*Updated 4/25/17* *For more thoughts related to this topic, check out this, this, and this post.*
Love triangles make your character seem wishy-washy, they're often used to add conflict to what would otherwise be an easy romance, and they're super cliche. I rarely guess wrong about which person will be chosen in the end, which adds to my frustration.
Seriously, why are teenage girls in stories always in a love triangle? I've almost never seen one in real life--and when I have, it was called "cheating." To my eyes, love triangles make your main character into someone who has a serious problem with commitment and loyalty, and I don't have a lot of patience for that. You need to make your choice and then be loyal to the person you're with, you know?
(Usually, with love triangles, the girl is the one who has to make the choice. But don't make the mistake of thinking that if a guy is the center of the triangle, it's better. I thought that too, once. I was wrong.)
A few exceptions apply, as with almost anything. I've mostly enjoyed love triangles that shake things up a bit. For example, though the The Hunger Games' triangle did get cliche at times, it had power because Katniss really didn't care either way. I also appreciate the fact that many love triangles ultimately represent a greater life choice, not just a choice between two dudes--but it's easy to make that symbolism way too obvious. So if you're leaning towards a triangle in your own writing, please consider other ways of spicing up your plot and of addressing your character's major life choices.
I can only think of one exception for this--oh, plus The Lion King. Otherwise, I find this trope to be strange and awkward. You can do it for little kids, of course, but once you get up to middle grade, I just don't want it. Animal side characters work sometimes, like in Disney, or The Chronicles of Narnia. But if you make the whole book about animal characters, it's really hard to relate to.
I want human stories, about all the diverse people that exist out there facing the same problems and wonders that have been a part of the human experience for millennia. And don't be getting up on me about fairies and mermaids and stuff--they're fictional creatures, and they often present as being at least part-human, so it's not the same. Real actual animals that do not talk in real life just don't work as main characters, and I stand by that.
Teenage Girl: "Oh my gosh! This boy is so hot! And he's obviously very into me, since he's kissed me and stuff, like, a lot, and is always giving me sexy looks and telling me that he likes me!"
Teenage Girl: "Well... because there's no conflict left in this story, I'm going to suddenly decide I am unworthy of this super hot guy, and that he could never love me, despite all signs on the contrary, because that doesn't set a terrible precedent for all the teen girls who are already having confidence issues without any hot guys liking them at all!"
Stop it. Show us heroines who, if they have confidence issues, don't just suddenly get them when a guy shows up. Show us some heroines who know they're worth loving! Give girls permission to be confident and to feel strong in themselves even and maybe especially around men, and it'll have a good impact, I promise. It sets a better example for what a healthy relationship looks like, which everyone needs.
So if, like many authors, you're doing this to add conflict, be more creative. There are better ways.
WHY? WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?
Star Wars was bad enough, and nothing actually happened there. When you decide that your plot twist ending is going to be that the two romantic leads/lovers are actually siblings, you have gone to the dark side of writing. Because that is gross, and if you're gonna pull it off, you've got to be very clever about it. So once again, don't be adding stuff just for the sake of conflict. Not cool, bro.
This is more of a personal preference, but I can't read books where animals die, especially cats. I just can't do it. When I see a pet in a book, particularly a thriller or horror novel, I wince because it's highly likely it'll take a bad turn and I'll have to stop reading. If the only logical conclusion of your book includes a pet's death, maybe please don't include the pet? It'll save me a lot of trauma. Kthx.
I'm sorry. I can't understand a thing you're saying in that gigantic fantasy novel of yours, because it's all in a different language. Obviously, language is a huge part of worldbuilding, and it's not always going to match what we see as "normal." But if you're going to write entire poems in fictional languages, give weird names to ordinary jobs, and name all your characters "Menebopotra" and "Unlielf" or whatever, I'm out. You're just being ridiculous at this point.
Because that is original and in no way stems from your own life experience?
Okay, so this isn't always a problem, but seriously, does the amount of books with writer protagonists in existence really reflect the number of people in the world who write? I don't think so.
I'm especially bothered by the tough-female-who-is-an-author: i.e. Jo March. It's cliche, and it's giving me a complex. It's not necessary, if you're a female writer, for you to throw off the societal norms of your gender. You don't have to be all tough! I just never see myself reflected in those stories, and it makes me feel like I don't deserve to be a writer, because I'm not like that. In other news, I'd like to see a heroine with blond hair instead of brown or red, because that's another thing that I'm getting a complex about. Or maybe a strong disabled character? Seriously, guys, give me something here.
What tropes do you hate?
Come back next time for the start of a two-part listing of my achievements. It'll give you some more perspective into my life experience, in case you want to ask some questions about such things. Hasta la vista!
Images via somebodymagical on Tumblr and giphy.com.