Tired of Tropes: Authors Dish on the Tropes They’re Sick Of

Tired of Tropes: Authors Dish on the Tropes They’re Sick Of


It’s hard to read a book without running into a trope in some form or another. Mostly, this isn’t a big deal, but if you’re like us then there are some tropes that make you absolutely insane. Whether you’re sick to death of love triangles, or want to throw the next book you read that has a white savior in it, we get it. It turns out that authors feel the same way. Here, we’ve asked authors to tell us about the tropes they wish would disappear forever.

Share your own trope pet peeves in the comments!

White Saviors

“Let’s toss the white savior trope into the dustbin of history. And related to that, stories in which a privileged white protagonist enters another culture and becomes its greatest warrior, leader, or hero. I’m looking at you, Iron Fist. The controversy over the casting of the TV show adaptation was fierce because the comic book source material was culturally outdated, relying on a trope that we don’t need to see ever again.” —Fonda Lee, author of Jade City

Revenge Fantasies

“I won’t mind one bit if I don’t see the words ‘And now he/she wants revenge’ on a jacket copy for a long, long time. Granted, I’ve never been a fan of the revenge fantasy trope; being a child of Lord of the Rings and other epic books, I’m more invested in characters who are motivated to destroy evil because that’s what good people must do, not because they’ve been personally wronged. While I get the power of revenge stories, they’ve become so overdone that they’re losing their bite—and revenge needs a ferocious bite to work.” —Michael Moreci, author of Black Star Renegades

Love Triangles

“While I agree that sometimes a love triangle is nothing more than a plot device in a story—some ready-made drama and conflict served on a platter to the characters and the readers to make them lose their respective minds—I’ve always been fascinated by the trope. A loves B, but B loves C. And oh, what a tragedy that C loves either A or B or D or nobody. However, what happens when A and B and C love each other? What if I spin this little angst-filled triangle trope on its head and draw a circle of love instead? So, I did. In My Last Love Story, the much-maligned love triangle trope got a millennial makeover.” —Falguni Kothari, author of My Last Love Story

Purse Toting Female Detectives

“Tough-as-nails female police detectives do not carry purses—and the reason I know this is because I was a detective for the Buffalo Police Department for over 15 years. Nothing makes me want to close a book faster than reading a line about a female detective and her handbag. She can keep it in her desk and she can lug it around off duty or to go to court, but female detectives should not carry purses when they follow up on criminal investigations. I don’t see this in books as much as I used to, but this is one trope that needs to go in 2018!” —Lissa Marie Redmond, author of A Cold Day in Hell

Bad Boys

“We all know the familiar trope of a bad boy who, once in love, magically turns into a dedicated and honorable man. We close the book, willing to believe the promise of ‘happily ever after.’ However, I most enjoy writing protective, take-charge alpha males who enter the story as honorable, caring men. Of course there are conflicts, but knowing the men always treat women right—meaning a woman they love would get extra care—makes them more relatable to what we want in our real lives, and I always shoot for a relatable book.” —Lori Foster, author of Close Contact

Fixer-Upper Detectives

“You know what I think we need less of? The dirty fixer-upper detective. He’s 45. His (sexy, perfect) wife and (adorable, well-behaved) child were tragically murdered by a vicious serial killer. He drinks too much and his apartment is filthy and he can’t commit to a relationship because he’s too afraid of losing someone again. Sneaky hints of his family’s killer appear towards the end of the book in the hopes of making a sequel/finally getting vengeance. I think there’s something to be said for the fixer-upper as a trope, don’t get me wrong—he’s vulnerable yet determined, and that’s hot. But I want to see more men who, despite their traumas, aren’t crying out to be rescued by the perfect lady.” —Candice Fox, author of Crimson Lake

Makeover Magic

“The trope I’d love to see disappear is when the girl makes herself over and finally wins the man she loves. This teaches women that beauty and fashion are more important than character, and that you can only be loved if you meet a certain physical standard. Besides, a man who only notices a woman after she ditches her glasses and straps on stilettos isn’t a man worth having. What I love is a story like The Princess Diaries when the girl is made over—and finally sees the worth of the boy who loved her before the makeover. Swoon!” —Sarah Sundin, author of The Sea Before Us

The Brooding Writer

“This one might be controversial. But I’ve been saying for years that I’m sick of Hollywood making movies about Hollywood. See: La La Land, Argo, The Artist, Birdman… and those are just the ones that won Oscars. So it’s only fair that I call out the equivalent in publishing: Stop writing books about book people. The aspiring writer, the struggling author. It’s tough, because I find myself relating so much to these characters. I bet some of you do too. But I have to imagine there are casual readers out there for whom this is an annoying pattern. And we’re writing books for everyone—not just other writers.” —Arvin Ahmadi, author of Down and Across

Damsel in Distress

“As I reflect on 2017, it’s apparent we ‘damsels’ are not ‘in distress.’ Marching through downtown LA on the day after Inauguration Day, I witnessed a trend that had nothing to do with fashion: pink pussyhats. By fall, fed up with years of grabbing and groping, women roared #metoo and the untouchables fell: Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Mario Batali, and Louis CK. As stockings were being hung by the chimney, the conversation shifted from woman as victim to woman as warrior: #TimesUp. We are ready to be the heroes of our own stories. We are saving ourselves. We’ve marched, we’ve risen, we’ve got this. Time’s up, damsel in distress trope.” —Tina Alexis Allen, author of Hiding Out

Kill or Be Killed

“Justifiable homicide—‘It was him or me’—is the trope I’d get rid of. It will never go away. It’s too exciting. But I want to see more narrative alternatives. Stories inform and curtail our options in the real world; they shape our notions of what’s heroic, moral, and even possible. Are police officers reflexively living out this narrative in their heads when they choose deadly force? Do we want the leaders of nuclear nations knee-jerk reacting in this vein, as if kill-or-be-killed was the only choice? De-escalation is harder to do and to write, but it’s a crucial tool, and a possibility we need.” —Rachel Hartman, author of Tess of the Road


  1. I agree, I’m frustrated with ALL of these! The love triangle frustrates me more than anything, and I’m excited to see that the author you chose to write in actually wrote a polyamorous fix-it to the trope — definitely want to check that out.

    I think another one that could stand to be shelved is the “hero of unknown parentage” and possibly its cousin, “all heroes have tragic family stories”. We rarely see heroes or protagonists with healthy family lives. It’s an easy motivation, overcoming tragedy, but a better story if there’s something besides a shitty upbringing to read about.

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