52 Least Favorite Literature Tropes And Stock Characters Shared By The Bored Panda Community

If you like reading, you might also have a list of books that you wish were never written, to put it mildly. As a reader, I got curious about what exactly turns people away from a book. Whether it's the storyline or characters, there has to be something else that accompanies the poor writing.

Some time ago, I asked our community what their least favorite literature tropes and stock characters were and our pandas had a lot to share! Scroll down for the answers. What are your least favorite clichés in books?


Sarcastic bad boy that has never loved before, has a troubled past, and hates everyone. Why the hell should the loner, unpopular girl (who usually likes to draw or read because "I'm not like other girls") be any different? But nope, he teases her, makes her think he hates her, then goes and kisses her after saving her life.


Probably "Teenage girl who spouts that she's very unattractive but then describes her flowing blonde hair and blue eyes while gazing forlornly into a mirror before getting ready for school"


Women in peril. There is an entire genre of books (and movies) that rely on women being in danger and needing to be saved, either by themselves or by someone else, but nevertheless, they are in peril. The Girl on the Train, the Good Girl, All the Missing Girls, any Ruth Ware book...I could go on. I used to read them on the beach or buy them at airports but I can't stand them anymore!


Giving characters a sudden new field of expertise based on some tenuous connection. "My uncle's neighbor's dog's trainer's friend's mom was an auto mechanic, so I think I can to rebuild Optimus Prime."


When the character that is supposed to be ugly turns beautiful when they realize that beauty is on the inside.


Female characters who are competent, powerful, and awesome that inexplicably end up with the mediocre dude main character. Did they discover shared interests or chemistry? Did circumstances forge an unbreakable bond between them? Nah, he wanted her. So now she’s into him. Too much work to justify it, she’s a prize for him stumbling through the plot.


In romance teen books, a girl finds a guy, then decides he's too good for her and goes with a nice guy type person instead, but is still drawn towards the first guy, and then at the end of the book returns to him, and finds out he was the one for her all along.


This has already been said MANY times, but it is REALLY annoying. The gay BFF. Sure, I have a gay bestie, but it's not the friendship itself, is the girlishness of how the person or character acts. Or how someone expects them to act IRL. It's just, really freaking annoying


The main character's best friend who is better than the main character.


Group of completely different people end up stuck with each other, go through something tough, and then after three days they are all calling each other their “new family”, despite not knowing anything about them.


Like.... this one unpopular girl, with a lovely personality and beautiful hair and eyes, and the popular mean gal who bullies her. Why are all mean people supposedly popular there? Nobody likes a mean peep


Honestly, I love most awful cliché tropes, I'm a sucker for a bad boy, I love a wiseass best friend, and I'm obsessed with a raging badass female lead.


But I can't stand the awkward, clumsy, mousy, shy girl who has no self-confidence and no personality and somehow everyone's inexplicably obsessed with her. I like a girl with substance, a Carstairs girl, or someone out of a Marissa Meyer novel. I love a girl that deserves the attention she gets.


I hate it when physical characteristics replace personality - hooded eyes meaning someone (especially a male character) is sexy and deep; long silky hair in an unusally-used color (raven, chestnut, wheat, etc.), especially on a girl, means she's sexy and smart. I don't care about hair or eyes or anything like that. Forward the plot, please.


The stories where a girl has to learn to love herself, and that means ending up dating the Popular Boy, who has never noticed her before. Same as the protagonists who take off their glasses and put a dress and makeup on and end up being the belle of the ball. How can they not have blurry vision with their glasses off??


“A woman arrives at her place of employment; Because reasons, she’s suddenly working with a new Man Employee. Man Employee is actively superior, dismissive, and occasionally starts to mansplain even though she worked there first, because obviously she’s only a woman. Every fiber of her being despises Man Employees, as it should, for he’s an a**h***. Yet something inside her, somehow not a fiber of her being, knows that she will learn to desire this man because that’s how being female works.”


I don’t like the “Pick-me” girl type/masculine tomboyish main character. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to have tomboy characters and stereotypically masculine women, however, I don’t appreciate the idea that a woman has to be masculine to be considered strong. I don’t like that a stereotypically strong woman has to have the traits of a man or be “different from other girls” in order to be taken seriously or recognized as anything other than dumb, pretty, and weak. I think it fuels internalized misogyny and only further pushes the idea that anything feminine is wrong and weak while masculine is tough and strong.


The wise cracking nine-year-old kid who is "old for their years" and calls out the adults in situations they should have no experience with or input on. "We need to move again." "You said this was the last time!" "Yes, but things have changed." "You're a liar. I guess THAT didn't change." Just soooo annoying.


In crime novels: the protagonist does not seek law enforcement assistance for their relatively simple predicament because *insert feeble excuse here*, but by the end of the novel, same protagonist is in a situation that commandeers 17 police officers, 3 crime scene investigators, 2 ambulances (1 for him/her self, another for the dead vilain), a forensic pathologist, doctors and nurses to treat their injuries, a frustrated DA office, an overwhelmed but extremely relieved spouse...


Quirky girl in her thirties. Likes to read and has a cat. Had a bad break up and now doesn’t trust love. Will probably get over it by the next nice man she meets!


Well, I don't like the token gay friend, there's never just one, in a friend group that has a gay friend, its more likely to have a token straight friend. It's not that the gay friend turns everyone gay, it's just that everyone realizes they have been gay.

And I also don't like the girl who takes off her glasses and puts down her hair and puts on a nice outfit and boom all of a sudden she's the most beautiful girl ever and everybody likes her. Like, no, everyone's beautiful no matter what, let her wear her glasses, let her wear a ponytail, let her wear leggings and a t-shirt, she's beautiful, she doesn't need to change, everyone else needs to change the way they look at her.


When a male character is in love with a female character who verbally or physically abuses him.


The "supposed to be _ but is actually _ whereas friend is supposed to be _ but actually _" or the "I'm different from the other girls".


Love triangles. The absolute jerk male character who's the alpha type (yes, the word is used at least once), who's an absolute a-hole to the girl, gets aggressive, always at least 7 times says 'you're not my type, or I won't have sex with you' and then does, still is a d**k, as she falls harder in love with him. Her 'changing' him by the end of the book usually frustrates me the most. Does love change people, sure, do people adapt and compromise in relationships, yeah they should, but you're never gonna fundamentally change someone.


The old good girl + bad boy plotline. Also, the movies and books and tv shows where the character is completely normal and boring, being picked on, maybe being raised in a bad household and wishing things were different, and then BAM BAM BAM it turns out their humanity's only hope to stop evil and save the world!!!!!!!

I mean, don't get me wrong, some people execute this idea pretty flawlessly, but still.


Autistic characters almost always being white, cisgender males that are savants and have a special interest in trains.


Years ago I stopped reading a author when I saw that in every book the main characters were always described as “devastating beauty/rich beyond compare/immortal" I will admit, I did enjoy reading the Interview with a Vampire books when they were first published... but OMG that trope got annoying


love triangles, cop falling for the criminal, fatal love story that ends in death, etc.


I really don't like the stereotypical Strong Female Character. They are not strong, they are two-dimensional and have no personality. Usually all you get is a fight scene or two without any motivations behind their actions. Usually a man is their superior and they're like nO iM tHe SuPeRiOr ToDaY and you're supposed to be like "yeah!" but then you don't like her enough to care. Oh, and they're always like "I don't need a man to be strong!" but then are in a relationship by the end of the movie and can't do anything by themselves anymore.


a big fight scene in a hallway


The "perfect" girl/boy that has parents that make about a gazillion dollars a day.


I'm a Strong Female Protagonist! I look down on things like cleaning, cooking and sewing! I live in filth and if I need to reattach a button I just punch it. I drink straight grain alcohol and eat raw meat! Grrrl Power!


1) When someone (or often multiple people) is running down a narrow passageway with villains using guns are never hit by the bullets.

2) People who hide behind a stuffed couch or chair are perfectly safe from gun fire.


I’m not sure if this is a literary trope or just a tv trope, but the military officer not agreeing with a superior officer but say “sir” with the most disdain possible. It doesn’t seem like just the word should be respectful but the tone should be as well.


The dorky, dumpy looking nerdy goof who gets a makeover and ends up wooing the jerky sex-pot who has the personality of a peach pit


A character that is nerdy/smart and therefore knows everything and succeeds in all intellectual pursuits.

"This character has a PhD in astrophysics and chemistry, and will also describe great and lengthy details of animal biology, ancient Mongol customs, supersonic propulsion systems, classical French literature and complex economic systems.....in 8 languages, while playing 3 games of chess."

Dr. House and The Big Bang Theory are rampant abusers of this.


Not a big fan of the heist/detective tropes, I find it hard to follow the story because most of the times it bores me to death.


If the character is a “huge misfit”and “super ugly and shy” but every boy in school has a crush on her


My least favorite, most infuriating literature/film trope is exploiting rape as a superficial or voyeuristic plot point. Enough already!


Mary/Gary Sue style characters.

Must say One Punch Man is a great satire of this.


1) The Chosen one (I love HP but this is overused)

2) Damsel in Distress (obvi)

3) That one lady whose cattiness and pettiness are over-exaggerated

4) The gay sidekick (why always a sidekick? Why can't we have more gay main characters?)

5) The token ___(insert identity)___ friend

6) The Angry Black Man/Lady (SO many things wrong with this stupid stereotype don't even get me started)

7) White Savior Trope

8) Magical Negro Trope

9) White Woman Syndrome Trope


The girl meets her boss in the elevator, then scores her boss and a promotion. She "earned" it.


People who act like "The cops can't get involved" And "I can handle it myself" attitude. Like, why do this? Do you have suicidal thoughts? (Looking at you max pane)


The absent minded/klutzy smart person.


When tough cops or something laugh after getting slapped in the face


Heinlein's women: smart, capable, and sassy, yet, somehow aroused by making their man a sandwich.


Oh also- another trope I’m quite sick of- twins being photo-copies of each other or always having something to do with the other. I know it makes for interesting characters and fuels the plot and there are some twin characters in literature that I admire, but in reality (I don’t know how it’s like for identical twins) having a fraternal twin brother is only like having another sibling. There’s nothing so special about it, we don’t finish each other’s sentences, we’re entirely different people, and our interests and friend groups are full on different. I’ve had people ask if I can feel his pain or read his mind. No! It’s actually quite boring!!


A computer "expert" who spends 9 seconds rapidly typing on a keyboard before announcing "I'm in!" as he hacks the Pentagon, UN, Alien Mother ship, or a Denny's in Albuquerque. (Its even better when a complete doofus character figures out a password on the second guess by looking at items on the persons desk.)


Comic relief characters.


The gorgeous, confident, smart heroine who falls for the goodhearted but really homely sidekick of the irresistibly handsome hero, instead of the hero (who, of course, also ends up with a gorgeous woman). I'm still waiting for the handsome hero to find love with the goodhearted but plain and frumpy friend of the gorgeous heroine, but I doubt that will happen anytime soon.


For characters here's my list of cliches:

Femme Fatales

Love Triangles

Unreasonable asshat bully/jock.

Antihero-main (usually male) character's family member/love-intrest/child/pet killed so the plot can progress to vengenance.

Supergenius completely evil arch nemisis/overlord.

Save the world from secret weapon/conspiracy.


I HATE the 'white girl in high school who has blond hair and blue eyes and perfect skin and wears high heels and really short skirts and is snobby'


1. People "falling in love" in less than 24 hours and/or kissing near-strangers passionately for no apparent reason ("Nerve", I'm looking at you!).

2. Humans engaging in sexual relations with aliens from another planet... uh, hello, b********y? Just no.

3. The romanticizing & glamorizing of vampirism & other spiritually dark themes in teen lit.

4. The way every book or show aimed at kids & teens has to be like a "United Nations of Beneton" ad, and the characters all have to have "relevant issues" & depression & identity crises, etc. What happened to stories about normal, happy kids having adventures?

5. The "hypocritical/repressed Christian" and "narrow-minded/judgmental Christian who's really just ignorant or afraid of what s/he doesn't understand" trope that Hollywood absolutely looooves to throw into movies & tv shows. Usually this is some one-dimensional cartoon-villain character who reflects about a 3rd-grader's understanding of what Christianity actually means, but is supposed to learn an important lesson about tolerance, or whatever. This trope is both incredibly ignorant & incredibly condescending.