Creative Writing · Writing

Story Tropes I Hate

Fanfiction and Original Fiction Tropes That I Hate In the Following Order

  1. Nitpicks
  2. Love At First Sight & Love/Hate Romances
  3. Draco in Leather Pants & the “Broken” Character
  4. Ron The Death Eater & the Mary Sue
  5. Love Triangles

My pet peeves about fanfiction include: One, give your story a creative title, one that hints at what the story is about. Next, do not say “I suck at summaries but the story is better that my summation of it.” If you’re not competent at summaries how am I supposed to have faith that your story is any better? Thirdly, do not write “Don’t like don’t read.” I searched for this genre of story for a reason, how am I supposed to know if I like it if I don’t read it? Lastly is the comment fanfiction writers write, I’ll paraphrase it however: “No criticism. No flames.” What these writers mean is no destructive criticism and confuse this with what constructive criticism is. Constructive criticism is the critic mentioning to the author the flaws and successes of the writer’s story, it is being aware of your own biases and offering advise so the author can improve their craft.

Blobs of text are very difficult to read, unless you’re writing a description or a prose poem do not do this. Paragraph breaks are your best friend when writing. The prose flows well when there’s separate paragraphs: the scenes don’t feel rushed and scene shifts are clearer to see. Paragraph breaks also make it easier to understand when someone’s speaking and when a new character is speaking.

Dialogue – internal and external – are essential to a story; we need to know what is going as the plot unfolds. Said Book-ism is using every synonym imaginable to avoid using said because the writer thinks it’s intelligent and doesn’t trust their words. Said, asked, and occasionally replied are inconspicuous, the reader doesn’t notice them and like paragraph break in general, tell the reader someone’s talking. By using words such as “exclaimed”, “whispered”, “peevishly” the writer hasn’t done their job in setting the tone their conversation. Good competent writers can set the mood of the scene without using these adjectives in the dialogue tags.

Last in terms of my nitpicking, is porn without plot. Now I’m not against smut fiction but unless specifically stated that it’s ONLY a scene; sex needs to have a purpose in your story. Story sex can’t end at orgasm and an author cannot have characters bone each other just because they want them to. Plus there also need context behind it. Are Bob and Jean fucking, or do Adam and Eric love making? What is their relationship to each other? What thoughts are going through their minds besides bumping uglies? If it doesn’t fit into the story then delete it from the story.

Here’s and example from one of my stories:

In the subplot (the previous life) Anekka needs information on the military so in order to get it she sleeps with the informant she finds. Knowing that she’d break her boyfriend’s heart Anekka decides to risk it in order to bring him home from the battle. And in her second life during World War I Anekka does the same until she breaks the habit in her final life as a teenager.

Context, reason, result.

Instant love introduction other wise know as love at first sight. This does not exist, this is lust at first sight based on physical attraction. For adolescents this is their safe version of sexuality without engaging in sex – it’s a safe introduction of their sexual awakening. Secondly, this “love” is primarily based on physical attraction. In the Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoon Alvin and Brittney are constantly at each other’s throats but we believe their attraction. Plus as children there’s the possibility the feelings will change. Changing emotions are integral to teenaged romance but its more confusing because they aren’t children know. While teasing in primary school may be an indication of infatuation; by junior high that isn’t the case. Both boys and girls at that age practice their failed versions of flirting. Teenagers aren’t adults either and don’t understand that a real love involves compromising. They don’t have knowledge that a real love isn’t solely looks and love grows over time. In Disney we saw this love in Kim Possible with Ron and Kim; with Fran and Maxwell Sheffield (The Nanny); Rose and the Doctor (Doctor Who); and Danielle and Henry (Ever After). Physical attraction is the first to fade there must be an affection; a respect; a mental and emotional attraction for love to bloom. If it isn’t there at the most the relationship is a friends-with-benefits one. Usually if they do date in young adult universes, the couple ends their relationship like Sam and Freddie in the show iCarly. The only way a love/hate romance works in fiction is when a dynamic developed between the two previously. Examples include: Gregory House and Lisa Cuddy (House M.D); Niles and CeeCee Babcock (The Nanny); the Narrator and Marla Singer (Fight Club).


Draco in Leather Pants comes from Harry Potter fans who pair Draco Malfoy with Hermione Granger. These fans use every kind of reasoning and fallacies in justification of their ship (relationship) despite no bearing on it. And other fandoms are prone to this too. There’s several reasons why this trope fails with Harry Potter: Draco and Hermione are never alone together, her and his friends (Crabbe, Goyle, Ron, and Harry) are always with them. Because of this it is unlikely that they would interact outside of Howarts. After graduation the most they would interact would be accidental meetings and taking their children to Platform 9 ¾. Draco is clever but there no evidence that he’s as academically intelligent as Hermione.

Villains and Morally grey characters are sexualized – as the title of this trope implies. In recent decades we’ve seen deeper antagonists ones with backstory that in some way we as the audience are meant to sympathize with. Tom Felton is attractive making it easier to forgive Draco’s actions. Sometimes this is fine such as Darth Vader reverting back into Anikin Skywalker, however that was foreshadowed that he could change. He only became evil – went to the Dark Side –to save Padmae from death. The Joker on the other hand isn’t capable of changing yet Harley constantly keeps excusing his behavior, constantly keeps sleeping with him, and believing that Joker will change. She loves the brief kind moment – not the reality the situation. I suppose if the bastard is good in bed then it’s okay.

No because this leads me to my final point: Why is this trope wrong? Why this trope is wrong is that it take an overly simplistic view towards love. It’s correct that love is powerful, it is a healing concept, but it cannot change another if said person is unwilling to change. Draco in Leather Pants implies violence. How these stories are written is that both characters are broken, many times the heroine’s portrayed as a slut, and the boy a victim of unhealthy world views. “I can change him,” she says. Hermione would never accept Draco as a lover. In the films he is solely a cowardly, elitist bully. In the books he is a bigoted misogynist who until Order of the Pheonix treats his friends as henchmen than friends. He’s not above calling Hermione racial slurs (Mugblood) or mocking her for getting jinxed (Goblet of Fire). He worships his father and adores his mother and does everything he can to please them. And just because war changes humans in its aftermath doesn’t mean that Hermione would be the one to change Draco.

And here’s the thing, if the wimpified antihero isn’t redeemed audience members tend to think that the heroine didn’t love him enough or never did. They rationalized that because of this she deserves whatever consequence she receives from the Draco. Lastly, Draco would never marry a girl he considered beneath him. His parents consider his wife as beneath them since she falls under the neveau rich category but she is still wealthy and shares classist views on society. And it is more than likely she helped bring a change in Draco, as well as him realizing that his father was wrong and he didn’t want to repeat his mistakes. In fact, here is what JK Rowling herself said on Pottermore on the subject:

“For all this, Draco remains a person of dubious morality in the seven published books, and I have often had cause to remark on how unnerved I have been by the number of girls who fell for this particular fictional character (although I do not discount the appeal of Tom Felton, who plays Draco brilliantly in the films and, ironically, is about the nicest person you could meet). Draco has all the dark glamour of the anti-hero; girls are very apt to romanticise such people. All of this left me in the unenviable position of pouring cold common sense on ardent readers’ daydreams as I told them, rather severely, that Draco was not concealing a heart of gold under all that sneering and prejudice and that no, he and Harry were not destined to end up best friends.”

The Broken Bird in Young Adult Fiction and why I hate them. They were never broken and/or disadvantaged. They never get any consequence and the consequences they actually received aren’t carried out and/or given to the primary protagonist. The former implicates that they won’t learn their lessons always getting away with the ill actions they’ve committed. The latter typically has the punishment given to the primary protagonist and a disproportionate amount of it too. Like with Draco in Leather Pants the audience sympathizes with the broken character more because they’ve had a tragic past.

With the protagonist members argue that the protagonist doesn’t have a right to negative emotions since they have a stable background. Some argue that the protagonist doesn’t deserve positive goals because they apparently “have enough.” Sam Puckett (iCarly) and Maya Hart (Girl Meets World) are both Jerkass Sues. They have an increasing amount of skills without honing their craft in any way. Their actions — ie berating their love interests and authority – are excused because of a broken family/personality. Though with Sam its justified; Maya has never been disadvantaged. As stated before they receive no punishment and immediately disregard the lesson they were supposed to learn. Sam hacks into the computer system multiple times, beats up students, breaks every rule imaginable. In a special she gets her and her friends incarcerated in a maximum prison and still receives no punishment from the world around her. Maya on the other hand lit fire sparklers in school, walks out of class, constantly says rude things to her friends, teases her love interest when he tells her to stop. She skips class, attempts to vandalize a statue (I know she doesn’t but she still plans it), she even kidnaps a woman competing for her mother’s acting role. Despite all this she, like Sam, is easily forgiven. Yet characters like Carly, Riley, Tori (Victorious) never catch a break from their world and their audience.

Mary sue is a vague term that originates from Star Trec fanfiction: Mary Sue at a young age makes into the star trec enterprise with her immense intellect and strong will. From that point Mary Sue terms have gone through various iterations and even claims a male character can be a Mary Sue (Gary Stu). This term is difficult to define and this term has led fans to deem canon characters as Mary Sues when it’s strictly a fanfiction invention. So what is a Mary Sue and what makes it problematic? If asked you’ll get multiple answers: a Mary Sue is perfect; too talented; too ambitious; their backstory is unnecessarily tragic; everyone loves or hates them; they’re a static character. The problem with these answers is that they’re all character traits can belong to any character – flat or well-developed. Spock and Captain Kirk have most of these and they’re not considered Mary/Gary Sues. Indiana Jones and James Bond constantly gain new skills and they’re not Mary Sues. What about Xena? In her past she was violent and needed to atone for her actions. She’s impossibly strong and the villains and good guys love and hate her. Why isn’t Xena a Mary Sue? Knowing this the “definitions” of what makes a Mary Sue don’t apply anymore. A Mary Sue instead is a storytelling flaw and not a character in and of itself.

The flaw is this: the World rules of the story bend to the will of the character when there’s no reason to. If promiscuity is punished by death the Mary Sue won’t receive consequence for doing the same thing. If the laws of gravity apply to the world it’ll be turned off for Mary Sue. This is why even developed characters are sometimes deemed a Mary Sue. Here’s the thing, like Ron the Death Eater Mary Sue is gender specific. We don’t ball out Harry Potter for these traits or Indiana for his ambition yet fans do when it applies to female characters. It implies misogynistic beliefs that women should be seen not heard and that girls shouldn’t aim too high. And the other reason why female characters are named Mary Sues is primarily because they’re the Yoko Ono of the fans preferred pairing just like Ron the Death Eater. These terms are a way to deny good characters of any complexity.

Love Triangles aren’t new we’ve seen them repeatedly in our pop culture narratives, but they’re becoming tedious by this point. Now I don’t hate all love triangles only the ones that are poorly written and misogynistic. What I mean by poorly written is that there’s no foreshadowing that makes his situation believable. We see this in young adult fiction a lot but I’ll primarily focus on the Hunger Games and Twilight. In this dystopian world Katniss Everdeen grows to love Peeta; this with the overall narrative is enough tension for Katniss. Not only does she need to defeat the system but in her love life her lesson is to drop her guard in love and realize that not everything will be ripped away from her. Katniss also learns what love means during the wartime of her nation. Why have a love triangle despite this? Nothing between Gale and Katniss foretells a romance between them. Chapter has Katniss saying while they resemble siblings Gale often acts like one for her. It’s possible that Gale may have romantic feelings but because we’re never in his head we don’t know for sure. Compare this to (godawful) Twilight where the Bella/Edward/Jacob dynamic was believable. Edward breaks up with Bella in New Moon, she finds comfort in Jacob and begins falling for him – and vice versa. Yet Bella is still attracted to Edward and when he returns it is entirely believable that he and Jacob fight for her. In Eclipse Bella admits her feeling for Jacob, kisses him, and then marries Edward. Sloppy but we know that their conflict is believable. This lack of foreshadowing is why I hate most modern love triangles.

Love triangles can end up with sexist undertones. The first triangle being a woman with male Suitors and the second triangle with a man with two women suitors. In triangle one the female never had a choice in this conflict with her male contenders. If already in a happy relationship it is not her fault that a third party reveals their feelings for her. Her responsibility is not for second man’s emotions, yet she is forced into a difficult decision in this conflict that she desired no part it; a conflict she never chose. Her choices from this point on are limited and include: choosing one character over the other; choosing neither and by extension advocating for herself instead; or getting with both men at different times. The problem with all of them is that one half of the audience will condemn her as a heartbreaking whore whose indecisive and the men deserve better. Fans of the unchosen character insist that the heroine is stupid for not dating the unchosen, and like Draco in Leather Pants, deserves any shit the chosen boy gives her. In choosing neither many fans do not see agency and self-respect but a cock tease bitch. Unless done properly her winding up with both characters feels lazy – though it did work with works such as Wurthering Heights. Being in this triangle never was her choice and at every turn the men treat her like she’s a prize.


However I need to mention the other type of love triangle: the male with female suitors. I hate this version for a couple of reasons and all of them sexist and outdated. No matter the relationship of the women, be it friendship or otherwise, said relationship will always come undone by a man. It implies and women are not complete without romance in their lives. Most unfortunately it says that there is an incorrect and correct way to act out your gender roles. We see the third with male suitors as well but like Mary Sue, the men don’t suffer from the slack the women suitors get. One of the most famous examples include Betty and Veronica from the Archie Comics. Archie loves Betty and always comes back to him, but Veronica is mysterious and new so Archie is attracted to both girls. And at different times Veronica and Betty’s friendship is put in peril due to their crushes on Archie. It’s dark femininity versus light femininity with the writer forgetting that this dichotomy — and more — exists in everyone. What this teaches girls is that competition is what you should expect with another girl; that in the end women cannot be friends with each other.


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