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  • Writer's pictureJenna Moreci

10 WORST Tropes in Books

HelloOoOo everybody!

Several years ago, I made a video listing the ten worst tropes in fiction. And guess what? Books keep getting shittier. Because of this, now felt like a good time to expand the list and really examine the suckage. Today I am listing ten more of the worst tropes in fiction. Nearly all of these result in an instant DNF for me.

Unfortunately for me, a lot of these tropes are really popular. In fact, some of them are on-trend. Now, we're all different. You may love some of these tropes, and let me tell you, you are 100% entitled to your horrible taste. But I'm keeping it real here. These tropes can be found in a variety of genres. They plague so many different novels. And if it wasn't obvious, trope number ten really gets under my skin. So let's get to it.

This video is sponsored by FICTIONARY. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Number 1: The Surprise Baby

You know what really spices up a romance? Placenta. The Surprise Baby is a really popular feature of romance novels. Particularly romance novels with a lot of sex. You gotta make that baby somehow. But I’m failing to understand how there’s anything sexy about pregnancy and childbirth. Morning sickness? Sexy! Hormone fluctuations? Sexy! Swollen feet? Sexy!

I think the appeal heavily relies on the daddy kink. Some people are super into a paternal figure, and seeing this man taking care of a pregnant woman, to them, is swoon-worthy. That's not my jam. Sure a man who cares for his partner is lovely, but it shouldn't take a pregnancy for that to happen. And isn't caring for your partner just a bare minimum requirement of being a partner? Not to mention the fact that the entire act of pregnancy is not hot, at all. Every woman I've known who’s been pregnant has shared nothing but mishaps and horror stories. You realize they shit themselves during the delivery, right? Have you ever heard of a mucus plug? Authors, give your characters some condoms and save the baby for the epilogue. This trope isn’t giving what you think it’s giving.

Number 2: She Breasted Boobily to the Stairs and Titted Downward

This line is often used to describe male authors who over-sexualize and objectify their female characters. You can usually spot this right away because the author will start talking about the female character’s genitals when they have absolutely no relation to the scene. Genitals usually aren't relevant unless someone’s diddling them. For example, I once read a male author describe a teenage female character's hard nipples poking through her shirt while she worked out. I’ve read male authors describe ovaries tingling, sentient tits, and vaginas that double as a Slip ’N Slide. And this shit will be happening while the character is at work or school, nothing remotely sexual is going on. But the reader just had to know that the woman's breasts sighed with relief. Because that's totally a thing tits do. As much as I love female rep, if you can’t write a woman without objectifying her, don't write women. At all.

Number 3: The Quirky, Relatable Loser

This used to be a very gendered trope: the average Joe with no redeeming qualities will snag the hot girl by the end of the book. But over the years this trope has become approachable to all genders. And I hate it. I once read a book where the female main character attends a black tie event wearing a Halloween costume. We, the reader, are supposed to see this as playful and goofy, as opposed to tacky and sophomoric. Writers, I promise you, you can make your characters relatable without making them total dumpster fires.

This is especially relevant if there’s any kind of romance in the novel. And there usually is if there's a quirky, relatable loser in the mix. You have to give them some redeeming qualities. Otherwise, why is the love interest falling for them? They don't have to be hot, but can they be kind? Successful? Can they have integrity or any common sense? Why is common sense always missing in these characters? I love an everyman as much as the next guy, but I'm not going to ship the human embodiment of perfection with a lemon.

Number 4: The World Dump

You knew this was going to be on the list. Fantasy and sci-fi writers, I know you love Tolkien, but oh my God, let it go. Literature has changed, and most of us do not need, nor do we want, multiple pages to describe a tree. A world dump is an info dump that focuses exclusively on world-building. And while world-building is necessary to fiction, it's typically seen as supplementary. I’m reading your book for the story and the characters; the world is just the setting they’re traveling through. And when you dump factoids about the world in minute detail, not only is it boring, but it’s also an insult to the reader’s intelligence. The world naturally unfolds around the characters through the prose and action. If the sun is always beating down on the characters, we can tell it’s a hot climate. If the characters say, “Oh my gods” we can tell that they are polytheistic. To then pause the story to dump all of this information implies that you don't believe your audience has basic reading comprehension skills. If you're aiming for a stupid demographic, then keep doing what you're doing, ’cause you’re nailing it.

Number 5: Predatory Age Gaps

She’s sixteen, he’s twenty-six. She’s eighteen, he’s one hundred. She’s twenty-one, and he’s centuries upon centuries old. I'm calling the police. I shouldn’t have to explain the logic here. I feel like most people should understand why this is creepy. But every time I bring this up there are writers out there fighting me on it. “What's wrong with a teen girl dating an adult man? I did that, and look at me now!" Yeah, you're divorced and traumatized.

For those who don't know, when an adult romantically pursues a child, it’s called grooming. The brain finishes developing in a person’s mid to late twenties. So if you’re pursuing someone much younger than that, it’s a lot easier to mold and manipulate them, which is incredibly dangerous. Now if there's a massive age gap, but both characters are fully mature adults, have at it. But that's never the case in fiction. It’s always a literal child with a full-grown adult. Or a barely legal girl with a creature that’s centuries old. And it's fucking gross. People are gonna argue against this in the comments, but that's probably because they're dating or married to a predator and they don't wanna admit it. If the shoe fits, lace it up and wear it.

Number 6: The Author Is Clearly an Only Child

“Hey, little bro.” What's up big sis?” “I love you little bro.” “Ew, you’re so sappy, but I love you too big sis.” Real siblings talk like this all the time!

I understand that maybe you don't have sibling experience, but you've met people, right? Don't any of your friends have brothers or sisters? Have you ever heard them refer to their siblings in this way? No, because it's fucking weird. If anything, siblings are more likely to insult each other. I called my older sister Oompa Loompa when we were teenagers because she’s shorter than me, and because I’m a bitch. This issue bleeds into best friends as well. Sometimes the friendship dynamic doesn't make any sense. Friends who never disagree, who never poke fun at each other, or question their life decisions? Sounds fake, but okay.

Number 7: The Bar Is in Hell

People really need to up their standards when it comes to fictional men–and real men–but we're not talking about them right now. Have you ever read a book where the male love interest has no problem when women are sexually harassed, unless it's the female main character being sexually harassed, and for some reason that makes him a hero? I sure have. That’s actually a staple in a lot of fiction. You'll read about a Viking, a warrior, or a fairy that has no problem when women are groped unless you touch his girlfriend, then he’ll fucking gut you. We love complicit misogyny. And if it's not that shit, it's something else. The love interest treats the woman with the most basic level of decency, and we're expected to throw him a parade. Or the man drugs and assaults her, and we're expected to forgive him because he did it for her own good. Heterosexual women, I am begging you to have at least one standard.

Number 8: Purple Prose

We get it, you need attention. Purple prose is when an author writes in an overly flowery manner, to the point where every line reads as poetry. Some writers can pull this off because they have a particularly skilled poetic voice. But most just crash and burn. It’s fine if you wanna throw some poetic jargon into the mix when it calls for it, but we don't need it for every single goddamn line. Your werewolf erotica ain’t that deep, Jessica. Purple prose, when written poorly (and it's usually written poorly), reads as exaggerated and pontifical. The language is confusing and clunky, it's a chore to get through, plus it's just plain cheesy.

Number 9: The Infantilized Woman

She’s 4’8” and 100 lbs. soaking wet. She’s so cute when she’s angry, the way she just sticks out her bottom lip and pouts. “What are we gonna do?” she asked the big strong man, because clearly she can’t make any of her own decisions. There was a child-like innocence within her. You could see it in her large blue eyes, and her rosy, cherubic cheeks. Also, the fact that she was literally the size of a child.

What is it with writers creating these women who resemble elementary schoolers? When male writers do this, I think, “Oh, I get it. You're a pedophile.” But when female heterosexual writers do this, I'm stumped. What is the appeal of infantilizing your own gender? Turning her into an agency-less child? I got nothing. I read so many books where the leading lady could fit into your pocket, and honestly, it's gross. I feel like an inferiority complex and fragile ego have to be a component of this decision.

Number 10: When Limited Experience and Research Seeps Into Your Writing

This isn't so much a trope, but I had to include it because it’s so damn awful. Have you ever read a book and thought, “Bless this writer’s heart, they have no idea what they’re talking about?” I once read a book where the evil ex-girlfriend was a model, because of course she was, and she screamed at her agent over the phone because he didn’t land her a high-profile lingerie gig. That's not how the modeling industry works. Agencies have hundreds of models under their wing, and they are in charge, not the model. If you screamed at your agent you’d probably be dropped immediately.

I read another book where the dreamy love interest takes the main character on the most romantic date imaginable. And that elegant, jaw-dropping date was lunch at the Macaroni Grill. Yes, I'm serious. The main character is in awe, she can't believe that her love interest would take her to such a classy, refined establishment. No shade to chain restaurants, some of them are fuckin’ delicious. You can pry the Olive Garden out of my cold dead hands. But I'm also aware that these establishments are not fine dining, they are family restaurants. You can't convince the reader that this is the most lavish date imaginable when the menu comes with crayons.

And lastly, we gotta talk about sex scenes. Brace yourself. I’ve read lesbian sex scenes written by men where the women were scissoring. I've read hetero sex scenes written by men where the man literally sticks his tongue in and out of the vagina, like a lizard. Not a single clit could be found in that scene. I read the scenes and I think, "We get it. You've never pleasured a woman. Thanks for the heads up.”

The point is if you’re gonna write about a situation you have no experience in, you need to do some research or you're gonna end up telling on yourself. We can tell you didn't look up the modeling industry. We can tell you have never been on a date. And we can tell you couldn't locate the clitoris if it was right in front of you. We are not always able to control our experience or lack thereof, so if you don't know what you're talking about, learn about it before you write about it. For God's sake!

So that's all I've got for you today!

Author Jenna Moreci.

Well, those are ten of the worst tropes in fiction, in my humble, but completely correct, opinion. What are your least favorite tropes? Are any of these on your list? Or maybe I missed some. Let me know in the comments below!


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TJ Fisher
TJ Fisher
Feb 14

Lol, I actually have Number 5 in my book, but it's not because the MFC is interested. The Age gap comes from my antagonist who is absolutely delusional.

Jenna Moreci
Jenna Moreci
Feb 19
Replying to

This was mostly in reference to romantic age gaps so having yours be relevant for an antagonist makes complete sense!

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