What are some overused plot or character tropes in science fiction/fantasy that you're tired of? Are there any authors or books that give them a new spin?
I'll share one of mine: elemental magic, which is usually defined as magic relating to earth, air, fire, and water. Occasionally a fifth element (like spirit) will be added to shake things up. These classical elements first arose in Greece and India and spread to other parts of the world, and belief in them persisted for thousands of years right up to the birth of modern science. I suppose that's why the elements fit so well in traditional fantasy in a medieval setting. I've personally read enough of that type of fantasy and prefer nontraditional settings/magic systems.
That said, there are still authors who can take an overused plot element and make it fresh. For elemental magic, I would recommend S.A. Bolich's Masters of the Elements series, which so far consists of Firedancer, Windrider, and Seaborn. (The next book will deal with Earth, but I don't know the title yet.) What makes this series work for me is the world-building. It's a comfortable world that I enjoy spending time in. The elements have a unique relationship with each other, and each type of elemental master has a distinct appearance and way of working with their element.
How do you feel about elemental stories? Are there any that you would recommend? If you were going to write one, how would you approach it?