Okay, technically it’s Thursday (I’ve been traveling, so I’m running late this week, sorry)! But I still wanted to share in the fun of comparing favorite character tropes.
My favorite character trope dates back to at least 1599, exemplified by Beatrice and Benedick in Shakespeare’s brilliant comedy Much Ado About Nothing. These couples can’t keep their words off each other: endless banter, teasing, and petty rows escalate until the mutual attraction can no longer be denied. It’s also a great way to string readers along in eager anticipation of the eventual union (I know I’m not the only one who spent a decade rooting shamelessly for Ron and Hermione)!
The Warrior Woman
Like every small child of my generation, I loved Disney movies, but the “princess” I idolized from toddlerhood rocked a laser gun. I spend hours play-acting as Princess Leia from Star Wars. Why settle for a ball gown and a pony when I could have a metal bikini and a spaceship? My parents, wonderful human beings that they are, encouraged this trend. They spent years scouring bookstores for stories with strong heroines to ensure I grew up with an endless supply of clever, brave, butt-kicking role models. My fondness for this trope endures today.
The Misguided Villain
Bad guy motivated by greed or malice? Meh. Bad guy who thinks he’s acting for the greater good, but from a warped perspective? Now that’s dynamic. The ethical grey area this trope introduces can add a whole new dimension to a story.
“Yer a wizard, Harry.” With these words, or ones like it, the protagonist discovers they possess some previously unknown gift that changes their life forever. (They’re probably destined to save the world, too, but that’s another trope). It may not be the most imaginative story starter, but it’s the basis for some of our favorite tales.
The Extraordinarily Ordinary Hero
The Richard Mayhews and Arthur Dents of literature don’t have the advantage of latent powers when they get dragged off into adventure. They’re just regular joes, flung into a brave new world that makes them question their sanity. Without any special skills or even a clue, they must rely on whatever courage they can summon. Plucky and relatable, they make excellent avatars for readers plunging into fictional universe.