Hiding Information From the Main Character "For Their Own Good."
This is one that has been around forever. I can remember reading "Pawn of Prophesy" by David Eddings and, though I loved it, I could never understand why keeping Garion in the dark was somehow protecting him. I still don't understand the logic. Recently I tried to read a YA novel that drove me nuts with this. The main character kept running toward the things she should have been avoiding simply because everyone was keeping a deep, dark secret from her. That wasn't the only thing wrong with the book (by a long shot) but it was a huge irritant. Harry Potter is also a big offender when it comes to this. I understand the need to parcel out information to keep the mystery alive, but it never made sense to keep Harry uninformed in my opinion (I understand the Voldemort-has-a-psychic-connection-with-Harry thing, but that was a later contrivance). I didn't like "The Order of Phoenix" the first time I read it for this reason-- though I have developed an appreciation for it upon rereading.
The Overly Evil Villain
Casual cruelty seems to be the thing in fiction these days. Once upon a time the stereotpyical villain would rub his hands with glee or twirl his mustache. Now they randomly shoot their henchmen and murder anyone else unlucky enough to cross their path. Curiously a lot of villains I've run across lately look a lot alike too-- dark hair, widow's peak, aristocratic looking etc. I also see this in the female villains too-- only they tend to be exceedingly vain (like Snow White's stepmother) and/or use their sexuality to manipulate others before they start with the random violence.
Large Doses of Sarcasm
This is a big thing in paranormal and YA fiction. It's probably the main reason I have a huge DNF (did not finish) pile of books. If we're dealing with a YA protagonist the set-up usually involves a kid that has lost a parent, moved around a lot, and/or been relentlessly bullied at school-- naturally they have developed a defense mechanism based mostly on sarcasm. In the paranormal genre it's frequently the female lead that feels the need to deliver a host of snarky one-liners, usually to her oh-so-gorgeous male would-be love interest. I complain about sarcasm in popular fiction a lot these days, but the overload of sassy characters is making the genre incredibly repetitive and I will probably harp on this until someone comes up with some new ideas.
Too Many Redheads (see picture above)
Only 1-2% of the worldwide population has red hair, but they are far more plentiful in the fiction I read. What I find to be really interesting about his phenomenon is that fictional redheads, especially the auburn variety, are written as being the most irresistible and universally "fiery" women in the world-- especially if they have green eyes (My mother-in-law is a natural blue-eyed redhead, but you never find those in popular fiction-- I've looked). Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against redheads but the desire to come up with a unique character has made this flame haired beauty a real commoner in the fictional world.
Using the Generic "Special Forces" or "Black Ops" Soldiers as a Group of Heroes/Villians Without Any Military Knowledge Whatsoever.
This kind of started out as something you'd see when watching a cop-drama, especially before the "CSI" days. And, as much as I like "Castle," I know the show is entirely unrealistic. Now the Armed Forces are getting the same treatment. I strongly objected to the way the CIA was portrayed in the book Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth but it seems that I am going to have to live with a certain amount of frustration as writers attempt to create their version of "special ops" characters when it's clear they don't have any idea what "special ops" means in the real world. I'm no expert but I do know that college boys with no combat training are not drafted into top-secret military positions because they're related to someone who was murdered by someone being hunted by the military-- as was the plot in Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson (an utterly ridiculous book that I will have to address sometime soon). YA fiction and paranormal fiction are huge offenders here as there are always "special" units of all kinds that are created to deal with paranormal threats. I think a certain amount of license is warranted, but logic is not something that can be dispensed with altogether.
The Stubborn, "Unconventional" Hero
This crosses all genres. It could be Dirty Harry or Captain Kirk, but we can all think of a list of rule breaking, rebellious heroes that offend their bosses and get thrown of their case and/or mission only to stubbornly continue investigating and, despite not having any official resources at their disposal, save the day. I can't say I universally hate this one because it can be a very satisfying journey through this stereotype; but it has completely lost its punch because it is so predictable.
- Magical objects (rings, swords) that must be found to save the world.
- Manic pixie girlfriend who "saves" the uptight protagonist from his dour self. Or good girl is the only one who sees the good in the bad boy.
- The absent/disinterested parent that only exists to provide the main character with a home.
- The quirky best friend.