Sunday, October 13, 2019

Cringy Character Tropes

Do you have character tropes for heroines that get under your skin? I have a few (especially found within YA novels) that kinda make me want to throw my Kindle at the wall. Nothing I say about these is insightful--if you're an avid reader, you've come across these tropes a few times yourself, and have likewise come across people like me who are also irked by them. But I have to get these out of my system, so here goes.

Trope #1: The Drama Queen
This protagonist is moody and angsty. Other than her one best friend who she confides in, she has a tendency to treat people like crap, especially the boy she has a crush on. She also tends to fall into teenage-cliches, such as perpetually being annoyed at her siblings and despising her parents. That is--if her parents are alive. Often her angst is attributed to the fact that one or both of her parents were killed when she was a kid. Her childhood is often tragic, but (in my humble opinion) no excuse to be a jerk to everyone all the time.

Trope #2: The Wet Blanket
This protagonist has no personality. Generally she has original thoughts and clever ideas, but outwardly she is dull and has nothing interesting to say. Yet, for reasons unknown, men vie for her attention (think Bella from Twilight, here). She may be pretty, or plain in doesn't matter. Despite her doldrum demeanor, she exudes some kind of pheromones that make every girl want to be her best friend and every guy want to be her boyfriend. Because of her mysterious desirability (which is in no way backed up by one iota of personality), these heroines are often involved in another annoying trope: love triangles.

Trope #3: The Immune Bad Ass
This protagonist wears leather pants, wields weaponry with the ease of an added appendage, has ninja fighting skills, drinks her coffee black, and would never be caught dead in a dress. Basically she's toxic masculinity with a vagina. She almost never loses a battle and has zero flaws, other than being emotionally unavailable and refusing to let anyone get close to her. Males in her world often serve as sidekicks to her badassery, or comic relief. Some feminist authors fall for this trope believing that giving their heroine any emotions, softness, or traits typically associated with femininity is making her weak. Whereas I'm scratching my head thinking "Um, why can't a female be 'girly' and a badass? (Cue Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Don't get me wrong, I love a strong heroine and can't stand Mary Sues. But there needs to be a balance here, because (other than in comic books) very few readers can connect to heroines that are essentially emotionless fighting machines. Relatability is the key to connection, and this character is totally unrelatable. 

I wonder if these tropes bother others? I am pretty picky. To be fair, none of these are deal-breakers, but they will make me roll my eyes and care less about the MC, which in turn makes me feel less invested in the outcome of the story. On the other end of that, I have awesome character tropes that I simply love, but I'll save that for a future post.


  1. The one that really really gets me is stupidity. Like going into a dark room filled with dangerous creatures toting large weapons for no reason just so the author can advance the plot. And well, wet blanket, which I forget about because they are sooo boring. I've been reading through Twilight this year and I always laugh when Bella shows a backbone, because I know it's not real. Buffy is so awesome. The perfect example that you can be cute and slay a monster at the same time. And you don't even have to be super smart either. And you can have friends. Buffy is just perfect. I'll stop now. ^_^

    1. How did I not have stupidity on this list? I'm cool with stupidity in a side character, assuming the author has added it to give a minor character a kind of naive charm (or something like that). But stupidity in the MC for the sake of advancing the plot is annoying as all get-out, and lazy writing.

      Oh, and I forgot about the 'no friends' trope! It's like a heroine can only be regarded as special if she's 'above it all' (including people).

      Agreed, Buffy is perfection. :-D

  2. These are all so true. I’ll admit I was a wee bit scared to read them in case either of my MCs from my 2 YA manuscripts fit these .,. But phew!! ;) I do think they’re tropes that can easily be turned by changing some traits, e.g. someone could mostly fit the drama queen description with a slightly bitchy streak that emerges occasionally, but actually be desperate for that missing love and therefore highly empathetic to others, etc. Well-rounded versus flat tropes is the key. And yeah, when I read any of these I pretty much have no connection to the rest of the book (my personal pet hate is the bad-ass in leather pants who Cannot Be Broken. Bah. Boring!) Great post as usual!

    1. Haha, I think I'd be nervous too Cheyenne, seeing the title of this post. I come across writing articles all the time on Pinterest with titles like "The Ten Worst Things to do in Writing" and I'm like "Oh crap, am I SURE I want to read this?" But I'm not surprised to hear you escaped all of these tropes, because you're a great writer! And I agree; there are simple fixes to all of these. Like if the badass leather pants girl has a secret crush on her childhood friend, or saves a litter of orphaned kittens and has to feed them around the clock between all of her ninja battles. Okay, bad examples, but the point remains the same. ;)

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