You Drive Me Crazy: The Worst Word Tropes in Literature

What phrases in books, synopses, and pitches do you find most irritating?


There are phrases that every reader comes across in their reading lives, be it in the synopses or pitches or the books themselves, that sets a reader completely on end and throws them off. For me, these phrases often can ruin a book before I truly get into it. The other day I was reading a pitch for a book when my least favorite phrase ever popped up: “Will their love defy the odds?” It got me thinking, and asking on Twitter, and on gchat, and on whatever method I could find. What phrases are so overused and cliche these days as to make them a complete pain in the ass? I’ve compiled some suggestions, but feel free to add your own in the comments!

“Will their love overcome evil?”
I keep imagining the scene in The Fifth Element where Leeloo realized that humanity was redeemable and rainbows shot out of her chest to stop a sentient asteroid from hitting the Earth. This is a ridiculous trope that I’m just so over – that two way-too-attractive teenagers have the power to destroy evil, generally in the form of a slightly ugly woman who’s crime is being too smart for her own good and promoting science, and walk off into the sunset. Too much of this trope is a bad thing for brain matter.

“Will their love defy the odds?”
See: Will their love overcome evil?

“Compulsively readable.”
According to someone whose job it is to make the book look and sound amazing. I don’t trust you, publicist. You told me that that book I hated was amazing and we all know how that turned out.

“She released a breath she didn’t know she was holding.”
It’s not a book unless someone does this. There have been posts on this. I have probably twenty highlights on my Kindle of this phrase in its many forms. Authors who result to this crutch phrase need to realize that this isn’t some new, innovative turn of word. Every other author before you has used it in some form or another. Unless your person is turning blue, try another way to show us they’re shocked or afraid.

“He knows something she doesn’t.”
Oh, so we’re going to spend the entire book waiting for him to finally reveal that tidbit that is driving the entire plot. There would be no plot if he just came out and was honest. Dodging the obvious doesn’t make me happy. What makes it worse is when that secret is blatantly obvious.

“Until she meets a dark stranger.” “He’s darkly handsome.”
IE she meets an asshole who treats her badly and yet she falls head over heels the moment she sees him because he’s hot. The character is never black or dark-skinned, which makes this phrase even worse. Dark strangers tend to be white and dark only in their brooding eyes that brood about brooding. Remember what your mother always told you: don’t talk to strangers. Especially ones that look at you like they want to kill you or drink your blood or otherwise treat you like dirt.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Unless this is some tricky turn on the amnesia trope, this one is just a personal pet peeve. No more amnesia!



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