Tropes are so easy to fall back on, as easy as using the term, "fall back on" (another trope) to say they are a lazy way to solve a plot or character problem because they rise to the top of the list when you're looking for solutions. When you need to drum up some drama in your YA novel, a love triangle might come up as one of the first solutions. But readers (and agents and editors) want something new and different.
I decided to make a list of things I will not use in my working drafts. This could always change, and please don't feel like you have to follow my list. On #MSWL, I just saw an agent ask for a revenge book, and another for vampires! You never know what will come back en vogue. The purpose of this list is for me, to avoid the easy fixes so I'm forced to look deeper.
- No love triangles
- No all white, CIS, overly attractive cast
- No revenge plots
- No vying for the throne
- No fantasy set in Middle Ages England
- No insta-love, they have to earn it
- No vampires, mermaids, werewolves, (unless I can think of a really unique twist.)
- No chosen one
- No dystopia
Okay so my first thought might be to have a girl wronged by the king, who sneaks into the palace to reap her revenge, and while she's there, she meets the prince and falls in love. But, uh oh, she also has a boyfriend back home.
Off the top of my head, I can think of 6 novels that use this exact plotline.
So I have to think about what I really want to accomplish in my book. I want to get her into the palace, meet the prince, and grapple with the betrayal of her old life while falling for a new one.
Maybe it's her mom that doesn't want her to go. They have a fight, and in her anger, my MC commits to being a maid in the palace, a contract she can't get out of even after she sobers up and changes her mind. Maybe it's the princess she falls for instead of the prince. Maybe this all happens in a fantasy version of conquistador Spain. I don't know. The purpose of the exercise is to brainstorm other, non-trope ways to tell the story I want to tell. Like they always say, your work needs a hook, and your hook is either turning these tropes on their head or breathing new life into them.
So what are your favorite/least favorite tropes? What would you pay a dollar to never see ever again?