Most hated fantasy cliches: What do you think?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Xitra_Blud, Mar 14, 2015.

  1. Xitra_Blud

    Xitra_Blud Mystagogue

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  2. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Dark Lord

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    Well, it almost goes without saying that I take STRONG exception to the "Everyone" in the title. There is not one single cliche that everyone agrees on. Nor is there one that every reader or even ever fantasy reader agrees on. Many of the things listed there are things that many readers specifically like and look for in their reading material.

    Many of the comments lead me to think that the commenter just isn't reading the right books. Some of these people should be specifically seeking books that are trying to achieve "realism" in a fantasy setting and just because a book is not trying to be "realistic" does not make it bad. Some of these people should probably be reading sci fi instead of fantasy.

    But above all I take strong exception that just because some readers don't like something, that makes it a cliche that should be avoided. If you hate dragons, just don't read books with dragons, problem solved. But lots of people love dragons, so dragons are not something an author should purposely avoid (unless the author hates dragons too). The vast majority of things in this post are perfectly good fantasy elements that many readers love.
     
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  3. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    First of all, I should state that I'm really opposed to putting in that kind of effort into hating things. It just feels like a waste of time and energy in order to promote negativity. The danger of a list like this is that it'd urge insecure and beginning writers to try and stay away from everything listed in it, so that they wouldn't be cliche.

    I checked up on the article and the list of things people hate include a lot of things. I'm sure you could write a good fantasy novel without including any of the cliches listed, but I feel like you'd sort of have to go out of your way to do it.

    A thought I had when viewing the list is that it may not necessarily be the actual cliches that people object to, but the execution of the story in which these cliches appear. I believe that if the story is told well enough it doesn't much matter if it's filled with cliches.
     
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  4. 2WayParadox

    2WayParadox Mystagogue

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    Let's see.

    antropomorphism, haven't read all that much of that. The last unicorn, but the unicorn gets turned into a human for part of the story. I read a book where intelligent dragons served as air fighters in the napoleon wars. Apart from that, I can't think of any, so to me it's not that much of a cliché.

    appearance, meh, in the end it doesn't matter all that much how the hero looks. It is true that black is the go to color for villains.

    Stereotyping is bad in any writing

    childbirth scenes... can't recall ever reading one.

    The magic baby on the other is annoying, it just stretches the established credibility so much if it's not the central piece to the puzzel.

    Chosen one. I agree with this one. Prophecy annoys me. I'm also tired of the traditional coming of age story. Perhaps wheel of time and the laws of magic ruined me for those stories that aren't exceptionally good.

    Civilization, derivative. I don't see an issue with that. Every society written will be based on something, except maybe in scifi, but even then the society might be based on insects or something.

    The pre-industrial times, I'll give you that one. Most of what I've read was set in similar times. Then again, I write in those times too and I don't mind it. However, I do want to base some of my magic on things we have in our world, to mirror them in function, if not in material.

    Unrealistic societies. Just sounds like bad worlbuilding.

    Coming of age, as I said above.

    Flowery descriptions, that's not really a cliché I think. Purple prose can be found in any genre. I don't like it, that doesn't make it a cliché.

    Dreams, it's not really clear to me what he means by this one. It's too vague.

    Multi-part series. I don't mind this, but I do agree that there has to be a limit somewhere to keep the story from stagnating. I think maybe six books is a good number? I don't know. Also, writing parts to be at least somewhat stand-alone can't hurt.

    well, the list goes on and I've run out of willingness, so I'll stop here.
     
  5. Nimue

    Nimue Dark Lord

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    Pretty fun to read, and I feel like it could be a good guideline in some ways (like, if you're hitting every single thing on the list you may have to go into your bedroom and sit in the dark rethinking your life for a while). But yeah, I don't really believe in "Never Do This" lists. Listicles are entertainment, not writing advice scripture!
     
  6. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I personally hate (if I'm going to use this word) how cliches are this specter that haunts fantasy fiction. This cloak of fear that envelops writers. Sure, readers hate all sorts of things. They hate them because of their execution. I guarantee that almost everyone has read a "Chosen One" story that they love if they've read fantasy fiction for a good while. They've probably also read some they hate. It's weird. I've never come across a book I've hated because of cliches. I've come across books that couldn't hold my interest, but I've never disliked something so much in a book I said, "Nope, I'm not reading this anymore." I guess there are a lot of people that do that.

    I'm curious about all these books that exist that annoy people so much. I wish people could give examples. I guess they're out there, but I've been lucky to avoid them and/or I'm not as sensitive to these kind of issues.

    To me a cliche can be a good idea executed so many times poorly that people start to hate it. However, cliches can also be a valuable tool for writers if they handle them delicately. To me cliches can be like salt and pepper. If you put a little here and there, no one will notice. But if you sprinkle it all over your book, it's going to ruin it.
     
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  7. Reilith

    Reilith Mystagogue

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    Well, in my opinion cliches don't always have to be a bad thing. First of all, as Phillip said, we have all loved some books that have certain things that are viewed as cliches. Second, you can't avoid cliches. Cliche is a topic that has been overused, not something initially bad. The problem nowadays is that people see the word 'cliche' and in their mind instantly springs 'bad' as an associative word. If you are reading a book that has cliches in it and you don't like it, it's not that the cliches are bad, it is the writing. It is the writers job to flesh out a likable world and characters and themes, and that is the core of it all. I think people focus on these cliches too much, instead of enjoying what they are reading. It is fantasy, you can't write fantasy completely void of them! They are bound to pop up eventually, so why not make them interesting and make the reader think about them, instead of counting them? I think, from the point of a young writer, green to serious writing, these type of articles and talks just make beginners lose their courage and take up too much thinking time which could be invested into writing. I know that when I started my WIP I first looked up a list of biggest cliches and got really discouraged for some time - when it sums up it seems everything's been used up and there is no way to avoid them. So it got me thinking, why not twist and turn them, and make them into something different instead? That's one way to deal with cliches. Another is to simply write and write and when you get to your editing simply try to embellish them or remove some which you think are unnecessary. Cliches are what made fantasy the way it is, and it is not a bad thing. They are cliches for a reason - they were fun and they worked, which made a bunch of people write them over and over again from new perspectives. Cliche is not about quality, it is about quantity of themes constantly used in fiction, if you know what I mean.

    Of course, if I simply don't like something, were it a cliche or not, I will avoid it, in writing and reading in general.
     
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  8. Tom

    Tom Istari

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    I found this article a few years ago, and I really enjoyed it. I think of lists of cliches as guidelines, rather than rules. You can choose to avoid the cliches altogether, or you can play with them and twist them around into something original.
     
  9. Panda

    Panda Lore Master

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    I'm a fan of tvtrope's motto "tropes are not bad." Of course you want to avoid cliches, but not all tropes are cliches (dragons? seriously?).

    There are a few things on that list that I really disagree with:

    I want to read a story, not an essay about what the author thinks a world with no contact with our world would be like. I'm not saying you should never try to be original, but given the choice between a well-written and interesting character who happens to live in a world that resembles feudal Japan and a one-dimensional character who's just an excuse to write about a completely original world, I'd rather read about the pseudo-Japanese guy.

    And as for medieval societies with modern values: Fantasy is escapism. If I want to read about an exciting adventure with swords and sorcery, I don't want to be told that people like me (a gay woman with disabilities) either don't exist or are marginalized, unless it's important to the plot. (e.g. the protagonist rebels against the bigots. And that runs the risk of going into cliche territory.) If I wanted to read accurate historical fiction, I wouldn't be reading fantasy stories.

    As long as it isn't done in a cliche way, I love this kind of story. Life is all about growing as a person and becoming better than what you currently are, isn't it?
     
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  10. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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  11. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    A story that successfully avoided every single one of those things on the list I think probably wouldn't be much of a story. There's a reason that certain things resonate. It's why the Hero's Journey is such a successful story type.

    It contains the Chosen One which I think taps into the part of all of us that desires to be special.

    It contains the mentor because well everyone in life has mentors. A lot of times it's the parent dishing out advice to guide you along life's journey.

    When I first started writing I tried to write a story that avoided any and everything that I though had been done before. The story never got beyond the first couple of chapters because I would always run into something that has been done before.

    This article sees cliches as bad. I see them as opportunities and tools.
     
  12. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    Some of those complaints I agree with. Like these for example:
    I always interpreted the idea of light = good and dark = bad as originally rooted in our heritage as diurnal primates, since early humans could never see through the darkness of night, or the shadows under the treetops, where the leopards might be lurking. But once the scale changes from shades of gray to shades of brown (e.g. The Lion King and its direct-to-video sequel, where the less sympathetic lions all have darker fur), I can see why discomfort might set in nowadays.

    And I also remember how, in those old "caveman" movies, the brunette cave-women were more likely to be villainous than the blondes. For some strange reason, it's still widely acceptable to poke fun at different hair colors within Northern European populations, with brunettes being smarter and more evil, blondes being dumb and bubbly but more beautiful, and redheads being short-tempered. Isn't that, you know, almost a little racist, or at least conflating personality or culture with certain physical traits?

    Though for my part, I tend to use differences in hair color as marking ethnic distinctions between white peoples in my own fantasy world-building. I'll have green-eyed redheads with Celtic trappings, blue-eyed blonds who are more Norse or Anglo-Saxon, and maybe Slavic or Scythian brunettes. My analogues to Mediterranean Europeans, like the Spaniards and Greco-Romans, usually have black hair, tan skin, and are considered racially "tawny" like the Middle Eastern Semitics rather than proper whites. If anything, they'll derisively liken white people's hair colors to blood, urine, or maybe feces.
     
  13. Reilith

    Reilith Mystagogue

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    I know those are somewhat general tropes, but I just felt like sharing a though. For me I prefer somehow to have blondes as the villains (nothing wrong about blondes irl though) and I remember the instance of Darken Rahl from Sword of Truth who is the main villain in the first book - he is tall, beautiful, handsome, blonde with blue eyes and always dressed in white. I felt like it was a great way to show that not always white must be the colour of 'good', and it was a nice respite from the usual light/good, dark/bad sort of cliche.
     
  14. SD Stevens

    SD Stevens Journeyman

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    People who make such post fall in to another cliche!

    I don't get what makes them hate, by disgn we have to stick to certain chishes for a book to be placed in the right catagory? Or each book ever written and to be written would be in their own individual genre!

    Every thing that makes fantasy great these people will stick the chishe tag on! If they don't like it they can go read historical romance!
     
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  15. SD Stevens

    SD Stevens Journeyman

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    They will teach me to type with out glasses CHICHE
     
  16. Panda

    Panda Lore Master

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    I mentioned it in my other post but I figured I should link it: Tropes are not bad.

    And since I'm posting links to tvtropes, Reilith might like this one: Blond Guys are Evil. It even mentions Darken Rahl in the "literature" section. :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2015
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  17. Reilith

    Reilith Mystagogue

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    Thank you, it is actually pretty cool, I love TV tropes. :) And he is one of those villains who are actually done correctly and over-the top.
     
  18. Panda

    Panda Lore Master

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    Yeah, it's been a long time since I read any of the Sword of Truth books, but I remember Darken Rahl was an interesting character.
     
  19. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Dark Lord

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    Agreed. The series went way downhill as soon as it lost him as a villain. He was very well done.
     
  20. Reilith

    Reilith Mystagogue

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    For me it went south the moment he started making Richard OP and everyone else turned into idiots. I still went through it all, but I needed to take a break after reading The Naked Empire. That one and Pillars of Creation made my brain a mush. But the sixth book, Faith of the Fallen was my favourite. I never continued reading the Richard and Kahlan series as the writer obviously suffered a lobotomy (to be mild about it) with his writing.
     
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