The Sins of Storytelling

In this article, contributors discuss their least favorite tropes.


I recently finished reading Normal People by Sally Rooney for the first time, yes, I am aware I was a little late to the game on this one. However, I had heard mixed reviews and I finally decided to give it a go myself. 

I didn’t like it. 

In fact, I found it incredibly frustrating. I wanted to grab Connell and Marianne and bash their heads together, screaming at them to just talk to each other. I understand it is kind of the point of the book, but the miscommunication trope is the most frustrating thing for me. Communication is so important in relationships, and when characters decide not to talk to each other, to work things out on their own, it feels so childish. 

Usually, the miscommunication trope involves characters making assumptions about a person/situation, not discussing it with each other, and then deciding that they hate each other or are angry at each other. All of this could be solved with one simple conversation, but no, they have to fight. It often feels like a cheap plot driver, something to bring the conflict into the middle of the story. For me, it is when the characters seem the most like characters, rather than real people with rational thoughts. Miscommunication happens, but when it is utilised in books it is often far more extreme than most real-life scenarios. 

It is frustrating in both books, and TV/film, and can often lead to me not finishing the story. I pushed through Normal People, vaguely aware of the ending, but thinking it might get better – it didn’t. 

The miscommunication in that book just frustrated me, and if I come across it on that level again (it was the entire book), I will definitely put it down. Just make your characters talk to each other like normal adults!

By Tilda Skene

The Manic Pixie Girl Trope

Whilst I generally dislike shallow characters in stories – they make the whole text seem constructed and fake – the trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a quick way for a story to be completely ruined for me. 

Typical in Young-Adult fiction, but prevalent throughout fiction novels and films, these characters only seem to be included in the story to inspire and develop a typically male character. These characters are easily idealised, and with their carefree attitude it is easy to see how they show the protagonist a new way of seeing the world. 

For example, in Murakami’s ‘Norwegian Wood’, the secondary love interest Midori Konayashi’s chatty confidence attempts to teach the protagonist Toru to strive to live his best life. Whilst Midori seems to have had a complicated past and the potential for an exciting life, her character seems to only exist to show the protagonist that people can be open and comfortable talking about their feelings and their past. 

The trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is even more evident in John Green’s ‘Paper Town’s’. Many of John Green’s novels have characters that fit this trope, often showing the protagonist a new way of living, to fuel their character development. Despite the ending of the story showing that the life and disappearance of the character Margo was not for the protagonists Quentin’s benefit, the character is still idealised, and ultimately teaches the protagonist a lesson. 

Even in attempting to show how shallow and imperfect the trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is, the character of the girl is still used to be idealised and to teach the protagonist a lesson. Throughout many stories, the idealised Manic Pixie Dream Girl can only exist to develop and inspire the typically male protagonist, diminishing these otherwise complicated and interesting characters. 

by Megan Huws