Let’s Talk Bookish: Cliches and Tropes

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. Today’s topic is Cliches and Tropes.


When is something a trope and when is it a cliche?

I see tropes as familiar elements in stories, whether in world-building, character arcs or plot. They’re basically narrative elements, like having magic as a part of the world, a Chosen One type scenario, a post-apocalyptic societies governed by a despotic government, or the classic good-vs-evil epic fantasy saga.

Cliches on the other hand, are extensions of tropes – specifically, badly written, poorly used or unrealistic tropes – and as such any trope can become a cliche. Some common ones I’ve come across are love triangles, black-and-white morality and the kind of HEA ending where everyone gets what they want.

Can cliches and tropes be done well? When do you enjoy cliches or tropes, and when do you not? How much do cliches/tropes affect your overall opinion of a book?

In and of themselves, tropes are neither good nor bad. All stories have them, and it’s nearly impossible to find a book that’s completely original and devoid of tropes. Generally speaking, I don’t mind most tropes, and it’s really interesting when authors use them in unique ways. I have several favourite tropes, and while I don’t actively seek out books that contain them, it’s always a nice to come across a book with a good old-fashioned enemies to lovers romance, secret identities, or my personal favourites: prophecies, quests, epic battles and the perfect ‘here comes the cavalry’ moments.

I have a really bad opinion of cliches in general, but they can be done well, and the best example of that I’ve come across to date is how Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices series handles the love triangle. It wasn’t predictable and I was genuinely invested in finding out how it was going to end.

Cliches and tropes can have a huge effect on my opinion of a book in a positive or negative manner. For example, the Book of the Ancestor series which I read last year, took what I felt was an interesting approach to the Chosen One trope which made it fun to read even though said trope is such a common and often overused one. If it feels like the book is following a trope or cliche almost like a script with nothing to make it stand out, that is something I tend to dislike. Ultimately, whether I enjoy a trope or not depends entirely on how it is written and if the interpretation is believable.


What are your thoughts on cliches and tropes? Do you have a favourite trope? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


17 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish: Cliches and Tropes

  1. bethanymcallister February 5, 2021 / 1:05 pm

    Personally I think some tropes make books to similar. Hence I can’t stand a lot of fantasy ans romances. But every so often, it gets done really really well!! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) February 13, 2021 / 11:09 am

      That’s very true, if a book doesn’t make the effort to put a unique spin on a trope, it can become awfully predictable. Thanks for reading!

      Like

  2. Sue Berk Koch February 5, 2021 / 2:26 pm

    I don’t mind tropes. They can bring me closer to a story because they are familiar and therefore I am comfortable with the concept. Cliches, however, make me roll my eyes!
    Thanks for the fun discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Soleil à Droite February 5, 2021 / 3:51 pm

    Agreed! I read a lot of queer OwnVoices novels, and while it’s great to have appropriate representation, they tend to be YA and that means they lean into tropes pretty hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) February 13, 2021 / 11:13 am

      Thanks for reading! YA does tend to overdo it with tropes, but every so often there are some books that use them really well.

      Like

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) February 13, 2021 / 11:17 am

      Yes, I find that tropes are usually a good way to get an idea of what the book will be like and it’s helpful in deciding whether I want to read a book or not too sometimes. Thanks for reading!

      Like

  4. onth3cusp February 5, 2021 / 6:17 pm

    I’ve really come to enjoy the found family trope in the last few years. I think it’s cropped up quite a lot recently in newer releases as it’s something a lot of people can relate to.

    I’m usually not a fan of love triangles at all, unless they’re delightfully subverted and frankly…queer. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) February 13, 2021 / 11:18 am

      The found family trope is one I enjoy too, and YA novels tend to do it really well. I agree, love triangles are overdone at this point, and it needs to be something drastically new for me to like it.

      Like

  5. holley4734 February 5, 2021 / 7:03 pm

    Agreed. If the author can make a trope or cliche less predictable then it is less painful to read. A reader generally wants to be entertained. Spice up those tropes/cliches! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) February 13, 2021 / 11:19 am

      Absolutely! I’ve come across some tropes which were so skillfully used that I didn’t realize it was even present until I finished the book!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Shannon February 5, 2021 / 7:33 pm

    I seen cliches that were successful when they were part of a character ARC. When the character starts as one of those cliched people everyone’s met before and hates so readers have a strong feeling about them, but the character evolves over the course of the book into someone the reader likes and admires, it can be effective.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Marta the Monogamist Reader February 6, 2021 / 11:29 am

    Interesting discussion Raji! I don’t seek out actively books with my favourite tropes. The way tropes are developed can impact my overall opinion of the story. Enemy to lovers trope seems to be the most common and the most exploited in recent YA books, but very rarely I came across a good example.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) February 13, 2021 / 11:29 am

      Thanks Marta! I sometimes like to try and find what tropes are used in a book if I’m deciding whether to read it or not since it’s a great way to get a feel of how it might be. The enemies to lovers trope has been overdone a little lately, but I’m generally okay with it as long as it’s not the central point of the story.

      Liked by 1 person

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