Friday, February 15, 2013

Four Fantastically Frustrating Fantasy Tropes

Good Friday,

Reading, I have found, is much like ice cream. Everyone prefers different flavors. Flavors, I have discovered, are much like tropes. They are many and various and some are liked better or worse by others. Fantasy has many, many tropes. Having inserted myself into the world as a writer of fantasy, I’ve read a fair share of novels in the genre. And much like my taste in ice cream, there are some tropes that I like better. There are also tropes that are just overdone, and I would be happy never to see another new release employ them. I’ve outlined a few below.

Four Fantastically Frustrating Fantasy Tropes


Please, stop. Heroes/heroines are meant to save mankind. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t read the book. So why then must there be old books/scrolls/people/talking cats that expound at length about the hero’s controversial potential to save the world?

I think my real issue with prophesy is that it takes up so much space in the story. The characters debate it into the ground. Meanwhile, in any normal timeline, the great evil would have leveled the last-standing fortress and enforced its purple, studded leotards on the world’s inhabitants.

-“Tavern meetings”

Anyone ever played Dungeons and Dragons? If yes, you nodded knowingly at the title to this section. If not, allow me to explain. A common start point for a D&D campaign is for the Dungeon Master (think of him as God) to put everyone’s avatars in one section of the map and then calmly announce “You’re all in a tavern.” This is usually followed by some variation of “and a conflict begins. What do you do?” The players then act out their characters’ appropriate responses to the crisis, and somehow, the conflict ends with a merry band of travelers (who just happen to be a well-blended mix of fighters, casters, healers, and meat shields) forming.

I’ve seen this too many times, and it’s gotten old. I’d much rather room be left for character/relationship growth. If that means forming the merry band over several chapters instead of by the middle of chapter 2, that’s what it means. I won’t stop reading just because they haven’t broken out the bagpipes by page 30.

-Powerful magic keeps romantic couple apart

This dives a bit into romance, but since most fantasy novels include some kind of romantic couple, I figure it fits. Also, this is not “forbidden love.” Forbidden love needs an external sociological viewpoint to disdain it in order for it to be forbidden. This is “we met in a whirlwind of sudden, fierce attraction and after our first night together realized that we can never have one another because a powerful magic (that, consequently, affects no one but them) could kill one or both of us.”

Could they, just once, do their homework and know about the powerful, destined-to-keep-them-apart magic before they jump into bed? More importantly, could they be responsible about it and, maybe, look for a solution instead of giving up because “everyone says it’s impossible.” I like a good helping of romance in my fantasy because, even though I don’t write straight-up romance, I believe in “happy for the foreseeable future.” What I don’t like is one of the members of the couple (usually the woman) whining for 300 pages because she can’t have her “one true love.”


Please, please, please, no more vampires. A while back, I wrote a post on five reasons vampires aren’t sexy. See this post for five reasons why this appears on my list of frustrating tropes.

Aside from those five reasons, vamps are just overdone. I write urban fantasy. Yes, there are vampires in my urban fantasy world. No, they are not the main characters. No, they are not seducing the main character. No, they are not all the hottest creatures around. I have passed up so many books because the blurb contained some variation of the words “sexy vampire hero who enslaves her body and mind.” Oh man, that’s just gross.

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