can be awesome if it’s in keeping with the villain’s general character, but for every villain to do them? Ugh, that just gets annoying.

  3. Jemima Pett

    I only discovered tropes recenlty for a flash fiction challenge, but I love these ones you’ve picked out and I heartily agree with you – especially Faux Action Girl and What Happened to the Mouse? 😀

    I will take your advice and not do any further research on them 😉

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  5. Allison Forsythe

    The “No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Dine” one made me laugh — it is the BEST name for that trope. I totally agree with you. It’s cool when a villain can toy with his/her prey (and I get that the gloating thing can be the fatal flaw/arrogance of the villain), but it rarely feels like toying when it falls into the pattern of “Hey, I’m going to tell you every detail of my plan and show you how awesome my Big Ray-inator of Inevitable Destruction is, and — oh, wait! Where did you go? You mean, you weren’t just going to stand here and let me kill you? How rude!” (Side note: Phineas and Ferb, a cartoon for kids, makes fun of that trope by using Perry the Platypus and Dr. Doofenschmirtz all the time. Totally worth watching just for kicks!)

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