5 Character tropes to avoid

I’m going to start this post by saying that these tropes have been a part of literature for as long as man has been writing, there are no original ideas, only new ways of utilising old ones so don’t fret too much if you’re novel has a little too much of ‘a hero’s journey’ or ‘a love triangle’ or the only way to end it is with a ‘Deus ex machina’. At the end of the day if that’s how it turns out then that is how it turns out. We aren’t here to discourage your ideas, we just want you to use what’s already out their to make your own unique story.

So now that I’ve said that here are 5 tropes you can probably avoid:

  1. Tragic Vampires: we had Angel, we had Edward Cullen, we had Stefan Salvatore and before all of them we had Louis de Pointe du Lac in Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. All complex portraits of those lovely fanged immortals cursed by a thirst for blood but it’s been done. Write about Vampires, I love Vampires. But try to do something a little different.
  2. A Chosen One: Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings, Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, and of course Harry Potter, I mean he was literally called the Chosen One for God sake. This basically describes a character plucked by destiny or fate or just the people around then to do one task and every action in their life, deliberate or not is leading towards that task. Sure it works as a trope and as I said up top if it works and you want to use it then go ahead but maybe use this as a chance to try something else, subvert the narrative so to speak.
  3. The Old man: This trope could probably have been called the Mentor or something else like that but when I think of the trope I think of the old man from Legend of Zelda, not the best example but the one my mind goes to first. Better examples include Brom in Eragon, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ben) from Star Wars and Dumbledore from Harry Potter. This trope works because it’s natural for the old to pass on their knowledge to the young, and if you kill of said mentor for emotional impact, they’ve loved a long life so it is less devastating in the grand scheme of things. But personally I’d like to see something different, what if the Mentor is similar ages with the character and it’s competition and learning together, growth through pride and ego and brotherhood. Eragon actually does both, he was trained by Brom but *spoiler* after he fell prey to this trope Murtaugh mentored him and they kind of taught each other.
  4. On the outside looking in: the past few entries are tropes more suited to fantasy and sci-fi but this one can be seen across the board. Basically what I mean is that often you’ll find in a story that the main character is an outcast. This can be for a multitude of reasons from popularity, to money, to their beliefs and/or race and I can understand why you might do this, it’s true to life, easy to understand and connect with, because we’ve all felt like an outsider and you can do a lot with it. I’m now saying it can’t be a good idea to have your character be an outsider, but they don’t always need to be on the outside looking in to make a poignant story, what if for example, the character was popular and well liked, and then something awful happens you could do a lot with that, just based on people’s reactions, do they stay by them or is that when they become ostracised.
  5. Ordinary. Just Plain ordinary: We like put characters to be real, to be fleshed out ordinary people and of course that makes sense but often they will then do extraordinary things, sure people can rise to all sorts of challenges  I mean read most of the books by my favourite author Dean Koontz and you’ll see effective use of this trope. But even though it makes sense and it’s understandable it can be a little pervasive in storytelling, some normal person suddenly fighting dragons or robbing banks or travelling through space without real development beyond suddenly developing a Bryan Mills level special set of skills. I would like to see a story that twists this and had someone prepared and skilled and bad-ass for all intents and purposes but they struggle because life is full of struggles regardless of how prepared we are.

Anyway I hope you enjoyed this list, and that you go ahead and ignore it and write, because you want to, because you have, just write whatever comes out and it’s full of tropes so be it. 

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One Comment on “5 Character tropes to avoid

  1. Totally with you on #4. In fact, I wrote a rant about it on my own blog: “Don’t Tell Me You Write about Misfits, Because That Tells Me Nothing.”

    Like

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