5 Stress-Inducing Ways Characters Cause Reader Frustration

Read on to see the top five character traits and tropes that frustrate readers the most, even when we know we’ll keep reading them!

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A frustrated Brunette woman wearing a white blouse holding a red book in a red room

Once you love a fictional character, you’ve bought yourself a ticket for the emotional rollercoaster that follows. You’ll laugh, cry, and continuously be frustrated by their choices. I’ve put together five ways characters frustrate us to the point of wanting to yell into the pages.

The Damsels that Put Themselves in Distress

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It’s a challenging read when you realize that the character you’re following is responsible for the mess they are in. This might be a character who constantly ignores warnings and ends up in danger or a character who is the catalyst for the events of the story. Jane Austen’s Emma is a great example of this, as she is convinced she knows best for those around her. Her antics backfire, leaving her to try and fix the mess she created.

The Oblivious One

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I know that, as readers, we are way more aware than the pair in question, but it gets frustrating to watch a character stand there clueless about the other’s feelings. I think this one has the potential to frustrate us the most because it’s something some of us have experienced. In the manga Naruto, we read hundreds of chapters waiting for Naruto to acknowledge Hinata’s feelings only to find relief at the very end. Some of us wanted to reach through the pages and shake some sense into him.

Secrets, Secrets, and More Secrets

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If we’ve learned one thing, it’s that the truth always comes out. Sadly, not every character thinks about that, and it leaves us to watch as the whole mess explodes in their face. This goes hand and hand with the miscommunication trope, as things would go a lot smoother if they just opened up and communicated. I understand that some secrets are kept for good reasons, but the reveal is inevitable. For example, Marissa Meyer’s Renegades follows Nova and Adrian, who are both hiding a secret identity. Secrets make the book as thrilling as it is frustrating.

The Crooked Love Triangle

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Love triangles can be complicated, but in the end, we all root for who we love the most. Unfortunately, we don’t always win that battle, and it’s hard to watch your OTP crumble before your eyes. The hit series The Vampire Diaries by L. J. Smith contains one of the most popular love triangles in YA literature. Viewers are forced to pick between Stefan and Damon, knowing full well that one of them will not get Elena. Readers are on the edge of their seats, waiting for their ship to sail or sink.

Changing for Someone Else

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This one is frustrating because no one should have to change themselves to fit someone else’s needs. Yes, there is an argument to be made for characters who are morally bad and need to become good, but I’m focusing on less extreme cases. The frustrations begin when someone changes physical and/or mental features to cater to society’s standards. The movie The Duff is a prime example of a main character who changes herself to get a guy before realizing her true self is best. This trope has us wanting to scream into the pages as we watch the main character fall farther and farther into the rabbit hole. Unfortunately, not every character manages to get themselves out of this one.

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