Tackling YA Fiction Tropes: Too Cliché?


“He stands there, alone and silent, in the moonlight—tall, dark, and handsome. He pulls his shirt off, there’s definitely scars there, but he won’t tell me why. His crystal blue eyes peer through the part in his dark hair above his knitted brows—wet from the rain—and stare straight into my soul. If only I knew what he was thinking…or why he makes me feel this way.”

He’s mysterious. He’s a bad boy. He’s emotionally unavailable and SMIRKS A LOT. He’s…the brooding YA (Young Adult) male love-interest trope!

Does this character sound familiar? Anyone ever read Twilight?

What is a trope? A trope is a recurring literary device that may show common conventions and devices used within a story. Similar to the idea of a stereotype, these literary tropes become well-known throughout a genre. In YA (young adult), there are some common ones you will recognize. All stories have tropes in them. A good story depends on how they are swiveled to drive the story the right way.

What is a cliché? Cliche refers to an overused device such as a saying, idea, expression, or description such as a character’s eye color. They are so common or predictable that they lose meaning or novelty. Don’t use these when you write. NO ONE’S EYES ARE CERULEAN BLUE.

Clichés are tropes, but not all tropes are clichés. 

Carrie Ann DiRisio is the brilliant creator of Brooding YA Hero. You simply must check Broody out on Twitter and buy Carrie’s new book: BROODING YA HERO: BECOMING A MAIN CHARACTER (ALMOST) AS AWESOME AS ME.  Her book is a parody of YA tropes, perfect for writers wanting to dive deeper and learn how to twist them to their advantage.

Key takeaways from Carrie’s recent trope discussion webinar I attended:

-Tropes are the building blocks of a story. They are NOT necessarily a bad thing. Tropes are like comfort food: We don’t want to read the same story 10 times. We want just the essence of tropes in stories so that they are familiar.

-Clichés are done so many times that they aren’t interesting anymore. Cliches lose originality and lose readers quickly.

So what are writers to do? No one wants to fall into a cliché rut. They key is to be original and twist common tropes to work to your story’s advantage. Use them as a device to drive conflict and drama!

Here’s some top tropes you may recognize:

  1. FEMALE PROTAGONIST blind to her own beauty. Typically has “dark hair” and thinks she’s “plain”.
  2. INSTA-LOVE! “Their eyes met over a steaming bowl of pasta.” Ooh, pasta. Now that I can fall in love with at first sight…
  4. BROODING MALE LOVE INTEREST. Perhaps closely related to Mr. Perfect, this guy has flaws, and he’s tight-lipped about his DTP (Dark Troubled Past)…and he’s bad for the protagonist…and it makes him SOOO hot.
  5. LOVE TRIANGLES! “They are both so hot, I can’t just pick one until the very end of the story (or entire trilogy)! Which leads to:
  6. …TRILOGIES! Why is almost everything YA in a 3-book series?
  7. PARENTS ARE JERKS! Or dead.
  8. INSTANT LEADER OF THE RESISTANCE. “Down with the king!”
  9. SUPER CLUMSY PROTAGONIST…but is amazing at fighting. Why? 
  10. UNDISCOVERED ABILITIES! “OMG, I’m a wizard?”



1 Comment

  1. Agreeing with you with many of them, especially the one about the insta-love and the jerk/dead parents. It seems like every author think that it’s the perfect recipe of a great book…


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