Hmmmm… toughie…

Each genre has its own quirks and its own staple plot points, so I suppose I’ll stick to the sci-fi/fantasy genre for this one.

I’ve complained many times about bright and happy worlds being destroyed by their authors just for the sake of upping the edginess and grittiness of a series (dubbed by TVTropes as “Darker and Edgier” – catchy, ain’t it?), so I won’t bore you with that rant again.

I suppose the other plot device that bothers me a bit is the “I’ve done too many horrible things to be worth anything” speech which usually leads to the “I’m tired of fighting my evil nature” angst. It happens a lot in fantasy novels – the monster with a heart of gold who flips back and forth for dramatic effect.

The most recent example would be the character Thomas from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. He starts out as the plucky comic relief – an incubus who doesn’t want to seduce and eat people and so lives as a semi-outsider in his tribe and is constantly battling his various appetites. He succeeds in controlling himself with varying degrees of success and only has the “I’m tired” soliloquy a few times.

This continues until he is captured by a Big And Nasty Critter and is tortured for months. Part of that torture involves forcing him to give in to his monster side. That particular book ends with him giving Harry the “It’s no use, I am what I am, I’m too far gone to save and I don’t care” speech and so the plucky and sarcastic Thomas is lost to us.

This plot device is used in many a series, and it’s equally frustrating every time. It used to add drama  and the question of “is he going to betray the main characters or not?”. Now it just seems overused and predictable. Of course he will, and then he’ll feel bad and come back and angst about the betrayal for a while. Then he’ll either betray them again or nobly sacrifice himself to prove the sincerity of his change of heart.

Hopefully, fantasy authors will find a new trope soon, because this one is getting old.

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