Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed post hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and I’ve seen several others doing it, so I figured I would take a stab at it as well! This week’s prompt is “Top 10 Favorite Tropes.” I have a lot of favorites, and yet I still had a hard time coming up with this list, so hopefully y’all like it. Without further ado…here we go!
1. Kickass female protagonist
Who doesn’t love a little girl power? Mia Corvere, Inej Ghafa and Nina Zenik, Sancia Grado, Vin and Sarene and Siri and Vivenna, Katniss Everdeen…these are the girls I want to be like and love to read about. Girls who kick ass and take names, who stand up and don’t run away when the going gets tough.
2. The angsty one who loves the happy one
This may sound weirdly specific, but you know the type. Sullen, angry Ronan Lynch who loves the innocent sweetheart Adam Parrish. Crowley, a demon, who loves the angel Aziraphale. Baz, the Draco Malfoy-vampire-type character who loves Simon Snow, the hapless Chosen One. I just think it’s so sweet to see icy exteriors that defrost for one specific person.
3. The morally ambiguous hero
Much as I love a hero who really has pure motives, I’m more intrigued by the heroes with dubious codes of honor. An obvious example is Kaz Brekker, from the Six of Crows duology, who doesn’t really care who gets hurt as long as he gets his payment. Another obvious one is Kelsier, from the Mistborn trilogy, who has good motivation for his revolution, but who sometimes lets his hatred of the upper class overpower his sense of decency. People aren’t simply black or white, good or evil, and a complex hero is more interesting (and believable) to read about.
4. The morally ambiguous villain
Yep, that’s right. I like moral ambiguity in all its forms. When a book reveals that the so-called villain is actually doing what they do for really good reasons–or reasons that started out good, anyway–their villainhood becomes more complex, and their relationship with the protagonist grows as well.
5. Surprise! They’re gay!
Not sure if this is accepted as a legitimate trope, but I find it very cool when a character who isn’t obviously queer-coded ends up being gay. Not that there is anything wrong with out-and-proud, obviously gay characters, but when it happens subtly, believably, a character who grapples with an unexpected realization about their sexuality is great, especially when it leads to greater development for them. Plus, you know, I’m a huge fan of representation for minority groups in general, especially the LGBTQ+ community. Bonus points for oft-neglected genders/sexualities, like trans/nonbinary characters, bisexuality, and asexuality. (Note: this does not include retconned diversity, a la “Dumbledore is gay,” nor does it include characters whose sexuality is briefly mentioned once but then never plays into their character again.)
6. Reluctant allies
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and all that jazz. Or, “we both need the same thing, so let’s join forces.” I’m listening to the audiobook of Shadow of the Fox right now, and Yumeko and Tatsumi are in this exact situation. It also makes for a great setup for an enemies-to-lovers romance…at least when done correctly.
7. The sarcastic narrator
Don’t you love it when the person telling the tale makes it humorous and enjoyable for you as a reader, even if the story itself isn’t particularly funny? Lemony Snicket in A Series of Unfortunate Events is a perfect example. Another one is the narrator from the Nevernight books, whose snark never fails to brighten even the goriest of scenes.
8. Tragic backstory/tortured soul
So I like characters that are basically emotionally devoid as a result of past trauma, or ones who somehow managed to stay positive despite their lives being absolutely awful. I promise I’m not a terrible person–they’re just so interesting! Their growth almost inevitably ends up profound and fascinating. This applies across all genres, from fantasy to contemporary to historical to nonfiction.
9. Breaking the fourth wall
This isn’t one I come across super often, but a great trope, especially in satire, is when the characters say something to obliquely acknowledge that they’re in a book. You see this crop up in Quichotte by Salman Rushdie, for example. Or, an example from television is the song “Who’s the New Guy?” in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
10. The funny sidekick
Comic relief is generally appreciated. In real life, most friend groups have that one person who’s “the funny friend,” and in books, it’s nice to have a character who is constantly making wisecracks, or whose subplot is way lighter than the main one. From the Fool characters in Shakespeare to the antics of Karou in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, humorous side characters have existed across centuries and across genres.
So…that’s my list for today! What do you guys think? Any of these that you also love (or ones that you hate)? Which tropes do you love that I didn’t include? Let me know in the comments!