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Your least favorite cliches


Hey guys! The title of this thread is pretty self explanatory. What are the cliches in fantasy which drive you crazy or which you always try to avoid when writing?


I hate the cliché of dragons being nothing but mindless eating machines and kidnapping damsels. (do they taste better than cattle or something?) I prefer something more like Smaug, who was intelligent despite being a bit vile. Another thing I hate that even Smaug was guilty of is the whole "dragon's treasure" B.S. What could a dragon possibly do with sixteen trillion gold coins beyind just hoarding it so others can't have it? IF I used that cliché, I would have the dragon use it further whatever goal he has instead of just sitting/sleeping on it until the adventurer's just "happen" to catch him unaware.


Good vs Evil.

I know, it's a staple of fantasy. I guess I am in the George R. R. Martin camp, if such a thing exists.

I've no problem with "good" vs "evil", where one group believes itself to be the "good guys", making the other guys "evil". They can be nasty, and utterly opposed to anything we might call "good", but they aren't Evil with a capital "e". I get annoyed when Evil is presented as if it is some substance in the universe you wouldn't want to get on your shoes or in your soup, and Good is a power of shining light that, if it shines on Evil, destroys it.

When I read Tolkien, I don't see Sauron as Evil. He's selfish in the extreme, cruel, and supremely arrogant. However, from his perspective, so is Gandalf, wanting to kill all his orcs and cover the world with nasty trees, and infest it with those filthy little hobbits.

Each is the "evil" to the other's "good".

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I've gotten to the point where I see a book includes a "farm boy orphan whose magical tendencies are against the norm finds his true destiny to defeat the king super warlock emperor" I put it down and walk away.


I see this one a lot. It seems as if the MC is an orphan so that his parents won't get in the way of his destiny. Or if the MC has parents and they're killed off within the first chapter...
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I hate, hate, hate humanoids who're presented as innately morally superior to humanity. They tend to wind up being used to express the author's personal idea of what a utopia would be like, and it's never somewhere I'd want to live. (And when they're not, they get to do all sorts of horrible things to humans and still be judged as good for it, because they're only harming inferior beings anyways. I wish I was kidding, but that's seriously how I often see it go, especially when the superior beings are anthropomorphic animals.)

On the flipside, I hate villains who're set up to stand for a possible philosophical position, moral idea, economic proposition, etc., and then turn out to be acting purely for their own benefit with no regard for that position. If you're going to condemn an idea, do so through a character who actually believes in it, showing what honestly following it leads to, not through a hypocrite who can be conveniently dismissed. (And if you do want to write a hypocrite, make that part of the issue--The Winds of the Forelands gets a lot of mileage out of how the villain's followers support a cause that's far more righteous than that of the heroes, with the only problem being that the villain would wind up in power.)

Philip Overby

Article Team
I'm going to be that guy that says cliches don't bother me. I've probably said that in every cliche thread that's been created. Why do you say? Because even something super cliche can be executed well.

Take the tried and true "knight must go on a quest to save a princess." Sure, it sounds cliche. But if put in the capable hands of the right writer, it could still be presented in a fresh new light. If I ran away from every book that had some kind of cliche in it, then I would probably never read anything.

But, since this thread is Your Least Favorite Cliches, then I guess I'll pick something. Human falls in love with paranormal creature? Now, if it's a human falling in love with a gelatinous cube, then maybe, just maybe, it'll be a winner!

But like I said, even that cliche can be executed well...


Now, if it's a human falling in love with a gelatinous cube, then maybe, just maybe, it'll be a winner!

But like I said, even that cliche can be executed well...

Hey, you might be onto something there! ;)

But yes, I also believe all cliches can get away with it if implemented the right way.


I hate seeing Goblins, Orcs or Trolls being presented as an "evil" race with no redeeming qualities, or being far less intellegent than humans. ...It just...rubs me the wrong way. I think it's wrong to ever say "This entire race of people is bad" even in fiction.
really sick of fantasy in quasi-mediaeval settings and/or Tolkienesque characters, settings and tropes.

There are other ways of being fantastical.
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Now, if it's a human falling in love with a gelatinous cube, then maybe, just maybe, it'll be a winner!

Yech, Phil! This gives me an image of some fat girl with pipe-curls (or a boy ofc, perhaps without the curls), absentmindedly eating her/his strawberry flavored lover.

So my least favorite cliche is the poorly executed cliche.

That's it.

Although I, very carefully, must say that all those high schools filled with teenage vampires & werewolves are a very close second.
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Felis amatus
I agree with Mythopoet. I don't see much value in trying to avoid cliches for their own sake. Firstly, many things people consider cliche are considered that way because they're very popular among readers. Secondly, a good writer can make anything work, no matter how many times it has been done before. Thirdly, for every reader who thinks one thing is an over-used cliche you may have ten other readers who love it.

You're much better off writing the story that speaks to you and that engages you. If it is a very traditional Tolkienesque fantasy with a treasure-hoarding dragon, then great. Lots of readers for that. If it is something that subverts traditional fantasy tropes, then that's great too. A lot of people are doing that these days and it also sells.

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Phil, here is a cliché a dare you to find done well and if you do, I shall bow before you as a mighty and all powerful god...

Writer says, "Look at how diversified I am! I have a gay character! I shall now kill them off in the next few chapters to create sympathy for said gay character." *cough* Sookie Stackhouse *couch*

This trope, more that any other, gets me steamed.


To combine AstralCat and Feos' respective posts, racial essentialism is dead to me. If you're races are inherently ANYTHING sociologically, whether it is good, evil, judicious, resilient, dishonest, greedy, or any other trait you are doing a bad thing. With the acknowledgement that cultural traits are not racial traits, the fact that people within your world may very well make faulty assumptions and generalizations that aren't actually true, and that within a story you can't have a representative sample of every single group in your world. With all that being said, it comes down to how the author presents it more than anything. And far, far, FAR too many end up taking the cliched shortcut of racial essentialism.


Felis amatus
If you're races are inherently ANYTHING sociologically, whether it is good, evil, judicious, resilient, dishonest, greedy, or any other trait you are doing a bad thing.

I don't agree. This is a subjective preference that you hold. There is no reason whatsoever that you can't have an inherently good race, or evil race, or whatever, within the context of a fantasy world. Many readers enjoy it; some do not. But it comes down to the subjective preferences of the writer and readers, and shouldn't be stated as somehow being a "bad thing" just because people have different preferences.


Does 'token female warrior who's clearly secondary and only there to be hot' count as a cliche or just a trope?


I hate the way they treat horses. Horses have feelings too! Can you run all day? A horse can't either!

Another cliché that makes me tick is "the orphan farm boy who gains great magical power to defeat the supreme bad guy." *Thinking Eragon here*

And I hate it when the elves get to be all snobby and horrible to the humans because, you know, they're so much more superior!

And I was having a good day until I saw this thread....