Here at Deadly Darlings, we’d like to talk about 5 Deadly Sins no book should ever commit.

5. HAVING A BAD CASE OF INSTALOVE

What is it? Instalove is when two characters meet and immediately fall in love with no clue as to who the other individual actually is.

Why is it a sin? Not only is instalove of highly rare occurrence in real life, but in fiction, it is an author’s excuse (intended or not) to save the time and effort needed to develop characters and their relationships in depth.

Instalove takes away the magic and chemistry between two characters who should provide the reader with an awe-filled and heart-warming romance. Instead, it hastens relationships, which in turn makes these relationships, who could have had potential, ludicrous and immature. Plus, it’s really annoying.

4. STEREOTYPING

What is it? Stereotypes are widely known, oversimplified ideas or images of a particular type of person or thing.

Why is it a sin? Although stereotypes may or may not accurately reflect a person or thing, they are offensive most of the time. Repeatedly using these stereotypes to describe characters quickly becomes annoying and unoriginal. Stereotyping characters actually leads to a lack of character development and three-dimension. The worst part is that characters who are stereotyped are usually the sidekicks, who in truth, are never portrayed as more than their stereotypes.

For example, authors love to include ridiculously smart Asian characters in their books, and there’s nothing wrong with that, because there are ridiculously smart Asian children. However, when these authors take it to the extreme of only emphasizing on the child’s intelligence, giving the child no other qualities that make him/her human, and revolving the child’s life around school and work, it becomes a stereotype, because there is nothing else redeeming or complex about the child. If authors would simply switch stereotypes up a bit and add some spice, imagine the enjoyment we readers would experience.

3. HAVING “SPECIAL SNOWFLAKES”

What are they? Also known as Mary Sue/Gary Stu’s, special snowflakes are characters, usually being the protagonist, that are supremely special (for no reason at all). They are SO special, in fact, that the plot conveniently works in their favor every single time and are given preferential treatment and unearned respect.

An example of a special snowflake would be America Singer from The Selection series.

Why is it a sin? We see it all the time; the protagonist is written to have some sort of rare and astounding quality to let the reader know that the character is, in fact, special. Maybe the special feature is purple eyes, one eye, or white hair. Whatever it may be, it is evident to the reader that the feature is what makes the character out of this world and important.

The problem with special snowflakes is that everything goes their way; they randomly find solutions to problems and are perfect in every single way. We were told that America Singer wasn’t really that pretty, that she had a low status, and that she didn’t want to participate in the Selection. Yet she ended up as a competitor in the Selection, is apparently beautiful without even trying (oh, so modest!), and made a prince fall in love with her even after she was rude and hit him! I’m sorry, but you can’t tell me that a girl who knees a prince in the crotch is going to get away with it, much less make him fall in love with her. Telling me that is a sin, my friend!

2. HAVING SEXISM

What is it? Prejudice and discrimination on the basis of sex.

Why is it a sin? Writing characters to be weak or lesser in comparison to the opposite gender is not tolerable. We’ve all read before about a female character who must depend on the help of a man to escape the situation she’s in. We’ve all read about female characters who are tough only because they grew up with brothers (which basically implies that a girl apparently can’t be tough if she doesn’t have brothers?). We’ve all read about male characters that are as emotionless as a rock because they “should not” be sensitive and should “act like a man.” We’ve all read about a short guy who is constantly being rejected because his height is not “acceptable” to his gender. Incorporating sexism into books only encourages these incorrect ideas into the minds of millions of readers around the world.

1. ROMANTICIZING SERIOUS TOPICS

What is it? When serious topics (such as kidnapping, cheating, rape, abuse, stalking, etc.) are written as acceptable or romantic. Great examples of this are Stolen: A Letter to My Captor and Fifty Shades of Grey.

Why is it a sin? Serious topics are exactly that: serious. Anyone writing about such topics should address the issue appropriately. When there is cheating in a book, it should not be excused by saying that the feelings were “uncontrollable” and the characters were “meant to be”; when there is abuse, both physical and emotional, it should not be excused by “intense” feelings or because the characters are “meant to be”; when there is rape, it should not be excused by saying it was a “mistake” and everything is “okay”; when there are kidnappings, it should not be excused by saying “oops, I fell in love with my captor”; so on. Newsflash: a handful of people have experienced traumatizing events, and using these events and situations as a device to romanticize characters is wrong.

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Do you agree with any of the 5 sins? Can you think of any other book sins?

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About Sara

I’m Sara, a Colombian teenager with a never-ending enjoyment for reading. I’m a Netflix and Disney enthusiast and my monumental obsession is coffee, so I can do nothing with more energy.

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56 thoughts on “5 Deadly Sins: Book Edition

  1. Ooh great list. I especially agree with the last one, romanticizing serious and dangerous topics is awful because it desensitizes us to it happening in real life.

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  2. All five things mentioned are on point. I think some authors are using a “formula” when writing their stories. It’s like they pull something off a jar then write them down (no offense), but I am guessing that it’s true sometimes. :)

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    1. Using a formula is likely. If authors see that a specific topic or method is earning a tremendous amount of money, they’re likely to incorporate those topics/methods into their writing.

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  3. I agree. The last one is perhaps the one that makes me most furious. When someone mentions romanticizing of a serious subject, the first book that comes to my mind is Captive in the Dark, with poses rape as romantic. Ugh. Sexism is another one that really annoys me, and the stereotypes… gah! I. Hate. Them. Especially because there are many negative stereotypes about people from where I live. -_-

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    1. The last one makes me furious as well, which is why I listed it as the #1 sin. And since my race is a minority, you can imagine how we are represented in stereotypes (hint: not good).

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  4. I love how unique this post is! You guys came up with such fantastic ideas. <33

    I absolutely hate insta-love. UGH. It angers me ridiculously. I think insta-attraction is okay, but then there has to be something built on that. You don't just magically fall in love with somebody, you know? The number of times I've read this just makes me so, so sad.

    I think the stereotyping thing is FINALLY starting to be addressed with the whole We Need Diverse Books campaign. People are becoming more and more aware of diversity and the stereotypes present in our world, so there are more books coming out that will address those issues. So hopefully next year we'll see a lot less of that issue.

    The romanticizing serious topics thing is so relevant right now, with that Nazi-romance book being nominated for an award. It's just.. not okay in my opinion. You can't transform something so terrible into a romance. That just feels wrong to me on so many levels. I'm sure the authors had good intentions (or maybe not, who knows) but that's definitely something I wish writers would stay away from.

    LOVED this post so much Sara! :D

    -Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life

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    1. It is my goal to come up with as many unique ideas for posts as possible, so thank you!

      Instalove is written as unrealistic and overrated. I rather watch a romance and relationship evolve than watch it just jump from point A to point B.

      I actually hadn’t heard about the Nazi-romance book until now but just the thought of it makes me feel nauseous. I can’t believe someone would be so heartless as to use such a heartbreaking topic as a device for romance.

      Thanks, Aneeqah!

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  5. This is so true! I agree with every single sin, mainly about the special snowflakes – there is nothing more annoying than having to read about characters who get everything their way.

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  6. Great list!

    I’m a little sad to see Stolen there on the last point. While I totally agree with the point, I feel like Stolen doesn’t completely romanticize the situation, especially at the end. I think it presents something that has been known to happen in society, though in really extreme situations. But as I said, I completely agree with the point and I can see why Stolen could be interpreted that way (I suppose, I have just read a lot worse like Illusions by JS Cooper so I’m hasty to categorize them together).

    There are two sins right now that are bothering me. One is the idea that girls go after other girls’ boyfriends all the time (you know, the waitress who flirts with the boyfriend while at dinner or the girl who does anything to ruin their relationship, etc). And, two, the idea that happy endings in New Adult romances need to end with a marriage and/or a baby.

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    1. Stolen, although I did enjoy the book and emphasized with the narrator, still romanticized the topic of kidnapping. Even though it was appropriately executed, I’m not the type of person to sugarcoat something. There are definitely books that are a lot worse, but Stolen still categorizes with them.

      Yes, yes, YES! I absolutely hate it when side (female) characters are written to seem as villainous beings with the intention of stealing a boyfriend or ruining a relationship. I also agree that it’s become a trend for happy endings to end with marriage and babies. But I believe that’s due to the fact that fairy tales end that way and are so satisfactory despite the predictability.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ugh everything I hate is in this list! So on point Sara! Can I also add “prolonging love triangles until it doesn’t make sense anymore” or “heroines/hero who are kickass in the beginning then changes in the middle because they fell in love”? Lol

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    1. Super good additions, Ella! Especially the one about heroines and hero’s who are badass and then become weak because of love. Who says love makes you weak? Good point!

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  8. Ugh insta-love. I cannot handle that anymore. Doesn’t everyone know that NO ONE likes this? Why is it still happening? I also can’t tolerate the special snowflake. Go home, you are interesting to no one! And stereotyping.. just NO! How is that still happening!?

    As for the last one, I DO agree with a lot of it- especially abuse, rape, stalking, etc. Cheating though kind of doesn’t fall into that category for me, even though I know it does for others. I mean, it isn’t a great idea, but I think since it happens in life, and FOR those reasons, it’s kind of fair game- BUT there should be consequences, just like in real life! NOT the other stuff though- never the other stuff!

    Fabulous post!

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    1. The reason I categorized cheating in the #1 sin is not only because I view it as intolerable and unacceptable, but because authors tend to romanticize it and write it as “acceptable” by giving the characters no consequences and repercussions, even though it’s something that is not romantic whatsoever.

      Thank you

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  9. Yeah, I feel like some authors don’t realize how much power their books have. Things like stereotypes can warp our expectations. Like for me, you should’ve seen my expectations of high school vs what it was. There are no “cheerleaders or jocks.” I hate it when books have instalove. It doesn’t make sense and rarely works out. Plus, it’s not a good message – to give your all for a guy/girl without thinking. That’s just unhealthy.

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    1. You have a good point! Books have a way of influencing not only our expectations but also our actions. The whole high school expectation is definitely a good example; on my first day of high school, I had expected to have my head shoved down a toilet. Thank God high school in reality is not how it’s portrayed in books, haha.

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  10. SO MUCH YES. Especially the last one — I read this Tumblr post the other day about an offensive portrayal of the Holocaust by making a Nazi sympathetic and a hero and a Jew had to convert to Christianity for redemption or whatnot and it was just, argh, no. I think if an author wants to portray a Stockholm relationship, it should be done with care so that it’s clear there is something wrong about this relationship, and unhealthy relationships, even if they are intoxicating or addictive or anything, should be clearly unhealthy. It’s not easy to do, but it’s so so so important.

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    1. Another person previously mentioned the Nazi-romanticizing portrayal and the thought is nauseating to me. I agree! There is nothing wrong with writing about serious topics AS LONG as they are clearly portrayed to the severity of the topic.

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  11. Agreed with all of these ! And, because it was in a book I’ve read recently, slut-shaming is a big no. It was also so full of clichés, I’m always wondering if high-school is really like that in the US because it’s definitely not what I experienced : the protagonist was a big of a special snowflake too (pretty without realizing it, never seeking guys’ attention but somehow always getting it, always being protected by the guys around her, ordering a burger and being like ‘so what ? i like to eat) and she kept slut-shaming the stereotypical cheerleaders (who also kept bothering her for no reason). I know some clichés exist for a reason, but some of them just have to be killed with fire !

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    1. I can vouch for the fact that high school in the U.S. is not really anything like how it is portrayed in books. Sure, there is SOME truth to the stereotypes, but authors tend to exaggerate it for entertainment value. One things authors seemingly love to do is write all other female characters as villains in order to make the female protagonist look “better”. The cheerleaders attacking the protagonist for no reason is just one example of this.

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  12. All of these deadly book sins are on point and I agree with all of them. I wish that there was more originality in books but with these, well, they all seem to come up far too often for my liking o_O Some of these are more annoying than anything, but others like sexism and romanticizing serious tropes are straight up alarming. Awesome post^^ xx

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  13. Amen to this post! I agree 105% with everything here, but ESPECIALLY romanticizing important/serious topics – especially mental illness and abuse – and sexism. They both make me rage like Hulk!

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  14. I really enjoyed this post! I agree with everything, but I’d like to talk about the “romanticizing important and serious topics” the most.
    I hate it when authors use these type of concepts as a promotion technique. It makes me boil in anger to see books which romanticize rape. I myself have experience with sexual assault and abuse, so when I see authors handle it in a nonchalant way, I can’t help but be really angry. And don’t let me start on Fifty Shades of Grey. It makes me sick to see how many teenage girls out there think of it as romantic and idealise Christian Grey.
    Wonderful post, Sara!

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    1. Yes! Romanticizing sexual assault and abuse minimizes the severity of the situation, which is enraging because people, such as you, who have experienced it know that it is anything but romantic. Worst part is, people who haven’t experienced these situations actually BELIEVE the way the book portrays the situation, and that isn’t ok. Christian Grey is the epitome of an abusive partner in a relationship, and seeing the author influence young girls into thinking that abusive behavior is “romantic” also sickens me.

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    1. It’s like authors are too lazy to develop their characters so they take the easy way out by portraying the character in a way that is widely known, such as by using stereotypes.

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  15. Excellent list of sins! All of these things bother me to varying degrees, but regardless, when things like these crop up in what I’m reading, my mildest reaction is to roll my eyes. More extreme reactions involve closing the book, never finishing it, and publicly talking about why I thought it was a bad idea.

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    1. That’s a really good point; the reaction to these sins do vary depending on the book. My favorite part to do is publicly rant about books that commit these sins. I loooooveee to rant.

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  16. Ahhh this is such a great post because they are so true! Racism is also something I dislike in books but that is kind of on the same line of stereotyping? Insta-love is a huge giveaway because please, can you name on real life couple that looked at each other and got that “jolt” then ran away and got married? Puh-lease, what kind of life is this? A Disney movie? Hah, no. Stereotyping is always so annoying as well because it is A) Something I suffer with (Come on people, I may be Asian and get straight A’s but that doesn’t mean I know rocket science or have any speck of common sense okay?) and B) It’s lazy research. If an author isn’t going to fully learn one’s culture of life style, stereotyping is just as bad as not doing any research. Special snowflaking is really annoying because that’s just the author not wanting to have challenges for the protag and that makes a book boring. Annnyyywaay, great post and hopefully you don’t encounter too many of these 5 aspects! :)

    ~Kaitlin

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    1. Some stereotypes are racist (for example, if you’re black then you’re automatically a criminal). I also suffer from stereotyping. Since I’m Colombian, ignorant people like to pick on me by saying I’m a drug user, a dealer, in the mafia, etc. It’s completely ridiculous and offensive.

      I hope you also don’t encounter the 5 aspects. Thank you, Kaitlin! :)

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  17. Brilliant post! To me, the worst sin is to romanticise potentially harmful situations like domestic violence and abuse. Instalove is a turn off, but it’s nothing compared to warping young reader’s expectations of real life!

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  18. I am happy to see Stolen on here, because I had the same issue with the book. I didn’t find it great because THAT IS NOT OKAY.

    The Special Snowflake syndrome is seriously killing off great books that I wanted to love. See: Hunter.

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    1. Some people would say that Stolen was written appropriately to the topic of kidnapping, but I thought the whole “falling in love with my captor” was messed up. It angered me to see young girls awing and ‘shipping’ the narrator and the captor.

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  19. “When serious topics (such as kidnapping, cheating, rape, abuse, stalking, etc.) are written as acceptable or romantic.” THIS. THIS IS MY PET PEEVE. ITS HORRIBLE because it romanticises it and it just feels so wrong like it’s dumbed down for entertainment! Man, this is such a great post with all the annoying Mary Stu characters and the Special Snowflakes, I mean could there be any more blandness of a character! And I’m glad that you mentioned instant love of course. Fantastic post Sara!

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  20. This is such a great post! I agree with all of these! The ones that I find the most annoying is defintiely insta-love, as well as sexism (sexism actually occurs a lot in books, now that I think of it. IT NEEDS TO STOP) and the romanticizing of issues that are very serious. I haven’t read Stolen but I can’t imagine how someone could fall in love with a person who kidnapped them. Kidnapping is not romantic. It’s extremely dangerous and a traumatic ordeal and why would you like someone who did that to you? I also find that a lot of time in books that mental illnesses are romanticized, they often have a boy swoop in and “cure” them of their illness but it’s not that easy.

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  21. I love this! The Mary Sue character is a big issue for me. I hate when heroines are portrayed that way. It just makes me want to roll my eyes and gag. >.< Also romanticizing serious issues. I watched 50 Shades of Grey this weekend and omg THAT IS NOT OKAY.
    I will say that I like *some* insta-love. Usually it takes away from the relationship and all the fun shippy feels, but sometimes it works for me.

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  22. I was nodding my head with each of your points, Sara! All of these make me not enjoy a book the way I should, and I’m not sure which is the worst, actually! They also make the writing seem a little lazy, especially with the insta-love! It is very seldom that trope works for me, most of the time it makes me roll my eyes so far in my head I can’t even see the book anymore…
    And the Mary Sue characters are so bad. Luckily, I haven’t encountered all that many, and not those you mentioned. I haven’t read The Selection series, so there is that :)
    Great post!

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  23. I haven’t encountered a lot of ‘special snowflakes’ but the stereotyping and insta-love makes me crazy. Of course I don’t read YA as a specialize in romantic erotica so the instalove is often a plot device necessitated by genre page limits.

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