special topic writes
We’ve all been there as readers. You’re reading a book and the characters begin to fit into this cookie cutter mold of being like other characters you’ve read. Or they become less of character and more of a singular trait. Tropes are something we can’t avoid in literature and media. Some do a lot more harm than good, while others are just ehh. So here is a post about a few tropes that bother me.
Manic-Pixie Dream girl (MPDG)
We’ve all found our way to the end of a novel where the female protagonist or supporting character sole purpose was to make the main character step out of his shell. Do things unexpected and rebellious all the while she doesn’t truly exist to the readers outside of how she relates to the main character. Manic pixie dream girls are these 2-dimensional character curves that are more like an overzealous trait that uses women as props to help men change or “better” themselves. This trope is harmful because it plays into the ideology of male-centered story telling and woman are only here to help us. Always the quirky love interest never the superhero.
Melanin Deficient Dystopian (MDD)
You ever opened a dystopian novel and at some point wondered where are the people of color. Well, you’re in luck most of us have. MDD isn’t necessarily a character trope but a writing “trope”. These novels typically have a dynamic plot set in some dystopian setting where we get to meet a bunch of characters, none of which are POC. This writing style is harmful because, like, representation matters, and what does it say that a bunch of authors think that POC would die off, or when their are POC they tend to be congregated in the poorest colony.
The gay best-friend/ Gay in Theory
This trope has been dying down a lot lately in YA novels in my opinion. But essentially TGBF trope or GiT is when the author writes a character as being gay, but essentially its more for diversity points than an actual character. It’s GiT because you never learn about the gay character as it relates to him existing as a queer person. It’s like yeah she said he was gay on page 41 for a quick moment, but for the rest of the 500 pages the character doesn’t exist a queer person. It’s the gay brother to MPDG when it comes to tropes. We never learn about this character, only about how they can provide sass or advice to the main character.
Killing off the only black character
Let’s talk about how racism can seep it’s way into writing, intentionally and unintentionally. In Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass we literally read as the only black characters (who weren’t like slaves) die advance the plot of the white protagonist (Spoiler) . Do I even need to continue about how this trope is annoying. I don’t know how many books I’ve read where eventually the black character HAS to die so the White character characters plot can continue. This has to stop. It says that white characters are superior and a black character should be honored to die, because they’re death went to a good cause. This argument has taken shape lately in conversations about abelism due to Me Before You. Same song, different dance.
The love triangle
What if I told you a female main character doesn’t have to been in a love triangle for people to find her story interesting. Or that she doesn’t have to find anybody interesting on a relationship level. I’ve seen this A LOT more in YA novels with female protagonist, but what does that say to young female readers that you can be brave and courageous and do all these amazing things, however deep down your mind is stuck on boys. See hows its so hard to think of a YA book thats female-lead without a relationship because we still can seem to think of women as having agency over their body without having a male attached to it in some form. Love triangles are boring and does a disservice to the Main character and readers.
Mr. Perfect vs Mr.Average
please i’m so tired of the the new tall dark and mysterious guy who just moved into the town from some obscure hipster place in a love spat over someone with the average bookstore worker best-friend (who probably wears glasses). This trope just sets unrealistic fantasies for everyone.
The sassy Black friend
The sassy black friend has one task in you’re YA novel. To give you aunt Jemima wisdom in African American Vernacular and be the backbone for the soft spoken main character.This one note character trope is harmful because it depicts People of color as these aggressive people who are like guard dogs to protect the main character and feeds into the stereotype that all black people are sassy because 9/10 that’ll be the only black character in the novel.
Burying the gay character
Hey look I wrote a gay character. Now go on vacation for a few pages…or chapters…or books…
Killing the gay character
This is a troupe I’ve seen a lot of people in the queer community speak passionately about, where we get a gay character who is awesome and then boom they’re dead. By some force of nature or god. So yeah, stop killing us in novels.
The mystical ethnic friend
The mystical ethnic friend (MEF) has one job in your YA novel: to bring some magic to it. These characters are typically described as brownish or from a country in the middle-east, or practices voodoo and they’re really skilled in magic and they’re here to aid our warrior into the battlefield and protect them (until they eventually die, bc they always do.) This is a louzy trope because it relies on preconceived notions of people of color being these mystical exotic beings that have these cultures and norms that equates to witchcraft.
It’s been four years since I graduated high school and my reading has increased exponentially. The first year after graduating I didn’t read much. A few books here and there. I mostly re-reading books I had sitting around, to kill time while waiting for a family trip or to temporarily offset my boredom. By the third year I was an going to bookstores and buying books to read, or listening to the audio versions. It wasn’t until I started blogging about the books I read that I realized what made me stop reading in the first place, the narratives.
My reading list for high was pretty standard. To Kill A Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men Wuthering Heights, and Shakespeare. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the value and validity of these books, but for an African American male this reading list is lacking. Yes, I understand that people say To Kill A Mockingbird is a timeless book. Sadly, all it really does is make white people feel less guilty about the oppression of black people, even though Atticus Finch never actually existed. That book and many of the others mentioned are assumed to be book all can enjoy. I didn’t enjoy wuthering Heights, I didn’t care for any of the families, Heathcliff bothered me, and I felt bad for the servant Nelly. I couldn’t get into reading these books because I couldn’t relate to them, I couldn’t see myself as them.
Now it’s hard to question why people don’t like to read books. So many things play into it, but I can be certain a big portion of it has to do with because for so long we’ve been forced to read books from people who write about perspectives we can’t relate too. How much can I gain from reading The Great Gatsby. Nothing, I could care less about a rich white man. I don’t want to read about a rich white man. I want to read about the Pecola Breedloves, Ali’s & Noodles , et al. I enjoy reading about me, something I wasn’t able to do in high school, but even that has been a challenge.
Walking into a bookstore, or searching through online websites can be a few shades of lackluster. Especially when you’re shopping for diversity. Ciswhite men dominate this industry. With there limited perspective on other people, or their lack on caring how they represent other characters outside of their protagonist.