Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Book Tropes that Have Become an Epidemic and Need to Stop

We've gotta stop with these freebies--the indecision is killing me! But I kinda made the graphics for this post weeks ago and was too tired to change them, so...

Disclaimer! I read mostly fantasy and sci-fi, so all of these tropes may not apply to other genres.

They're also not all exactly tropes, but I had to choose a word or I'd just be calling them "things that annoy me" which makes for a really long post title and really awkward sentence structure.

I've also included examples of book that either avoid the tropes or make good use of them to show they're not always bad!

Ok, fine, mostly I just wanted to spruce up my post with some pictures :-P

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week was a semi-freebie, so my topic is:

Top Ten Book Tropes that Have Become an Epidemic and Need to Stop

AKA Top Ten Book Tropes I Want to Quit Reading About

Steal the Light by Lexi Blake | books, reading, book covers
Don't... by Jack L. Pyke | books, reading, book covers
The Bane by Keary Taylor | books, reading, book covers
Nocte by Courtney Cole | books, reading, book covers
Drain Me by Lana Sky | books, reading, book covers

10. Alpha Males

I KNOW that alpha males are all the rage. And when they’re done right, they can be likeable. But most of the time they just end up being sexually, emotionally, and/or physically abusive.
A book that does it right: Steal the Light by Lexi Blake (Alpha males who ultimately turn out to be good people rather than abusive.)

9. BDSM (that’s Not Really BDSM)

I think people should do and read and enjoy whatever they want! This one only aggravates me because most books being labeled as BDSM are actually just sexual assault and dangerously close to rape, which then makes it seem like those things are sexy and acceptable.
A book that does it right: Don’t… by Jack L. Pyke (BDSM with actual consent, safe words, and respect.)

8. Putting Women on Lockdown

I feel like I have a theme going here. Seriously though, I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read in which the men decided the woman wasn’t safe, so they literally put her on lockdown, sicced guards on her, and didn’t let her leave the house or do anything without their permission. I get that it’s for her safety, but it’s too extreme.
A book that avoids this trope (there is no way to do this right): The Bane by Keary Taylor (Not only does the protag not get put on lockdown, she’s the first one called at the sign of trouble.)

7. Insta-Love

No list of book tropes would be complete without it, right? On the one hand, I feel like, who am I to judge how fast two people can fall in love? But in order for me to be ok with it, I really need to feel that connection between them and understand why they fell so fast.
A book that does it right: Nocte by Courtney Cole (I can’t tell you why because spoilers, sorry.)

6. Too Stupid to Function

Another one no list of tropes would be complete without. When I reach the point of, “I don’t even care that she’s getting kidnapped right now because she deserves it for being such an idiot throughout the entire book,” it’s never a good thing.
A book that does it right: Drain Me by Lana Sky (The protag makes the worst decisions, but you can actually understand her perspective and why she’s making those decisions even though she knows they’re stupid, too.)

What Kills Me by Wynne Channing | books, reading, book covers
The Key to Erebus by Emma V. Leech & Roisin O'Connor | books, reading, book covers
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling | books, reading, book covers
The Girl in Between by Laekan Zea Kemp | books, reading, book covers
Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond | books, reading, book covers

5. Stopping to Fool Around When Being Chased by Bad Guys

This is in a similar thread, but with the added urge to slap the characters. You have two minutes before the guards change positions, or you literally have bad guys running down the hall behind you, and now is when you think it’s a good time to fool around? Or have your first kiss? Or stare longingly at each other while you talk about your feelings? You really couldn’t wait an hour until your life was no longer on the line? Really? REALLY?
A book that does it right: What Kills Me by Wynne Channing (Having their first kiss when they were about to be attacked actually made it more powerful and made sense given the situation.)

4. Strong = Lack of Emotion

Never getting emotional is not what makes a character strong! It’s fighting for what’s right and continuing to try even when things are tough. I much prefer characters with emotion.
A book that avoids this trope (another one that there is no way to do right): The Key to Erebus by Emma V. Leech (The protag is emotional but one of my favorite female characters for her strength and determination.)

3. Over-descriptive Epilogues

I don’t want to know all the detailed steps that were taken to change society, what job everyone has now, what the character’s wedding was like, or what her kid’s names are.
A book that does it right: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (It was corny, but there was too much going on throughout the series to not tie off the loose ends and let us see how things turned out.)

2. Self Deprecation

This is a major issue in YA. The character is beautiful and amazing, but of course she spends half of every page going on and on about how ugly and plain and pathetic she is and how no one likes her. It just makes a character really unlikeable for me.
A book that does it right: The Girl in Between by Laeken Zea Kemp (The protag is not so much self-deprecating but rather realistic about her situation.)

1. Characters Who are Vague for No Reason

#$@*&!% Do you even KNOW how much this aggravates me?! If your entire plot hinges on a dying character using his last breath to say, “The moon is nigh. He who has killed will kill again. The girl with hair of the sun and stars is next. You must protect her. Look to the treasure of the dandelions for the answers,” when he could’ve just said, “It was Bob who killed me. Sarah is next,” then you have a problem. Or if you have to make every character vague in order to FORCE mystery so that your readers will want to keep reading… I. Can’t. Stand. It. This is the fastest way to make me hate a book.
A book that does it right: Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond (Some characters ARE vague, but it’s for legitimate reasons.)


Talk to me!

What tropes would be on YOUR top ten list of book tropes that make you want to slap characters and throw your books across the room?


Your Thoughts


22 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Book Tropes that Have Become an Epidemic and Need to Stop

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  1. Amber Elise @ Du Livre

    I absolutely despise alpha males, so much! The relationships are soo onesided and it feels like the woman has to “realize” that she wants this. That’s never okay!

    And yes to over descriptive epilogues. Like honestly, just write a novella if you have too!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh my goodness, I didn’t notice that until you said it, but you’re so right. It is like the woman always ends up “realizing” she likes/wants/needs the alpha male. Ugh. That just makes it even worse.

  2. Amy @ Book Enthral

    I actually wish alpha males would please disappear!!! Jezz no one cares how strong they are! And omg characters who are to dumb to function are the most annoying thing in the universe!! As if your ever meant to be able to enjoy a book if the whole time your hating the protagonist! Great list!

  3. Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books

    Such a great list! I agree with you on a lot of these! I hate when there’s insta-love, but especially when it just seems like there is no connection or chemistry instantly between the two characters. And I so agree about strong characters. We need some emotion, too, to make it a perfect mix! πŸ™‚

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, without a real connection the reader can feel, it’s like the two characters were just awkwardly forced together. And we definitely need the emotion with the strength to balance it out!

  4. Veronika

    YES TO ALL OF THESE! Alpha Males can be really well-done, but mostly they’re just controlling and their behavior is not even frowned upon. When women let them get away with everything, even #8, I get SO MAD. Too stupid to function characters are super-annoying too. Making mistakes is welcomed, NO ONE wants to read about unrealistically perfect characters, but please, don’t make unreasonably stupid characters. Not even if they’re only supporting characters who are thrown in for the laughs.
    Great list! πŸ™‚

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! Seriously, my favorite female characters are the one who just don’t put up with the men’s alpha crap. And exactly, the occasional mistake is relatable. Ten thousand is not lol.

  5. SERIESous Book Reviews

    YES to the BDSM! I completely agree that a lot of these BDSM-esque novels just perpetuate unhealthy relationships that border on abuse. I find it goes hand in hand with the alpha male and lockdown tendencies.

    I do disagree with the epilogue one though to a certain extent. There is nothing worse than a vague one page epilogue at the end of a series that had so many loose ends! Cassandra Clare writes my favourite epilogues because she does a thorough job of tying up all the story lines and letting you know where all the characters are now. I feel like it just gives me closure, but I agree that I don’t need to know EVERY detail of their life after it all πŸ˜‰

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m so glad someone agrees with me about the unhealthy relationships in books. It’s getting harder and harder to find books without these things though.

      As for the epilogues, I actually prefer no epilogue at all if the story can be wrapped up without it. Sometimes they are necessary, but I think I might like them more if it didn’t seem like every epilogue was the same: the main character gets married, has kids, and the world is different but good now. I haven’t read Cassandra Clare’s books though, so I’ll take your word that hers are good πŸ™‚

  6. Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

    These are FABULOUS, and I agree with them ALL. It always makes me laugh when characters are running/fighting for their lives, and yet somehow, they find the time to stop, kiss, and wax poetic about their endless love. I want to yell at them that if they just RUN, they may live until tomorrow! Also, insta-love is the worst. And you are right- it IS on every list, which is why it is maddening that it is still used ALL the time! And the “BDSM” thing fills me with rage. Like yes, please, let’s promote unhealthy and abusive relationships while also insulting actual BDSM people. Nice work. Ah, such a good list!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks πŸ™‚ It makes me too aggravated to laugh when characters do that though, haha. And ohmygoodness yes to your BDSM rage! It’s just, UGH. I couldn’t care less if authors want to write about it, just do it correctly! Because the current abuse-masquerading-as-BDSM thing is a lose-lose situation.