Elemental Magic: Trope Reboot

Sometimes magic systems fail. Instead of wonder they cause confusion. Instead of building conflict they create plot holes. And instead of deepening our characters’ struggles they enable the dreaded deus ex machina. But we can avoid these issues by turning to a classic, well defined system. It’s a trope to streamline spells. Let’s reboot Elemental … Read more

The Mentor: Trope Reboot

Fantasy novels are complex tomes filled with beguiling magics, curious creatures, unspeakable names, countless political fiefdoms, more breeds of elf, and thousands of years of adventure. Your readers have to learn all those new particulars without wanting to burn your book in rage. Thankfully there’s a trope for teaching those details. Let’s reboot the Mentor. … Read more

Medieval Kingdom: Trope Reboot

Swords, castles, princes, serfs – just those four words are enough to place readers in a fantasy setting.  They evoke a place both mysterious and reminiscent of fairy tales, archaic enough to hold secrets, but grounded enough to be relatable. It’s a trope to make all magical settings feel familiar. Let’s reboot the Medieval Kingdom. … Read more

Comedy: Your First Reading Quest

Thank you, internet, for making this job harder. Strong characters and worldbuilding are no longer enough.  The well-timed spot of humor was once the mark of Shakespeare. But now fellow writers, all of us have to learn to be clever. Let’s start by reading a novel that’s funny.  Do you accept your first reading quest? … Read more

The Dark Lord: Trope Reboot

In the battle between good and terrible storytelling, we look for personal conflicts with complex characters.  Yet one trope gives our villain vague power and simple goals. It promises our readers a straightforward fight against the forces of evil. There’s one trope that just wants to rule them all. So let’s reboot the Dark Lord. … Read more

The Chosen One: Trope Reboot

We can use any storytelling trope to write powerful novels.  But there’s one trope that angers many readers because it’s close to cheating.  It takes an ordinary character, steals his or her agency, and shoehorns them into the conflict. It’s a trope for forcing an abrupt call to action. So let’s reboot the Chosen One. … Read more

Let’s Talk About Theme

Listen up fantasy writers: We need to talk more about literary themes. I know that themes are hard. In English class my teachers and probably yours talked about themes in a way that felt overthought, random, and forced. Some literary writers describe themes as a regimented dictum that defines every page of our novels like … Read more

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