Thursday, May 6, 2010

Five Cliches Fantasy Writers Should Try to Avoid

The Dark Lord
He's the big, bad guy. We get it. He's big. He's bad. He's a guy. Now how about something a little more refreshing. Heck, even a swarm of evil, man-eating bunny rabbits would at least be different. Do you get my drift? The great evil wizard or king or god or whatever who is nearly unstoppable and sits in some faraway land has become more than a cliche. It's become boring. New bad guys, please?

The Poor Farm Boy Who Becomes King
The opposite of the dark lord is the poor, little farm boy who comes out of nowhere to travel across the globe on foot to save the world and become the new king or general or savior or whatever. Enough. It's time for some new good guys, too. How about someone a little more believable? How about someone who wasn't pushing a plow last week, but suddenly this week is the best swordsman in the world?

The Trilogy
Does every single fantasy story have to be told in a trilogy? Or in even morebooks? Some tales come in seven books, some ten, and some even more than that. Geez oh Pete! I don't mind so much when each book in a series can stand on its own, but when it's near impossible to read any of the later books without having read the earlier ones, it takes a lot of fund out of it for the reader. Not only is there the matter of cost, but there's also the issue of just having to hunt down all the books. Then there's all the catching up you have to do. And in my opinion, I don't believe I've ever read a fantasy trilogy or series where every single book was great. Even Tolkien's "The Two Towers" was pretty monotonous for large sections (I didn't think Frodo and Sam were ever going to get out of that swamp!).

Elves and dwarfs
Not all elves and dwarfs are bad, but they've been so overdone and are so overused. Every once in a while an author comes along who does something fresh with these familiar races, but most of the time it's the same old thing ... dwarfs are short, gruff and grumpy and like axes and big hammers, while elves are aloof, have point ears and prefer bows or long swords. It's been done. A million times. Can we please get something different?

Bad guys that are monsters
For me, this dehumanizes the villains. Great heroes use their mighty swords to mow through mile after mile of orcs or goblins or trolls or some other generic villain. After a while, who cares? Do the great, shining examples of law and purity that our heroes are supposed to be ever stop for a moment to think about that poor thing they hacked to pieces? Some do, but most don't. It's just a monster. You kill it. End of story. Also, the end of my reading of your works. If the bad guys have to be monsters, please, at least make them realistic.

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