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Under the Radar Tropes

Tropes. Writers talk about them all the time. How to avoid them, mostly. So we all know big ones: stock characters, underdeveloped world-building, yada yada yada. You know. The main characters who are “different from other girls.” The loner bookworms.

Lately in my reading I’ve noticed some things that I never really thought of as tropes but are definitely showing up all over the place. Things like:

Characters who find the voice in their head annoying. Writers use something called an aside, an italicized line of internal dialogue, to give an added layer of commentary to the scene. In theater, this is usually a line that breaks the fourth wall and is addressed to the audience for irony. In a novel it can look like this:

Damien sauntered toward her, his lips stretched over his teeth in a smile that didn’t make it to his eyes. Lucinda’s heart shuddered in what would have been perfect fear if not for the tingle of heat blooming between her legs.

“Stop. You stop right there,” she snapped. Any closer and I’m lost.

Well, apparently a lot of teen protagonists fine their inner voice really annoying. I don’t know why. I’ve always liked mine. But lately I keep seeing asides followed immediately by lines that disparage the inner voice and seek to make it separate. On one hand, I get it. Asides are used, as above, to fill in a thought or reaction the character wants to keep hidden. Instead of treating the voice and the aside like a part of them that just won’t let the truth go, though, these characters seem to treat it like a total outsider.

Which I find weird, especially when I see it a bunch of times in a row with different characters. Food for thought!

Main characters in upper YA/NA who have never done any dating of any kind. This one ties into more recognizable loner/innocent tropes, so is a little less unexpected, but honestly it’s all the more annoying because of that. It’s always because of how “different” or “shy” or “awkward” the MC is. Well, I’m not buying it. I was an awkward weirdo in high school and I was friends with a bunch of awkward weirdos and we TOTALLY dated. Hell, we had one of those terribly incestuous high school cliques where we’d date a friend, break up, date a different friend while the first friend dated another friend from the circle, so on and so forth.

When you remember that even the “weirdest” YA and NA protagonists are still way cooler and more competent than an average human teenager, this whole “never dating” thing gets pretty ridiculous. Can I get a 17-year-old spec fic protagonist who has some dates under their belt? Obviously there are some kids who really do never date in high school, but in my experience they were the minority. Unless you’re splitting hairs about what counts as dating, most kids at least have some semblance of a flirtation or relationship in high and even middle school. Lots of us were awkward as teenagers, but we still dated, and our dates were just as awkward as us.


So, what about you all? Are there any small patterns you’ve noticed peeking around the books you’ve read? Discuss in the comments!

One thought on “Under the Radar Tropes

  1. […] Things I blogged about: I See the Web: Part Nine, Under the Radar Tropes  […]

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