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Favorite/Least Favorite Fantasy Tropes?

I like things that are internally consistent and aren't in flowery prose that's hard to read.
I love things with bearded wizards, bearded dwarves (and it better include female dwarves in that category!), bearded protagonists, wizards wearing robes, etc.
 
[[[This one is quite general in all art, and an aspect of human instinctual revulsion I'd say. It's the lack of ablutions. How many books have you opened/movies watched wherein the characters eat/drink? Plenty. But where they defecate/urinate, even if only alluded to? Few, I'd wager. Off the top of my head I'm thinking of Pulp Fiction and Kaiba in terms of films/series. Novels that more realistically deal with the realities of war/death are spot-on here.

Just a single sentence would do, "Johnny washed his face in the river, scooped out a pail of water, and went to dig a hole behind a bush to empty his bowels/relieve himself/do his business/take a dump."

The image of the drunkard stumbling from a tavern and wetting a wall is a trope I'd say, but otherwise, such things are uncommon. In video games as well, especially in fantasy settings, there simply aren't toilets, as if all the waste gets magicked away.
Sure, a horse might have dung, but you rarely read about its master taking a squat.
OK, I am nitpicking, and such things certainly might not make for pleasant or even interesting reading, but its a theme that I find is underrepresented]]]

[[[Pirates that look like mid-millenium ones. Whether ork, zombie, or just your pirate's pirate, they all seem to like tricorn hats, have peg legs and hook hands, and maybe a parrot to boot. "But LAG, not every writer has generic pirates!" Yes. But the vast majority of pirates are so in pop fiction, due to the historical infamy and profusion of pirates circa 1600 and after.

There have been pirates since the first primate floated a log down a river, so surely one can spice things up a bit. And soldiers go to war all the time, more than pirates, but how many soldiers end up with hook hands or peg legs in fiction? More than pirates? No, there we get the trope of the honorable, retired veteran, maybe one that opens a tavern and keeps his sword mounted above the door.

Same with vampires, it has to be a trussed up count, some dandy aristocratic bloodsucker. Sure, Bram Stoker staked that image into our minds, just as Tolkien did with dwarves/elves/orcs, but for the sake of frog, get some steppe nomad in yer vampire, a wandering tribe with their corpse armies shuffling after them over the great steppes, or an arctic vampire, clawing beneath the ice plates until it sees your silhouette above, spitting acid to eat through the ice so that it can grab you, pulling you into the icy depths to suckle on your aqua vitae]]]

[[[Airships. Great idea, much potential for rich storytelling, colorful worlds, expedient exposition, high-altitude heroics, and Hindenburgian calamities]]]
Don’t tell me you don’t want to see a pirate with no hands, feet, nor eyes hobbling about. Especially if he’s some blind fighting master.
 

Joieandlove

Acolyte
Top: Magical Creatures: I love a good book full of magical creatures and even more if they can talk and interact with humans. Even more when the writer takes time to explore the cultures of these creatures and really breathes life into them and that world. E.E Knight does well in his dragon books for example. I think also it's one of the many reasons I love Japanese culture with all the demons/youkai that use in their anime/manga or much of the Celtic culture as well.

Least: Chosen Hero: I know this is a "classical" them but I don't mind it fully but it's just been overused in my book a bit over the years )more in anime/manga if anything. I will try a book that may use this tag line, but it the "hero" is too OP off the bat. I won't read the book.
 

LAG

Troubadour
Don’t tell me you don’t want to see a pirate with no hands, feet, nor eyes hobbling about. Especially if he’s some blind fighting master.

Basically, he should best strapped onto an anti-gravity platform with hunter-seeker missiles and automated turrets controlled by the tongue, preferably with a side cabinet full 'o rum for the crew to enjoy after a nice romp on the high seas.

That is the most effective way to deploy your amputee sea-robber, and makes sure 'es got a good 'ol cyborg parrot with laser eyes, aarrrrr!
 

SwordyPop

Dreamer
It's really encouraging to see so many writers tired of the rampaging sexual assault and rape towards women in fantasy novels. Sometimes it's hard to see modern times catch up when there's already so much fantasy literature absolutely stuffed with the garbage.

On that note, that reminds me of another trope I have issues with.

Female antagonists.

For the record, I am lesbian, so I have absolutely no problem saying I LOVE sexy women antagonists. You know, if it's done right. But sometimes I just wanna see a female villain that is absolute nightmare fuel. I want women MONSTERS. I want them ugly; I want them giant, scary, mean, and willing to slaughter the same amount of people male villains get away with in fiction. In fact, it was because of my distaste for the constant use of trope I began creating my story where the evil witches in the story are borderline eldritch monsters. And let me tell you when you get the creative freedom to make a lady monster whose design isn't based around her sexual organs/features, the character becomes SO much more fun to plan out.
 

LAG

Troubadour
want women MONSTERS. I want them ugly; I want them giant, scary, mean, and willing to slaughter the same amount of people male villains get away with in fiction. In fact, it was because of my distaste for the constant use of trope I began creating my story where the evil witches in the story are borderline eldritch monsters. And let me tell you when you get the creative freedom to make a lady monster whose design isn't based around her sexual organs/features, the character becomes SO much more fun to plan out.


Yes! I have a collection of about 12000 fantasy artworks lifted from the netsphere that I try to sort out/rename/delete whenever I get a chance. They range from real high class illustrations with original themes to movie posters, or your general, run of the mill generic cgi blandity.
Now, and I haven't done any exact count, this is just off the top of my mind, but as I scroll, out of a hundred pieces with female beings as their central focus, I'd say about 65 percent are large-breasted, 85 percent younger than 30, 2 percent older than 50, 0.2 percent obese. Even in larger works with background characters, human variety is lacking.

Sure, not many obese males either, but there are more of them(taverns, merchants) and there are definitely more older men than older women that are depicted. (Here I include dwarves, elves, demons, anything that bears a resemblance to the human species along biological lines)

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a man, and I think-feel like many men do. Men are men, we are wired certain ways et cetera et cetera, and artists do as artists do, or as their public/patrons demand.

But I love complexity in worlds, complexity in characters. Whenever I think of a duchess or a queen, the "Let them eat cake" powdered burlesque contessa jumps into mind, aristocratic but buxomly belligerent.

Shakespearean witches, the Greek fates of old. Vileness and pulchritude in all their variegated forms.
Some themes are very visceral, and sorely lacking in our modern sagas as a collective race. Beauwolf, Circe. The Lady of Pain in Planescape: Torment.

Jack Vance has a character 'Spanchetta' in his Cadwell chronicles. How richly crafted. Won't spoil too much, but she is a female archetype I have encountered a few times in my Earthly ramblings, and a type of personality that not only makes a story vibrant, but creates a different kind of conflict. Now take her exact personality, lift her from her more urban role in that series, and place her at the head of a hundred thousand soldiers marching across a continent to conquer a planet, maybe add in some rune magic and cybernetics, and you got the Eternal Empress.

I've been mulling over the 'Eterness' as the greater political entity in my not yet created world, and I only now realized that the above personality might be ideal for the city of a million souls.
 
It's really encouraging to see so many writers tired of the rampaging sexual assault and rape towards women in fantasy novels. Sometimes it's hard to see modern times catch up when there's already so much fantasy literature absolutely stuffed with the garbage.
Is there really that much in modern fantasy?

Surprises me. Mind you, the old idea of "to the victor goes the spoils" was a real thing - even in supposedly civilised armies well into the C19 and probably later. Certainly the Japanese regarded any captured women as rape-able property until 1945, despite being a super-civilised culture now. Very different world.

I'm a tad ambivalent on this issue. I detest sanitised versions of history, but I also detest anything that smacks of the gratuitous. If you want to have rape etc in your fantasy world, there'd better be a sound reason for it or it will come across as gratuitous - and therefore a bit pervy/sad.
 

Miles Lacey

Maester
When Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and other books they were fresh and original. That was why they were so popular. The same was true of J K Rowling's Harry Potter novels. Unfortunately, too many writers seek to be the next Tolkien, Rowling or Martin. Even worse, some writers want to relive the magic of Dungeons & Dragons that they played when they were young. For me, any trope that looks even remotely like what these writers or the makers of D & D did will ensure that I won't be buying their books. I'm too poor to spend money on a ten thousand page epic that is just like Tolkien only it's set in ancient Greece.

As for what tropes I like? A great adventure story with characters that engage all my emotions and worldbuilding that engage all my senses. I want twists, turns and resolutions that don't always end with the Chosen One getting the guy/girl/throne/big phallic metaphor staff of mass destruction.
 
Prophecies are definitely my least favorite trope if the story is trying for any suspense whatsoever.

my favorite trope is probably the “secretly/humbled royalty” trope. A king being humbled, either voluntarily or involuntarily, from his throne rarely fails to intrigue me, even if it has been done so much.
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
My favorite trope is the heist, not because I like thieves, or want to stick it to the man, or anything like that. What I like about heists is that the main characters are the ones plotting and planning and taking action. The initiative is with the thieves, not with the villains or with circumstance or the guiding shove of a mentor or king or some ancient power. In a good heist the thieves get to be their own quest giver.

I mention that because my least favorite trope is the hero who makes very few decisions for themselves. The magic makes it for them, and their call to action is literally "Okay, do I accept my role as a superpowered hero or not?" And once they've decided that they end up stumbling through the plot that's laid out for them. While some stories are worse than others, there's very few where the characters really take the initiative from beginning to end.

Other offenders: Resources, powers, and armies that aren't used well. Prophecies, at least those about the main plot. Trope subversions that act like they're original but are really about the same old cliches. Weak gods of death and their unrealistic psychotic followers. Minion abuse. And class warfare framed as good vs. evil (plenty of good and bad people in all walks of life).
 

Rori

New Member
I'm a huge sucker for the whole "stranger in a strange land" trope, especially when it's done with a twist, and more so if said stranger has a chance to return to their own home again. I also enjoy the "ragtag group of friends" things, when the characters form a group despite their differences, and become friends and learn from and help each other. There's more tropes I like, those two are big favorites of mine, though.

Some of my least favorites are the whole "purely good vs purely evil" kingdom/species/whatever for example. I just think it lacks nuance to have the "Holy Empire of the golden Dragon", where the emperor is just and all the people are happy wage war against the "Demonic Kingdom of the Evil Darkness" where the king is a super mean, sadistic evil demon and all the people are suffering but still happily die for their country, In comedy it can work, but taking out all the nuance and making it purely good vs. evil just makes it boring and borderline preachy to me. This is not to say I dislike good vs evil as a trope, but having the good side devoid of negativity and vice versa isn't my thing. This also extends to purely "evil" species who do things out ouf pure malice as a collective.

Another thing I heavily dislike is the "everyone is white and heterosexual because this is the middle-ages, dammit!"-trope. I mean, it makes sense that a fantasy kingdom based on 13th-century Central Europe is mostly white and that people at least pretended to be straight, and I'm not saying anything against that. But if the suspension if disbelief is supposed to stop at non-white characters, or homosexuality not being shunned/illegal (of course, this doesn't count for when it's used to tell a story about a LGBT+ character, if it's about overcoming such laws, etc), women not being reduced to wifes, sex objects, etc. and stuff like that while simultaniously there's dragons flying around, Orcs and Elves are normal species and the protagonist is a farmboy who's actually the bastard son of the king who's also the last of some old demon/angel/god-tribe; I think it's less about being "realistic" to be honest.
Not that I wanna force people into writing about all that, I just think "But realism" doesn't really work as an excuse.
 

Somélle

Acolyte
I really like Kid Heroes, merely a personal opinion.
My most disliked trope... it can't be much of a trope but open endings in a standalone work. If it's part of a series I will obviously let it slide, but ambiguous and open endings grind my gears.
 

LittleOwlbear

Minstrel
Love

I have to "out" myself as a big lover of the typical fantasy worlds and writing a dnd-based story. :D
Everytime I see a dragon I'm just as happy as child when I learned about dragons lol.
Also love to see some other creatures.

Tho it's rather steampunky, and that's even pretty much typical for DnD too. DnD is not the solely medieval setting anymore.
Steampunk is the same as dragons for me: everytime I see it, I'm just happy lol.

Although I do have the beautiful elves and lot of other fantasy tropes... tho in my world it has the negative side that some humans do fetishize them a lot, sometimes openly, sometimes more subtle, and that's one reason why most of them are not interacting much with humans.

Adventures, mainly semi-episodic ones where you get to know the characters and world more.
Doesn't need to have a big overaching plot or anything, just vibing with the world and characters, witnessing the landscapes and creatures and cities, and getting some introspective scenes from the characters, great dialogues, cute romances etc...

Found families and adult characters caring for children.

Healthy romances, also poly relationships without much jealousy, just some cute romantasy with a deep bond.

Magic that isn't too much of a hard magic system and has this fantastical feeling to it.

Heists are fun, it doesn't have to be a war story everytime.


Neutral

Something like the chosen one can work as seen in Avatar and is well-written in there, but chosen ones also create a question of: what's with the characters free will? Will they be seen as egoistic for walking away from something they didn't choose for themselves?
Most stories that use chosen ones don't think about the free will and if everyone's life bows down to a destiny set in stone. Therefore prophecies aren't up my list either.


Dislike

Plot- and character-wise I really hate for example the "but I can change him"-trope and lot of abusive tropes in relationships similar to it.

And edgelords, absolutely hating them, and most of grimdark that wants to be realistic just comes off as unrealistic to me.

The teenager who suddenly gets superpowers, who was "just a normal boy" and learns magic and how to fight with a sword in a few month. Also he gets the girl he wants (or gender-swapped) at the top of it.

Also the "it's feudal medieval age, we might have dragons, but no queer people or pocs"-trope.
I do have some logic to it tho. My protagonist comes from a southern high elf clan and found a job as a teacher in a northern school, when they planned to travel through the city. There aren't just randomly poc people in the mild to cold regions living there since forever, but a bunch of people do travel a lot and just settle down in different places of the world.

Women (or anyone else) surviving sexual assaults and are then described as "broken".
Had a cis guy explaining me "you don't understand, she's broken and she won't allow any man touching her ever again and she will hate all men" and all this about his novel.
It's even worse when they "become lesbians", yikes.
Now I write that an assault happened off-screen and ofc it does affect the survivor and they do have ptsd (also from other stuff happened to them), but they are for sure not this broken or poor little thing, or can't be touched by their partners ever again, or anything.
(Btw hate what happened to Casca...)
 
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Hi,

For me the thing I hate most about a lot of recent fantasy is the whole Grimdark thing. And I absolutely hate the rationale behind it - that it's just so much more real. It's not. It's just a reaction to the old theme of heroic fantasy - which is better in my view, but still comes with major issues. (Though of course I loved it in my younger days! Times change and I grew older and a little more cynical.)

What I prefer is the more people are just damned people approach. Maybe there are a few saints here and there. A few monsters. But most are just your average Joe's in a fantasy setting. I mean just look at your neighbors. They're not all waiting to rush out and conk you over the head and steal everything when the cops are away. And they're not all going to be wading into glorious battle to protect orphans when a biker gang arrives in town. Heroes should have some clay feet. Monsters some finer moments. And all should be given reasons for being who they are or believing in what they do.

Cheers, Greg
 
Hmmm...without a doubt,any sort of story that has some variety of ontological evil whose cruel nature is only explained through cosmological metaphysics,and,in the case of the heavy-handed,large amounts of violence. It's one thing to write a narrative that casts an oppressive and violent ruling-class antagonistically...and completely another if the evil in question is motivated by like,ancient demon magic or something,instead of just the self-interest of a great deal of people. Not that ancient demon magic isn't plenty good in other scenarios,I've just always felt that certain facets of society and behavior do best if not transmuted into some manner of fantastical analogy. Apologies if this sounds nonsensical-I shall elaborate if needed!
 
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pmmg

Myth Weaver
I dont know. I am dubious of some of the answers in this one, but...not for me to judge.

Personally, I've grown tired of seeing the word 'trope', as if somehow, there is a set of things we can lump together and call bad, or to be avoided, or used too much. I think all of that is not the stuff that is in the 20% were are all searching for, after the 80% we've gained the to get here. I'd like to challenge people to look past writing as having some set of things we can call tropes, and look instead to understanding that good story and good execution exceeds tropes, whether they are included or not. Tropes dont matter if your story is hitting. Perhaps, it is better to say, some stories are not rising above, and so are more open to getting picked on.

For me, I dislike anything that makes me go Bullshit. And while I've always had some lesser degree of tolerance for that than others, I find my fuse becomes shorter and shorter the more I see and consume today's media. It dont matter what it is.

What I do like is stuff that feels inspired, that shows me its passion, shows a mastery of craft and story, and delivers. And more so, if I end up thinking about it after---even long after. That is not so common. But it happens. But even the stuff that doesn't, I will still find worth giving attention to so long as it does not make me go Bullshit too often (or if it does, it was kind of meant to not be believed).

I also like things unfiltered. I will accept filtering, such as fading to black before the sex scene gets too graphic and such, but if stuff becomes likely to happen and it doesn't, I start to ask questions. That's usually not good.

I am hard to please. So...I accept some of the blame for that.
 

radberry

New Member
My least favorite: Probably the hidden royalty trope, I just think it's a unsatisfying twist, however just like any trope it can and has been done well before and will be done well in the future.

My favorite: Classic fantasy races i enjoy seeing them show up in modern works, there's just something about seeing an authors twists on elves, dwarves, etc that puts a smile on my face.
 
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