Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish tropes: love em/leave em edition

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl since January of 2018. Jana writes, “it was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.” In that spirit, link up with your list at That Artsy Reader Girl and comment with your list, link, or thoughts below.

This Tuesday we’re dishing or dissin’ book tropes. A trope is a commonly used theme or plot device. There are a few bookish themes that ring my chimes every time, while others make me cringe with each encounter. Declaring my bookish love it or leave it judgments below:

10. Breaking away from the plot to tell a story or parable. I don’t care what the reason may be, or what ancient wisdom the story symbolizes or illustrates. It’s usually overly cryptic, unnecessary for the plot and a major disruption to the flow. Many fantasy adventure epics that I love are the biggest offenders: The Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, and The Name of the Wind to list a few. Verdict: Leave it out.

9. Band of Survivors. A ragtag group of strangers coming together at the end of the world is money. If they must fight off a counter evil band, it’s golden. Verdict: Love it.

8. I hate you, wait no, I love you. It may be a tale as old as time, truly, it’s the foundation of Beauty and the Beast, but adversaries make the best bedfellows. Verdict: Love it.

7. The Post Modern Mystery. AKA The Gone Girl twist. Described by Ted Gioia of as taking the crime mystery, eliminating the tidy solutions and “wreaking havoc with its rules and formulas, transforming the conventional whodunit into a playground for experimental tendencies…” Verdict: Eh, there are endearing exceptions, such as, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. But for all the Gone Girl wannabes out there, I say, mostly Leave it.

6. Dead parents. I remember this being a pet peeve of my former boss at the library. Must every contemporary Young Adult novel have a jumping off point of a dead or assumed dead parent/s? Give these children something else to do, like, I don’t know…maybe they can set the house on fire. It worked in Little Fires Everywhere and We Were Liars. Verdict: Leave it.

5. Unreliable narrator. A narrator can be unreliable for a multitude of reasons and I root for them all. Verdict: Love it!

4. Assumed Identity. This may be specific to historical fiction, particularly when one character is describing traumatic past events involving two main characters. It’s almost always the other guy/gal who survives and assumes the identity of the unfortunate soul who you think is telling the story. How easy is it to assume another’s identity? In the fictional worlds I visit, very. I’ve seen this done both quite well and really implausibly. Verdict: Love/Leave, depending if the writer can pull it off.

3. The Martyr Syndrome. I don’t know what it is about a character offering him/herself up like a lamb to the slaughter, but I can’t get enough of the emotional carnage it produces. (Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, obviously, but classics, such as, Of Mice and Men and A Tale of Two Cities fit too). Verdict: Love it.

2. Female violation as plot twist. I’ve said it before here, but it bears repeating: Leave it.

1. The Chosen One. The character beset by fate who ends up in every impossible circumstance leading up to saving the world/humanity/city/school/friends due to predetermined destiny. Not saying I’m the likeliest ‘chosen one’ candidate, okay, that is exactly what I’m saying. I am the Chosen One in the perpetual novel in my head. Verdict: Love it.

Which bookish tropes are you loving or leaving behind today?

13 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish tropes: love em/leave em edition

    1. Thanks, I’m over it too. It’s a hallmark of a lazy writer, especially when it’s a reveal of dark hidden secret to heighten the plot, usually found out by a male character. It irks me, I think writers can do better and we deserve it.


  1. Yup, I’m right there with you on number 2. NOTHING gets my fur up faster than that. Like we’re incapable or – more troubling – unworthy of vengeance unless it’s preceded by a violation. Get effed.

    I’m reading Dreamcatcher by Stephen King right now, and it’s really bad, so I’m going to go with an All Stephen edition here, clearly inspired by the crap I’m reading. Telegraphing major character deaths or trauma chapters in advance – LOVE IT the first time you see it, LEAVE IT the other 9,000 times he’s used it in his books. The Magical Negro/Derogatory R-Word I’m Not Going to Say – LEAVE IT. Geez, man, stop with the stereotyping. Juvenile, scatological humour – LEAVE IT. I always say that his Bachman nom de plume is the one he writes under when he wants to get real dirty – just lock some characters in a box and then murder them horribly, with style. Dreamcatcher could have been a Bachman book, but for the style part. Curious to see where it goes, but so far, if I had a counter, I’d say we’re up to maybe the 300th instance of the word “fart” in about 200 pages. ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME. MAN?!


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