Happy Friday, everyone!
Again, this week has been an extremely busy one for me, but things are getting better! For one thing, my best friend and I knuckled down last weekend and went through all our lecture notes on Mori theory – and we understand stuff now!! I mean, it’s still not a lot, but compared to nothing, it’s progress!
I’ve also been spending a ton of time correcting first year students’ linear algebra homework, so I’m hoping to see improvement there soon. Newbie math students almost always have a hard time with the insane lecture tempo and all the formalism at first, but after a couple of weeks, it usually either clicks or they quit. So one way or another, my workload is bound to go down soon… 😂 Although I am having a lot of fun teaching my linear algebra tutorial, so I’m hoping at least a couple of the students decide to stay 😉 And there are some pretty bright people I have high hopes for!
Anyway, with all the stuff I’ve had to do for uni, I didn’t feel like doing anything that required brain cells during my evenings. Instead, I got into full-on Advent-anticipation-spirit this week, baking Plätzchen (traditional German Christmas cookies) and watching absolutely terrible Christmas movies on Netflix…
And you know what I noticed? In almost all of these movies, this girl will eventually go to some café to grab a cup of coffee – and never, not once, does she pay for it!! Seriously – she doesn’t use cash, she doesn’t use a credit card, no phone… Did I miss something? Because, honestly, when the girl leaves the store, coffee in hand without a care in the world, my anxiety almost goes on overdrive every time, because I keep expecting someone to call her out for stealing 😅 Only, it never happens…
Which got me thinking: Some things that would never happen in real life are obviously okay in fiction. And just like movies do, books have their fair share of unrealistic tropes that would seem utterly absurd in the real world. Of course, there are a few pretty obvious ones, such as supernatural beautiful men popping up everywhere to be in an instalovey love triangle with you. But today, I thought I’d focus on a few that aren’t talked about as often 😊
So, without further ado, here it is: My list of ten unrealistic things you get to see pretty often in literature. I hope you enjoy!
#1 The Protagonist Who Only Has That One Friend (Or Better Yet, None)
It’s not that she’s wrong. It is just like me. But I can’t help it if she’s the ant and I’m the grasshopper in this relationship.Christina Lauren: Autoboyography
You know how in all these contemporary novels, the protagonists are these shy loners who have that one (usually outgoing) best friend or, even more tragically, no friends at all? Well – that’s always struck me as a little weird. Yeah, I guess there are people out there who truly don’t have many or any friends, and I don’t want to be dismissive of that, but seriously? The way books make it sound, you’re pretty much the rarest of specimens of you have more than one friend…
And I just don’t buy it! Honestly, I’m the definition of an introvert, and even I have managed to find more than one person who finds me agreeable enough to hang out with. So why do so few book characters have bigger friend groups?
#2 We’re All Family!
A father, sister, and mother, were gained, and lost, in that one moment. Joy and grief were mingled in the cup; but there were no bitter tears: for even grief itself arose softened, and clothed in such sweet and tender recollections, that it became a solemn pleasure, and lost all character of pain.Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist
I can never help but roll my eyes at this one. Somehow, characters who met under the most random circumstances find out that they’re actually long-lost family members in a teary and heart-wrenching finale… Everyone’s related, yay!!
Or, in some cases, maybe not so yay. When you realize you may be desperately in love with your brother or sister, this trope can also cause quite a few problems. So maybe we’re lucky that it doesn’t happen too often in real life…
#3 Children Being the Spitting Image of Their Parents
“An easy mistake to make,” said Dumbledore softly. “I expect you’re tired of hearing it, but you do look extraordinarily like James. Except for the eyes… you have your mother’s eyes.”J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Look, I get it. Family members do often look similar. But I have yet to come across someone who looks exactly like one of their family members and isn’t an identical twin… And not once have I met a person who looked so much like one of their absent relatives that I immediately thought “Wow, that must be so-and-so’s daughter/son/nephew…” Sure, I can see similarities when both people are in front of me, but with only one of them? Not a chance, guys.
And even when one person might pick up on similarities, it’s highly unlikely that EVERYONE will. In fact, loads of people always say that my siblings and I really resemble each other, but that didn’t stop the lady at the cinema from asking my youngest brother and me how long we’d been a couple when we went to see Frozen II together 🙈 And mind you, we’re seven years apart, so I think the sibling conclusion would have been the far more likely one in this case!
#4 Mysterious Estranged Family Members No One Has Ever Heard of Before Suddenly Turning Up
“What does he mean, again?” she shouted, waving the e-mail before the headmaster’s perplexed face. “We didn’t even know we had an uncle!”Roland Smith: Cryptid Hunters
This usually happens whenever young protagonists’ parents mysteriously disappear or die. Normally, you would assume that the relatives or family friends who’d step up to take these poor orphans in would be someone the children actually knew and who their parents would have approved of – but nope, not in books!
There, you’re bound to end up with some strange, eccentric uncle, grandfather or great-aunt. And I’d say you have a roughly 50:50 chance at a good life. Because either the relative is a super-villain out to steal your family fortune, or they actually turn out to be a loving, world-travelling guardian whom you’re bound to have tons of adventures with!
Honestly, looking into her eyes now, I realized that brown was my favorite, too.Stephenie Meyer: Midnight Sun
Be honest – Do you even know what color all of your friends’ eyes are? What about the last random stranger you came across?
For me, eye color is probably one of the last things that strikes me about a person. Their hair color, face shape, the color clothes they’re wearing that day – all that is way more likely to catch my attention than a person’s eyes are. Sure, if I strain my memory, I’ll probably be able to remember, since I picture everything pretty vividly in my head… But it requires effort!
In books, though, it sounds as though everyone is pretty much running around with these glowing, utterly ensnaring eyes, blue like the depths of the ocean, green like a sparkling emerald, a startling shade of a most unusual violet. You get the picture. Book characters are utterly obsessed with a person’s eyes the very moment they meet someone!
#6 The Boy-Girl Bubble
The idea of two months alone with Edan made me nervous. I fidgeted as if I were sitting on a pincushion. “Maybe we could join a caravan?”Elizabeth Lim: Spin the Dawn
If dating worked the way it did in books, I’m sure the world would have way fewer single people in it. Because, look: It doesn’t exactly take great interpersonal skills to end up together if you two are literally forced to spend every single moment of your waking hours with one another.
Whether it’s on an epic quest through the desert, during personal training to overcome your fears, a safe house during an apocalypse, stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere – if you throw two straight people of the opposite sex together and don’t let them meet anyone else for a really long period of time, it’s not that surprising that they eventually fall for one another. You have all the time in the world to get to know one another, and there’s literally no competition!
#7 The Coming-Out Speech That Rivals a Work of Literary Fiction
But I’ve known, since I was a child, that I prefer females. That I’m… attracted to them more over males. That I connect with them, care for them more on that soul-deep level.Sarah J. Maas: A Court of Wings and Ruin
You know those really stilted moments when LGBTQ+ characters come out to their friends in extremely long speeches with loads of elaborate metaphors that start to make you wonder whether they swallowed a book of rhetorical figures?
Well, I, for one, have never experienced them in real life. Granted, many of my friends in the LGBTQ+ community were already out by the time I got to know them, but even the ones that weren’t never gave me a speech like that. And I’m sure I can’t blame it on their lack of literary skills, either, because some of them are actually some pretty superb writers….
So is it just me? Am I not worthy of having these great coming out speeches addressed to me? Or do these “conversations” sound as weirdly unnatural as I think they do?
#8 Dead People Coming Back to Life Literally ALL THE TIME
“Aren’t you supposed to be dead?”Morgan Rhodes: Crystal Storm
I absolutely hate this trope. In fact, I can currently only think of one book that did it right, and that is The Two Towers.
Why would you negate all that wonderful emotional turmoil you just put me through, authors? And make me even more upset that this will, in all likelihood, never happen to anyone I’ve loved who has passed away?
#9 Nothing Works Until the Moment When the Protagonist Has to Do It Under Pressure
My spirit soldiers shoot through the water like dual-finned sharks, fiercer than any ship or cannon in sight. Though my insides burn, the thrill of my magic overwhelms the chaos of our fight.Tomi Adeyemi: Children of Blood and Bone
You know how you study, and study, and study for exams, don’t know the material at all, but then, when you’re actually taking the test, you suddenly find yourself capable of things you’ve never understood before?
Yeah, I don’t, either. But book characters certainly do! The spell you’re doing won’t work? Don’t worry – once you’re in that life threatening situation, it’s sure to come through for you! You’re nervous about speaking in front of that huge crowd and have never done it before? Don’t worry – once you’re in the situation, you’ll feel so inspired that nothing really can go wrong anymore!
Yeah, I wish this one was a bit more realistic…
#10 Characters Finding Out Their Flaws Were Actually Special Talents All Along
“The letters float off the page when you read, right? That’s because your mind is hardwired for ancient Greek. And the ADHD – you’re impulsive, can’t sit still in the classroom. That’s your battlefield reflexes. In a real fight, they’d keep you alive. As for the attention problems, that’s because you see too much, Percy, not too little. Your senses are better than a regular mortal’s.Rick Riordan: The Lightning Thief
If I wished that things I couldn’t do would work out perfectly well the moment I needed them, it’s nothing compared to how much I wish that all of my shortcomings were actually magnificent superpowers.
Oh, you know the reason I can’t throw a ball further than 20 meters? That’s because if I truly let the ball loose, the thrust would be so powerful it could destroy entire villages. Or maybe it’s because my arm muscles are adapted to holding a pen and writing great novels. Or something else that is actually cool…
And my social awkwardness? That’s actually a sign of my great sense of humor that is meant to put other people at ease!
Anyway, sometimes it’d be really nice if personal flaws were actually a mark of hidden greatness, but unfortunately, I have yet to discover mine 🤔
So yeah – that was it for today! I hope enjoyed, and please don’t take me making fun of these as a sign that I don’t love the books that include them. In fact, there a quite a few of my favorites on this list – the only book I quoted from that I really didn’t like is Children of Blood and Bone… Yeah, unpopular opinion alert 😅
But please tell me: Which books immediately came to your mind when you read these? Do you think any of these would really happen? Are there any other tropes you think are actually a little ridiculous? Do you have any bad Christmas-movie recommendations?
I’d love to know! 🤗