Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Tropes

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

I had such a good time putting this list together. How many of these tropes do all of you also enjoy?

1. Unseen Antagonist

This trope tends to be most common in the horror genre. The main characters either never meet the antagonist or have encounters with him or her that the audience only gets a partial viewing of. Sometimes it’s scarier to imagine what the bad guy looks like than to have that character described in full detail. 

2. Don’t Go Into the Woods

My family lived in all sorts of places when I was growing up: on farms, in the suburbs, in a bigger city, and in small towns. Sometimes we lived right next to a forest, and sometimes we had to drive for a while to find one. Either way, I was so comfortable in nature growing up that I’m now fascinated by the thought of the woods being a dangerous place.

Yes, in some plots it absolutely is something to be avoided. This trope is just so different from my personal experiences that I can’t stop reading about it. 

3. The Old Beggar Test

Do you remember how many fairy tales include a scene where the main character comes across an old beggar who asks for help but who can give you nothing in return for your kindness? I love seeing character react with empathy and kindness to these interactions. 

4. Helpful Aliens

This isn’t a plot twist that happens as often as I’d like it to, but I always enjoy reading about aliens who want to help humanity in some way. 

5. Spooky Paintings

Going to the art museum is my idea of a good time, especially when it comes to the anything from the Romantic era. There’s something about Victorian paintings in particular that I really like. This is even more true when an author describes them in spooky ways. 

6. Unsympathetic Victims

Occasionally, I like to read short murder mystery stories. The most interesting ones to me involve victims that were honestly pretty terrible individuals when they were alive. Anyone can have sympathy for a victim who was pleasant and helpful. I appreciate the much greater effort it takes for a writer to create sympathy for a victim who had trouble getting along with others. 

7. Historical Fiction that Explains Our Past

For example, I truly enjoy reading stories about how humans built Stonehenge, domesticated dogs, or invented ships. Fiction can be a great way to explore why and how they did these things since not everything they knew about these topics was passed down through history. 

8. Feminist Retellings

I love fairy tales…even the ones that can have some problematic elements. So it’s always cool when authors retell those old classics in ways that remain true to the original message while at the same time changing the parts of the plot that are understood in a totally different light now than they would have been many generations ago. 

9. Humorous Twists in Serious Moments

I’ve discussed my general loss of interest in the horror genre on this blog before. One of the reasons why I still do read it on occasion is that some authors are really good at mixing humour with horror. The gory stuff still doesn’t appeal to me, but I do like laughing and feeling a little fear at the same time. 

10. Drool-Worthy Fictional Food

The butter beer and many different types of magical candy in Harry Potter is a classic example of this. Basically, I like reading about types of food or drink that didn’t exist in our universe when that book was first printed. Often, the really delicious-sounding stuff eventually becomes as real as it can be in our universe either through companies mass-producing it or through fans coming up with recipes that make it taste as close to the descriptions in the book as possible. 


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113 Responses to Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Tropes

  1. I’m definitely a fan of historical fiction that explains our past, and like you, I often find an unseen antagonist more interesting that one I know. Or when the antagonist is someone I know, but for most of the time I don’t realise they’re the antagonist. Interesting list!

  2. This is a great list, Lydia! I didn’t even think about drool worthy fictional food but I totally LOVE reading books with delectable foods in them. Always makes me so hungry and leaves me wanting to go out and eat all the food I just read about! I also really enjoy good feminist retellings. I don’t read horror but omg… Spooky paintings TERRIFY me! Haha

    My TTT post

  3. I didn’t even think of most of these tropes when I was putting together my list! But I’d have to agree with most of them. The unseen antagonist in a scary story can be particularly frightening.

  4. Yes to Feminist Retellings and Historical Fiction that Explains Our Past! Love your list this week.

  5. Great list! The old beggar test is such a good choice and I love unsympathetic victims, too. Like you said it’s so easy to have empathy for nice people, but having an unsympathetic victim is a really good way to explore ideas behind justice.

  6. Old begger test! Yes! What an interesting one to include. I grew up on fairy tales and that is such a common trope and one I always loved.

  7. I LOVE your list. I can definitely get on board with don’t go into the woods and spooky paintings. Helpful aliens would be a nice twist!

  8. You seem to be a huge fan of horror! I’m not really into the genre but these tropes do sound nice!

  9. I love all of these too – it was really hard to narrow down a list of ten! I especially love fairy tale retellings, especially with a modern twist, but I’d read stories with any of these tropes, to be honest.

    Thanks for visiting my blog today!

  10. Spooky paintings is such a good one – there’s nothing scarier sometimes! Great list! 😊

  11. Don’t go into the woods just sounds soooooo creepy! I can’t do it. But I love that you included it <3

  12. I enjoyed reading your creative and interesting list! I hadn’t thought of delicious fictional food! It reminds me of why I love the Louise Penny series!

  13. I love the Old Beggar Test, too! Such a great way to see your MC’s inner character. And I agree about the fictional food, too! Such a great thing to include in a book.

  14. I agree with so many of these! But the don’t go in the woods one? Nope, nope, nope. We live on an acre and a half that backs up into state-owned woods, and I freak myself out too dang much with books like that. xD There’s enough in those woods without adding the supernatural lol. Love the old beggar test, too! It’s always guaranteed to give you warm feels when someone passes the test, but failing the test can lead to some fun developments, too.

    • Heh, I can’t blame you there. Have you ever seen or heard anything spooky coming from the woods near your house?

      Failing the old beggar test can definitely lead to some interesting plot developments for sure.

  15. the StoryEnthusiast

    I love how unique all your favorite tropes are. They aren’t any that came to my mind, but now that I’m reading them, I’m nodding my head in agreement.

  16. The evil victim is a lot more fun because there are so many possible culprits. I remember the buzz leading up to “Who shot JR” on the show Dallas.

  17. I am a lover for fictional food as well. I’ve tried butter beer and pumpkin juice at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and it was everything I could have dreamed of. Awesome list!

  18. Don’t go into the woods books scare the crap out of me, but sometimes I just have to read them.

  19. I don’t like horror fiction, but do LOVE it when an author can mix a sense of humor into a story (that works) with a weightier topic. Makes the reading experience all the better. 🙂

    Thanks so much for visiting Finding Wonderland!

  20. Jay @The Scented Library

    I’m so grateful to benefit from a time of feminist retellings, love them and their skewering of patriarchal povs. I plan on picking up a feminist YA quasi-retelling of Beowulf titled The Boneless Mercies.
    I’ll take all the Historical Fiction that Explains Our Past tropes too, keep em coming.
    My tropes:

  21. Fantastic list! Unsympathetic victims is such an interesting one to explore. And I agree, an unseen evildoer is often more frightening.

  22. So many fun tropes! I especially love the beggar test and the spooky paintings because that always works to creep me out. And gotta love feminist retellings as well.

  23. ooh food, such a good one!

  24. I love spooky paintings…but I don’t want them in my house. I get a thrill out of seeing them in movies and described in books though. I mean this in all seriousness, they take me back to my childhood and watching Scooby Doo.

  25. The unseen antagonist always seems to amp up the suspense factor. Fictional food is always fun… even more so when you can actually try it IRL (like butterbeer).

  26. Have you read Paul Cornell’s Shadow Police Series? He mixes humour with the horror to great effect.

  27. Drool worthy fictional food all the way, I mean getting to visit Honeydukes, or tasting the chocolate cake from the Divergent series, or anything from a Cozy Mystery involving a bakery or ice cream store. Can we somehow figure out how to incorporate smell or taste into reading. Hope you have a good reading week.

  28. Unsympathetic victims are great as well because there are usually many people surrounding them who would have loved to see them dead, or at least disliked them a great deal. There’s more suspense that way. Great post! 🙂

  29. I never spent any time near wooded areas, so they’ve always had that mysterious appeal to them. Definitely a great setting for a mystery or horror novel.

  30. Great list! So many good elements to choose from. I love retellings too, especially when it’s a mashup or goes on an unexpected direction.

  31. I like unsympathetic villains too, I think it makes it more interesting to see the motivations of whoever did it. Because often you can sort of understand it more, even if obviously you don’t condone murder haha! And fictional food too! Good one. 🙂

  32. Ooh I love so many of these! The unseen antagonist is a huge one tht I always love–it’s always so much scarier to imagine. Spooky paintings, woods, historical fiction explaining our past..actually, I think I like all of these, haha.

  33. Louise @ Foxes and Fairy Tales

    I will absolutely always pick up anything labelled as a feminist retelling. 😊

  34. Great post, Lydia! I got goosebumps just thinking about “don’t go into the woods” tropes.

  35. OOoh nice ones!!! I do enjoy the unseen antagonist when it comes to my thrillers! And then even having the reveal be that he was closer than we all thought!! I love it!! Though it terrifies me realistically! Lol!

    Thanks for visiting my TTT!

  36. I love feminist retellings and yes to all of the fictional food in books!

  37. This was a great post, I loved the pics to go with the subheadings.
    I also love the ‘unseen antagonist’ and the unsympathetic victims. Looks like we had a lot of similar taste!

  38. Bev

    Quite different tropes! Great choices.

  39. I live close to woods as well and I love going out there, but I still love the trope especially in horror and fantasy. 🙂

  40. Oooh I love your list!! Old Beggar Trope, Feminist Re-tellings, and Drool Worthy Food are all great choices!!

  41. I love that these are all so different! I adore feminist retellings too – have you heard about The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave? It’s a feminist retelling about the brides of Dracula that’s coming out next month if that’s your thing! Great list. 😀

    • No, I hadn’t heard of that book. It sounds right up my alley, though, so I really appreciate you telling me about it. It’s going straight to my TBR.

  42. I feel like I’ve discovered a ton of amazing feminist retellings this year and I am so here for all of them! Great list!

  43. Oddly, I don’t often read any of these. I never read anything spooky; I’m a big baby about scary stories.

  44. Love so many of your picks! I will forever be trash for Unseen Antagonist. In any form. Something about it just gets under my skin, burrows there and builds up as the story does. I love the not knowing, with the promise of hopefully knowing by the conclusion, you know? It just gets me every freaking time!

  45. Fictional Food!!! When a book makes me hungry, it’s the best!

  46. An interesting and fun list. I love the idea too of Feminist Retellings. Thanks for stopping by The Phantom Paragrapher.

  47. Unsympathetic victims — oh I like this one! ^You got me thinking about my fave genre entirely differently.

  48. Never even thought of these before. I am all for some humor in serious moments though. Great list!!

  49. Great list! I don’t read about a lot of spooky paintings and unsympathetic victims, but I enjoy them. And feminist retellings are very much needed, especially for many Western fairytales.

  50. I feel the same way about Don’t Go Into The Woods. I grew up in the woods, so they’ve never seemed creepy to me. A forest looks like home.

  51. OMG to number 10- I’m jealous I didn’t think of that one! Redwall, Chocolate, Like Water for Chocolate… all of them so good, and a lot of it has to do with the drool worthy things the characters cook up.

  52. Great list!!! I love a good book that has some amazing detailed food!

  53. I love feminist retellings too. Well, I am not sure if I would be reading the books with the tropes that you have mentioned at the beginning like living in woods and all. They are creeping me 😀 I don’t read horror so..

  54. OMG YES the beggar trope lol I do love that one

  55. These are some good picks Lydia! I forgot about some of these tropes. I do like Drool-Worthy Fictional Food. Books featuring delicious food are my favorite.

  56. Yes, I love a good historical novel that explains the past and a character’s generational background.

  57. I enjoy the fictional food, the unseen antagonist, the scary woods and the old beggar test! 🙂

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