Last night, when I should have been getting some sleep, I stumbled upon this thread in /r/fantasywriters about Character Tropes, and which ones we like and which ones we didn’t. It’s not a new conversation, not by any means, but it’s definitely an interesting one, one that makes me go through a list in my head and tick off things I doing or not doing, with the constant reminder that you can’t please everyone. I also thought it might be a good topic to bring to the blog and open up for discussion.
Now, this doesn’t have to be limited to just fantasy writing, of course, though my biggest concerns about Character Tropes always lead me to Aryneth rather than my other fiction. I don’t know why that is. But I do want to know: What are the character tropes/developments that drive you up the wall? What do you want to see more of?
I know, for me, they hit it pretty quickly in the thread: I like to see a lot of moral ambiguity in villains, though I agree with one commenter who pointed out that the moral grey has become such a big thing that everyone seems to tread the line and no one really comes off as good any more, because everyone’s bad with a little good. It also drives me nuts when there’s a romance thrown in just for the sake of there being a romance, or when female characters have to be paired up. Obviously, this is different if we’re talking about a romance genre, but I just read a book where there was the most awkward romantic subplot between the two main characters (who were cousins, by the way), and it was just so unnecessary and weird. Personally, I’ve noticed that, if I’m doing a series, there’s very little romance in the first book of the series, because I don’t want it to be about that. I want it to be about the characters and the conflict first and foremost, and once they’ve developed their relationships, then we can see where it might be going in a second or third book. Not always. I have a few series where romance enters the picture pretty quickly, but there’s hardly any romance in The Slayer Saga: Soulless (though some is developing in Heartless, ironically), and there’s practically none in Serpent in a Cage. We get to that more in books two and three.
Characters whose gender don’t really play into things much is something I’d love to see more in fantasy, though I think it’s a little trickier in other genres, except maybe science fiction. I also love it when there’s a romance between characters, but it isn’t a big deal. I’m thinking Angua and Carrot from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series or some of Lois McMaster Bujold’s work: it’s there, it’s endearing and you get invested in it, but it’s not the main point of everything they do.
And, if you get a chance, hop on over to my Featured Story page, where you’ll find Miriam Sagan‘s short story “Red Coat,” which was featured in the recently published World Unknown Review Volume I! I’m hoping to feature a new story from the review every month or so, so keep an eye out for more, or, just skip the wait and pick up the book today.
Now it’s your turn, though. What are your favorite character tropes and developments? What do you absolutely despise? I’d love to get some thoughts on this, and who doesn’t love a good writerly venting?