These tropes describe prefabricated situations that make anyone with at least two functioning brain cells and a love for inventiveness, cringe and fight the temptation to teach the book the true meaning of the word 'defenestration'. With tablets and Kindles still costing as much as they do, this may have saved a few trope-ridden tales from such a violent death but that doesn't excuse their authors for crimes against literature.
Here are some of my least favourite tropes but sadly my list is far from exhaustive. Anyone submitting their manuscript to our book publishing company would do well to bear these in mind!
Here comes the cavalry
|Just in time!|
Spilling the beansOh how I so hate this one. Why, oh why, can't some authors write a dénouement that doesn't involve a monologue from the resident bad guy in which he explains everything. Our poor hero/heroine can't get a word in edgeways while our (hitherto) insanely clever criminal can’t blurt out all the finer details of their crime(s) fast enough. Since the crimes they've committed in the stories are usually carried out for reasons of power, and that keeping secrets may be the only way in which they maintain any of this 'glory' after they've been arrested, it doesn't exactly add up, does it?
One, two, three, gotcha!I first figured this one out as a young lad watching Hammer Horror films long after my guardians had retired, too terrified to continue viewing. Creak! Our victim in the haunted house/mummy's tomb/graveyard hears a sudden and very scary noise. Phew! It turns out to be harmless. Bang! Another noise, perhaps a bit different - but it's harmless too. The victim smiles in relief just before they’re grabbed by the psychopathic killer/mummy/zombie etc from behind. To my mind, it couldn't have been more obvious if the author had put a spoiler up.
Survival of the righteousAlthough there are plenty of other examples, a battle scene does this the most justice. Minor characters get shot to pieces by ricocheting bullets whereas the hero can stand up in a rain of ordinance and walk away virtually unscathed (apart from the odd scratch which they can bear in a suitably heroic manner). Sadly, cemeteries are stuffed full of real-life heroes who gave their lives for others.
True love will out
|"I knew we'd find one another"|
These are just a few of the tropes that wind me up - unfortunately the full list would be very long. As boss of our book publishing company, I acknowledge that coming up with a truly original idea that no-one has ever used before isn’t possible. However to trot out the same old devices over and over again is just a demonstration of sloppiness in the plot department.
Clive West is director of Any Subject Books - a publishing company. He's also author of a popular anthology of short stories and a multi-five-starred blockbuster, The Road.