The 5 Fantasy Clichés That You Should Kick in the Butt

Hi, guys! This is now my second time appearing on this blog. I’m going to say hi and hopefully say something that’s informative and funny that may help you on your way to becoming a fantasy writer in this article. Oh, and I hope I will become a regular at this blog.

So, do you remember [BOOK NAME REDACTED TO PREVENT OFFENDING FANS] which bombed so hard because of a clichéd plot that is about as original as a forgery? Well, that’s one of the reasons that epic fantasy is so hard to write is because of complex world-building and clichés. Yes, you heard me right. Clichés. The plot devices/clichés below are usually so endlessly repeated that it’s probably not a good idea to use them anymore. There’s a pretty good chance that it will bring out negative reactions within potential readers.

1. The Orphan/Chosen One

If you are looking for an orphaned hero in fantasy, you don’t really need to look any further than Harry Potter and King Arthur. We haven’t even started on the comic books and graphic novels yet. It is such a common cliché, it’s probably 99% of all superheroes’ origin story.

This how Batman reacts to Father’s Day. Also how he reacts to obnoxious writers. Probably.

It is also pretty often that there would be a prophecy thrown in there somewhere where it says that said orphan, is the chosen one. Pop-culture had already used this cliché so many times that I would honestly not be surprising if you hadn’t thought of this as an origin story at least once. But it’s not something you should put in a story anymore.

2. The Wise Guy

Otherwise known as the bearded deus ex machina (or as some people say, “Gandalf ex machina”). Does the protagonist have a guide or a mentor? Does said guide or mentor have a sexy beard? I draw the line at stories in which the protagonist and his friends have been struggling for the past two chapters, only to have a wizard (or in some cases, eagles) swoop in and solve their problems with a wave of his wand or a magical phrase. I think readers would prefer a solution where the protagonist solves problems for himself and has a distinct lack of an old guy beside him that seems to know every single thing plot related.

Seriously, that is lazy writers’ get-out-of-jail-free card, and I sincerely hope that whoever is reading this isn’t lazy.

3. The Dark Villain (Also known as: Hitler’s best friend)

Most of the time I would argue that it’s acceptable for a story to contain a tyrant king or a bloodthirsty general. But if the antagonist is evil just for the sake of being evil (e.g. burning puppies), then that story has crossed the line into a boring cliché. A villain never sees himself as a villain, but as a hero in his own mind. Unjustified evil is stupid and pointless. And so too is goodness without justification. That’s why Batman is better than Superman (no, you can’t argue). Life isn’t a fairy tale, fantasy stories rarely are a fairy tales.

4. Strange spellings to make characters sound exotic

Stories should not have to rely on spelling and excessive usage of apostrophes to invoke a sense of exotic or power about the word or concept. Just call your character John, if you’re indecisive and are a fantasy writer. The same goes for changing the names of recognizable animals in order to make the beast sound more fantastical. Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series relies on creative spelling and excessive apostrophes quite heavily. Imagine if there is a person that is actually called Dhai’mon. Don’t use too much of it, too much of a good thing makes You’look’lik’e’an’id’iot.

Remove that offensive apostrophe!

5. Ye Olde Medieval Europe (seriously, stop using medieval Europe as a basis to start world-building)

There is nothing quite like a bit of medieval Europe for your fantasy, right? I mean, look at all the guys who did it, Tolkien pulled it off, but that doesn’t mean you can. Not all fantasy has to be in bloody medieval Europe.

I swear, one more vivid description of rolling hills and unhygienic knights… Fantasy should be original. It’s supposed to be a genre where any idea, no matter how impossible, can be believable. This genre can encompass so many different themes and locations. Another book stuffed with Ye Olde Medieval Europe is going to kill a fan.


yicheng liuYicheng Liu is a guy who sadistically enjoys darkened pieces of processed dead wood with ink and maniacally laughs as he darkens computer screens with pixelated text when he can’t find processed dead wood. When not doing any of that, he is making stupid jokes and hanging out on twitter under the handle @liu_liu0074. Also, pre-order his funny science fiction thriller book on Inkshares:

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