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13 Overused Clichés to Avoid in Your Fantasy Novel

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Poppy has been an avid reader her whole life and is a fan of all things fantasy-related.

When done right, a fantasy story can stick with you for a lifetime. Due to the diversity and different sub-genres of fantasy, it is a highly popular genre that can be enjoyed by both children and adults across a range of entertainment, such as movies, video games, and, of course, books.

The most obvious books to come to mind when fantasy is mentioned include The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Game of Thrones. There are no limits in the fantasy genre, and that is why it continues to be a popular choice for readers and writers today.

cliches-to-avoid-in-your-fantasy-novel

Fantasy writers love to dip into a world of endless possibilities, but unfortunately, a brilliant idea you may believe is original and exciting might end up being one of the most eye-rolling cliches out there. These are extremely easy to miss by yourself, and might require a kindhearted (and honest) beta reader or editor to point out.

When I was 17, I wrote a fantasy trilogy that, at the time, I thought was awesome and original. I later realized that it was riddled with stereotypes, clichés, and painful predictability!

Top 12 Clichés to Avoid in Fantasy Novels

So, what are some overused fantasy clichés that'll have people sighing and putting down your book, never to be opened again? Here are some of them.

  1. The Orphan
  2. The Prophecy
  3. The Special Powers
  4. The Dark Lord
  5. The Magical Artifact That Can Also Destroy or Save the World
  6. The Sassy Female Who Isn't Like Other Girls
  7. The Gentle Giant
  8. The Medieval Europe
  9. The Training
  10. The Wise Old Mentor
  11. The Surprise Royal
  12. The Chosen One
  13. The Vision or Dream

1. The Orphan

The main character's parents tragically dying in an accident/in war/murdered by the antagonist is an exhausted cliché that appears in just about every YA novel these days, and not only in fantasy. While the prospect of having no living relatives is sympathetic, it is a trope that has almost become the norm.

We can have a brave hero or heroine with a close relationship with their father, an annoying sister, or an overprotective mother! Give the "orphan" trope a rest, already.

2. The Prophecy

The Prophecy is when the story foretells the protagonist's actions, usually as a hero who rises up to vanquish evil. It seems to be the go-to for fantasy writers to have some sort of religious or magical prediction that all comes together during the story.

Some readers actually say they hate this trope because it tells you what's going to happen before it has unfolded. Avoid a prophecy in your story if you can, as it has been done many times.

cliches-to-avoid-in-your-fantasy-novel

3. The Special Powers

"The main character is just a normal boy/girl until they discover they have special powers which makes them different and unique," usually after a traumatic event or when they come of age. Really, again? Why can't a character be average and normal, yet rise to the challenge and overcome personal flaws instead of jumping in with their super magical abilities?

Powers are cool, but being gifted and unique can only be charming for a certain amount of time before their ability to effortlessly kick everyone's butt gets tiresome.

4. The Dark Lord

Why are there so many antagonists, usually one tough guy, who is just evil with no real motive or reason? No one wants to rule the universe just "because," and yet we see it manifesting all the time: some unspoken, soulless baddie who lives to torture and maim and kill for no reason other than that "they're evil."

Bad guys are so much more interesting when they have a motive other than becoming overlord of the world, and perhaps a reason or two that they turned out like that.

5. The Magical Artifact That Can Destroy or Save the World

The sword of legends! The amulet of gods! The tome of treasures! There always seems to be one lost, legendary item that would control epic allies, destroy the universe or, more often than not, vanquish evil from the world. We've seen this trope in all kinds of fantasy stories and, unless done in an unusual or original way, is terribly overused.

It's even more tiresome when the main character can track down this special item fairly easily where armies and adventurers over centuries have failed!

cliches-to-avoid-in-your-fantasy-novel

6. The Sassy Female Who Isn't Like Other Girls

Everyone loves a strong heroine. Tris (Divergent), Katniss (The Hunger Games), and Yeine (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms) are just a few examples. Unfortunately, though, what would have been different and sassy twenty years ago has now been used so much that it has become even more of a stereotype than the simpering damsel in distress of the early Disney days.

Some overused female character clichés include:

  • Hating makeup and all things girly. A strong female doesn't always have to be a tomboy. Her disdain of "girly" women just makes her seem catty.
  • Hating men. A "don't need no man" kind of attitude can be charming at first, but a character who turns up her nose at half the population because of their gender doesn't sit well with most folks.
  • Breathtakingly beautiful but doesn't know it. Writers often write about characters who they wish they were, and it can be tempting to be an aesthetically perfect female character, but of course, has no idea her thick locks and epic jawline make those around her swoon. Your character can have physical flaws. Jacqueline Wilson does this a lot with her stories about young girls, and it sticks with you and makes a character way more relatable.
  • Kicking everyone's ass all the time. Your girl doesn't have to be the best at everything. This can be everything from sword fighting to video games - your character can be strong without being perfect.
  • Is really bad with children. I've seen this time and time again in stories and movies. Children seem to be condemned as something cool girls don't like, which isn't true at all. Your character doesn't have to have overpowering maternal instincts, but leave the "eww, kids" attitude on the back burner.
  • Extremely rude and mean. A bad attitude doesn't equal strength. A strong character is empathetic and kind as well as fearless. A character who berates people for being upset or refuses to help the weak can be potentially unlikable and damage your story.
  • Absolutely perfect with no flaws. This is a manifestation of a drop-dead gorgeous girl who is top of her class in everything and never loses a battle or an argument. Cool, but utterly unrelatable and unrealistic. We can't identify with someone who has never failed or had a bad day.

Your character needs to have flaws, fears, and self-doubt from time to time. Harry Potter had an awful temper. Frodo was almost possessed by the ring. Tris had mixed feelings about the things she needed to do. Let these inspire your heroine.

7. The Gentle Giant

It seems that everyone, at the same time, thought to themselves, "You know what's charming and original? A huge beefy guy who isn't huge and beefy on the inside, but a real softie!"

While some concepts of having looks that clash with personality are original, the Gentle Giant is not. TVTropes gives more detail on why this has become a stereotype.

8. The Medieval Europe

Fantasy is an awesome genre, but medieval Europe-esque worlds with harsh winters and rolling hills have become the go-to for fantasy novels (and video games as well; just look at Skyrim, The Witcher, and Dragon Age). Some have even started to call it a "stock" world.

When I wrote my fantasy trilogy at 17, I believed I was basing the world on Scotland, my home country. Then when a reader said that it was boring and unoriginal, I realized that he was right. Mountains, rivers, and forests are romantic as heck, but your world needs something special that separates it from the rest if it's going to stick out.

9. The Training

Not only in fantasy, but in many YA books, there is a period of "training." This could be from the mentor or group of friends in a sword fighting arena or a magical academy. I appreciate this is sometimes needed to develop the character's skills, but it could be done over a period of time throughout the story, not just "six months later and she was the best in the class."

10. The Wise Old Mentor

Another story trope that has bombarded fantasy novels since The Lord of the Rings is a mentor, usually elderly and incomparably wise, who often has the key to whatever the hero needs to take the next step in his journey. In fantasy, this is often portrayed in the form of a wizard or the grizzled veteran, like in Eragon.

Having a mentor or teacher is fine, but it doesn't always have to be portrayed as an old and wise wizard or war veteran. There is a lot you can do with a character like this, and it's easy to unintentionally fall into stereotypes.

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11. The Surprise Royal

A twist that the main character or one of their friends is secretly the heir to a powerful throne has eyes rolling year after year. Although in its essence a fun concept to explore, it can become predictable very easily.

If you need to have a surprise prince or princess, make it someone who would be impossible to guess! The trick to having successful (i.e., not glaringly obvious) plot twists is baiting—making the reader guess that it's someone else. If the main character is a royal, then have them find out sooner, not as a surprise reveal at the end.

cliches-to-avoid-in-your-fantasy-novel

12. The Chosen One

A hero should be a hero because he wants to be, not because it's written in stone. A shocking plot twist where a strange artifact or moment of clarification deems our main character as the "Chosen One" has been so overused that it is almost stapled to fantasy now. It's not needed!

13. The Vision or Dream

The main character has a mysterious dream conveniently holding the information they need to find the next piece of the puzzle, or they have visions showing them where they need to go next. Not only is this overused, some could argue that it's an easy way out.

There are some books that do this very well, such as The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross and even the Harry Potter series. If you're going to use legend-related dreams or plot-moving visions in your story, do it creatively.

Writing a book is challenging, and it can be even more difficult to try to avoid overused stereotypes in any kind of fiction! Whether your fantasy novel contains none of these clichés or all of them, what matters most is that it is written well. Hopefully, this guide can help you spot any potentially predictable plots or overdone character types.

Questions & Answers

Question: I want to make my main character the Chosen One without making it cliche. If my main character volunteered to help, and then she found out that she was most likely the Chosen One, would that still be cliche? If so, do you have any other ideas of how to make her the Chosen One without it being cliche?

Answer: I like the idea of her stepping up to help before finding out she's the Chosen One. Your prophecy, or whatever it is, could be misinterpreted at first so it's unclear who the Chosen One is. Did you ever watch Pokemon The Movie 2000? The prophecy had a line that said, "Thus the world shall turn to ash." Everyone thought it meant "ash" as in the embers from a fire, but it actually meant "Ash" as in the name of the main character. You could have something like that to throw readers off.

You could also have it where it could be several people. In Harry Potter, it was also possible that Neville could have been the Chosen One to defeat Voldemort, but Voldemort chose Harry. In Darren Shan's Vampire saga, a witch makes a prediction that could apply to one of three vampires. You could have the prophecy be so vague that it could be one of several people, and circumstances reveal your main character to be the One later on in the story.

Question: I would like to write in the medieval Europe setting. How can I do this and make it unique?

Answer: You could add new elements that have never been used before. Different animals, a twist on the weather and seasons, a diet other than meat and bread.

Question: Is it cliche if I make my main character be a decedent of a powerful being? I'm writing a story in which the main character is the daughter of a very powerful being but has to be raised by mortals for protection.

Answer: It doesn't sound cliche to me. It sounds interesting!

Question: Would the medieval Europe setting still be a cliche if elements have been taken from it and been put together with dystopian elements?

Answer: Every book is different. You have to decide for yourself if it’s cliche or not.

Question: My character is actually kinda ugly, and she is really uncomfortable with herself. She gets a wish and becomes a lil’ more pretty. Is that okay?

Answer: It’s OK as long as your story has some kind of message that physical beauty isn’t everything. There could be a love interest character who loved her even when she was ugly, or she could realize the attention she’s getting from her beauty makes her wish she could go back to how she looked before. You should have a positive message about self-image in your book that readers can take away from it.

Question: Would it be a bad thing if I say, took a character's title or look from a YouTube video or a book?

Answer: It's OK as long as it's not a complete imitation and it's not obvious you copied. Inspiration is everywhere!

Question: I am writing a book with the special powers plot. Should I make their powers restricted at some points to not make it cliché?

Answer: Powers are diverse, but you should definitely have some restrictions. What are the limitations of their powers? What does using their powers cost? What do they wish they could do with their powers but can’t? Create a rules system and use it.

Question: I’m writing a fantasy story and I’m really struggling with what to do with my main character’s parents. I don’t know how to get my protagonist out of the house without it being too unrealistic or introducing some other lame cliche. Can you please give me some advice?

Answer: There are a lot of things you can do with parents. Write a backstory for each of them. What are their personalities like? What is their relationship like - are they happily married and in love, or is there relationship strained and close to divorce? Are they similar or very different? How did they meet? How long have they been together? Does your main character prefer one parent over the other? Which one is stricter? Which one is more laid back? How do they react to what your main character is doing?

Parents are characters too, so they need to have their own personalities, stories, and goals. Start brainstorming!

Question: My main character knows she is sort of good looking, but can pick out her faults. Is this okay?

Answer: Yes, of course. Sounds like a well-rounded character!

Question: I like to write a lot of stories, but the problem is that I can think of what I want the story to be like, but I don't know how to make that happen. Could you please give me some tips?

Answer: If you have story ideas, make plans for the beginning, middle, and end, character profiles, and notes on the world, lore, etc. Then write the first draft. The chapters might be all over the place, the writing quality will need editing, but the first draft will be done. Then read it through; perhaps you'll come up with ideas for more scenes or feel you want to change things. When you've fixed those and organised your chapters, you'll have your second draft. When you're happy with what you've got, it's time for editing, tightening up your writing, and making final changes. Then you'll have a story!

Question: My heroine doesn’t have superpowers but other characters in the story do. Would that make her boring?

Answer: Absolutely not! People don’t need superpowers to be interesting!

Question: I want to make a strong, tomboy heroine. How do I do this without being cliche?

Answer: Give her flaws and fears. Make her likable rather than just a cardboard cut-out of “tough and fearless.” Make her strong in the way that she’s brave and selfless and does the right thing in the face of adversity.

Question: The main character starts off on the "good side", then later turns to the "bad side" when her best friend was murdered by them because she betrayed them. The main character then goes on a mission to get revenge but regrets this later. How can the main character go back to the "good side" without it seeming weak?

Answer: Having a character get blinded by emotion and bad choices is fine because it makes them more human. A hero who is constantly good is boring. Maybe someone close to her or an event she sees happen before her eyes can wake her up and help her see that what she’s doing is wrong.

Question: I don't want people to dislike my main character, but I want her to seem human. I don't want her to be that brave and often feel conflicted. She holds grudges and has a lot of issues. So, how do I make her a likable character without her seeming annoying?

Answer: Give her redeemable qualities. She could be empathetic towards people and their problems. She could see the best in everybody. Think about your friends, family members you love. What is it about them that you like?

Question: I am using various clichés: the mentor, the overlord, the medieval European setting, and artifacts that actually lead to the superpowers cliché. But I have many different twists and tweaks on all of these, like making the mentor an easily flustered army general, giving the villain a good backstory/motive, and making the artifacts very difficult to find. Is this stuff still too cliché?

Answer: I wouldn't know without actually reading your book. A lot of stories have these tropes yet can still be great books if they're told well and have some twists and turns we aren't expecting.

Question: I really like fantasy stories and I try to write some on my own but I noticed that lots of my stories are in the medieval Europa and the lots of the main characters are orphans. I don´t want to change the stories but is there a chance to save the stories from the clichés?

Answer: Change up the world. Think about clothing, architecture, the weather, etc, and what you can change to make it unique. Think of good reasons why your characters are orphans. Maybe in that world, many children were left parentless because of a war, famine, or some other problem that wiped out a lot of adults. If you try to answer the “why” questions of your worlds, you can make them much richer and believable.

Question: I want to introduce plot twists using side characters that alternate between "good" and "bad" but I'm not sure how to begin the stages of said plot twist. Any ideas?

Answer: Most plot twists have small hints at the beginning so that when the twist is revealed, people can think, "of course! It was in front of me the whole time!" You have to feed your readers tidbits of information (but not so much that they can guess what's coming.) Another way to write a good plot twist is to leave "bait" - make your readers guess what's coming but actually, it's something else.

Question: My main character is one of the "evil" people in my story. Though I want her to end up being on the side of "good" without destroying my "evil" character. How to I change my main character from bad to good?

Answer: Have her motivation be changed. What does she want out of life? Once her goal is the same as the good characters', she'll end up being on the side of 'good.' She could also see the error of her ways. Try reading or watching other things where bad characters turn good for ideas.

Question: My character is an orphan, but she never had parents. How could I explain this, and is this too cliché?

Answer: Why is she an orphan? You could have a back story or a reason as to why she doesn't have any family. This could give your story a unique spin.

Question: I'm writing a fantasy story but I don't know when to set it. How do I choose a time period that is unique?

Answer: If you're basing it on a real time period, it's probably not going to be unique. You could try making your own world with its own rules instead of basing it on real life. Think about things like weather, terrain, natural dangers, wildlife, etc.

Question: How can I introduce my world to the reader without info-dumping?

Answer: Introduce it gradually via dialogue and bring it up when it’s relevant. Show, don’t tell. For example, instead of a long paragraph about the world, start with an action scene. One book I read showed the reader that the city was poor by describing the homeless, having a noble talk about the poor prisons, etc.

Question: Is using name stereotypes a good, or bad thing? For example, I want to call a character Scarlett, but when I picture the character I see a black hair and a devious personality.

Answer: I don't think names are really cliche, unless perhaps you count a butler being called Jeeves or a dog being called Spot. Scarlett is a nice name; there's no reason to not use it if you like it.

Question: I have a villain (actually more like anti-hero) whose personality I developed to the point where he could be a very real human. And I realized that I haven't done the same for my main character. I know there's the "every great hero needs a great villain" thing, but the villain ended up being too great compared to the protagonist. Any tips?

Answer: There's nothing wrong with having a great villain. There are many stories where the villain was actually more liked than the hero! For example, the Joker in the Batman movie The Dark Knight is often considered a better character than even Batman himself. As long as the villain is evil enough where the reader is still hoping for the hero to succeed, no harm done. You could make some similarities between the hero and villain but have it where the hero made different (and better) decisions towards a better way of life.

Question: I can't seem to fathom any possible opposition to the heroine in my story except for a dark force or something like that and I'd rather not delve too deep into politics. So what should I do?

Answer: Focus on your main character and all the things that have happened in her life. What kind of enemies could she have made who end up being the main antagonist? What is the goal of your antagonist? Money and world domination are up there with the cliches. Are they a monster? Did they used to be good or become bad? Are they really bad at all or just damaged or are doing evil for the right reasons, like the Sandman in Spider-Man 3 when he was robbing banks to pay for his daughter's cancer treatment? The possibilities are endless!

Question: My character has a mythical familiar due to being in the royal bloodline. Is that OK? He isn’t the only one with a mythical familiar; his family and other royal families have them.

Answer: Sounds cool! Doesn't sound cliche to me.

Question: My two main characters loathe their parents because they gave them up because they were different. Though in the end, my main character decides not to be vengeful. This seems incredibly cliché to me. So how do I make it less, or not at all cliché?

Answer: You could have one or both the parents appear in the story. Maybe they feel bad for abandoning their child and want to make it up to them somehow, either by providing them with money or what they need or by being a silent helper in the background - getting them out of prison, sending them an item they need, etc. I couldn't suggest more without knowing more about your story.

Question: I'm thinking of making one of my characters quote songs, am I allowed to do that?

Answer: It’s ok as long as you explicitly say where the song is from. You have to say the s artist at least. There are plenty of books with lyric references in them. You just have to make sure it’s clear who you’re referencing.

Question: My villain definitely falls into the “dark lord” cliche mentioned. How can I make it more original?

Answer: Give him a good backstory and a personality other than “I want to rule the world.” For example, why is he “evil,” what’s his reasoning for behaving the way he does, and what kind of childhood did he have?

Question: I am making black magic not that evil and white magic not as good as it seems. Is this ok?

Answer: Yes, I think it’s ok!

Question: What if my character ends up orphaned by the circumstances of war? Like before the end of the war the mother dies and in another situation, his father's death is caused?

Answer: If the circumstances are interesting and/or unavoidable, it's OK. This article isn't saying that your character must absolutely not be an orphan, but its execution must be believable.

Question: Is it cliche to make one of my characters a spy for the enemy? Also is it cliche if I make two characters who are best friends fall for each other?

Answer: Friends falling for each other does happen a lot in books, but any stereotype can be used well to make it more interesting. A spy twist is always fun too, just be sure to foreshadow enough, yet not give it away too soon so your readers are shocked at the twist!

Question: My main character fights against the police to keep a potentially dangerous creature. Should she do it fiercely, with cunning points and insults? Or should she be more of a beggar, who is too weak to think of anything? Or a bit of both?

Answer: That depends entirely on her character. If you don’t know how she’ll react to situations, then you might need to spend more time developing her personality so you’ll know immediately how she’ll respond to what’s happening around her.

Question: I'm thinking of a novel that starts in Victorian England. The characters will find their way into a different magical dimension, but I haven't been able to start the book doe to the fact that I can't think of a good way to start it. How do I write a good first line and begin?

Answer: If you know the earliest possible scene for your story, start there. You can figure out the very first scene later. Maybe have something that links with something that happens later, or look at the first page of some of your favourite books for ideas. What hooked you to the last book you read?

Question: I too want to write in medieval Europe, because it’s about an arthurian legend when he comes back. How can I stay true to some of the legend without falling into overused tropes?

Answer: It’s ok to write about medieval Europe if it’s historical fantasy. You’ll need to do some research on what life was like back then. For fantasy with completely made up worlds, it’s a little cliche to fall back to a 1700s England setting, for example, but if it’s historical it’s not made up.

Question: I have a lot of magical artifacts in my novel series, with the first being introduced in book 1. Throughout the series, the characters realize there are others out there that they must find before the bad guys do. Does this sound too cliche?

Answer: Not sure about cliche, but it's not a super original idea. It sounds like the plot of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"! Any cliche or unoriginal idea can be good if used well.

Question: My main character is an immortal demon who wanted to kill the gods and wipe out humanity before he was banished by the remaining gods. His memory was wiped when he escaped his prison, remaining in human form and believing he's human. He has to battle himself from the past to stop his old demon self from killing the supreme gods. How do I do this without so much cliché?

Answer: The key to avoiding cliches is to identify them and know what to do instead. List the things you find cliche in your story and figure out a way to turn that cliche onto its head or do something unexpected that your readers won't see coming.

© 2018 Poppy

Comments

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on April 21, 2020:

I don't think twins is cliche. A set of older twins who were mischievous would be cliche!

G on April 20, 2020:

The prophecy is kind of an annoying one. Harry Potter is a really awesome series, but it would have been so much better without the whole prophecy thing. I love her as an author, and she's part of the reason why I started writing. I'm 13, and I am almost finished my manuscript, and I'm getting ready to look into publishing companies. I have something in my story that I'm scared might be seen as a little overused. The main characters are twins. They weren't seperated at birth, and there's no prophecy about them, but I don't want people to look at my story and go "Oh look, another dumb story about twins." Is this too cliche? If you think them simply being twins would turn away people, I could change it so one is older.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on March 11, 2020:

No, because it doesn't make him an orphan.

Lucy on March 10, 2020:

My character is an orphan in a way, but it's because his parents turned him away, not because they died/were killed. They abandoned him. Is this a cliche?

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on March 09, 2020:

It isn't cliche.

Ricardo on March 09, 2020:

one of the protagonists has a skill (which the vast majority of young people have) but he is discovered during puberty (unlike the other boys who get their powers in childhood), but the boy lived alone with his mother because his two brothers and father are on military missions away from the city, so their mother has to fight and use her skills against the city leader to decide if her son leaves another city for training or stays with her (in the end her mother loses the fight and that's when the story begins). How original or cliche is that?

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on March 08, 2020:

No, that's not cliche!

Unknown on March 08, 2020:

Is it cliche to have a outlaw knight who was framed and must go into hiding.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on March 05, 2020:

I don't think it's cliche, it's a cool idea!

No Name09 on March 04, 2020:

So I’m writing a story about an orphan. The timeline and multiverse was breached and his parents and others were sucked in. They were forgotten, he thought they got into a car crash and died, he just didn’t remember. Is this cliche?

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on February 28, 2020:

You were only ten years old, it's understandable! There's nothing wrong with cliches if you're just writing for fun or yourself. Don't censor yourself. This is mostly for people who want to go into publishing.

Everly Alyssa West on February 28, 2020:

So I was looking back and found the remnants of the fist story I ever tried to write when I was about 10. It had the prophecy, the special powers, the dark lord, the powerful artifact, the training, the wise mentor, the surprise royal, and the chosen one. I kid you not.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on February 27, 2020:

Hi Gemma! Well I'd suggest doing some research on how to write well. There are many helpful websites with free information. Secondly you need a solid story and great characters. Never give up! I hope you write some great stories!

Gemma on February 26, 2020:

Hi! I'm a soon to be fantasy author and I am only in 5th grade. Do you have any advice for me so my novel can be smashingly awesome, adventurous and most important of all : teach my classmates that imagination is important when writing a fantasy novel series???

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on September 28, 2019:

Haha, well J.K. Rowling is successful!

She also had a great gift of turning cliches on their heads. Witches using broomsticks? She made Quidditch. Potions and magic spells? They became school subjects. Rowling is actually a fantastic example of taking stereotypes and creating something new from them.

John on September 24, 2019:

Interesting. Have you shown your list to J.K. Rowling?

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on August 14, 2019:

Hi, Taylor. As the article says, the tropes shouldn't be banned or avoided completely, and if they're given interesting characteristics or back story, they're perfectly fine.

Taylor on August 12, 2019:

I agreed with a lot of this list, but you could argue some of them are borderline expected tropes. Take the "Wise Old Mentor" cliche for example. Yes, it's overused, but I believe that as long as you use said mentor correctly and give him/her a defining feature or two, it's a pleasent plot device to have this particular brand of character.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on August 04, 2019:

Finding out you're an heir isn't always a cliche, but it might be easy for your readers to guess if the main character's sister is the queen.

Silver on August 04, 2019:

One of the characters in a series my friend and I are writing is the prince of the magical yokai foxes, or kitsune/nogitsune. However, his sister is already High Queen. He finds out that he is the heir in chapter 58 of the first book. Is this too cliché or is it fine?

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on July 09, 2019:

It doesn't really sound cliche at all. No story is completely original, but yours sounds just fine. What kind of powers do they have?

Sarrah on July 09, 2019:

I am writing a novel that is based in a different world. My main characters are twins that have to see their parents get kidnapped and need to find them while discovering that their life is basically a lie. They do have powers but have never known about it. Does any of that sound like a cliche? If it is, do you have any ideas on how I can avoid them?

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on June 03, 2019:

Hi! Thank you for commenting. Special powers is completely fine, you don't have to delete or avoid it if it's an essential part of your story. As long as the character has weaknesses too, special powers can definitely be interesting and exciting.

Kylynn Irving on June 03, 2019:

Hello! Thank you so much for this! I started writing my fantasy novelette and realised that I had so much of the cliches! What should I do to change the special powers cliche?

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on April 18, 2019:

Thank you, Penny!

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on April 18, 2019:

Hi! Thank you for commenting. You simply need to have explosive storylines and action from page one. I completely understand the "wait for it, it gets better" mentality, but unfortunately people won't read books these days unless they grab them from the very first paragraph.

Arthur Salomoncyk on April 16, 2019:

Great article. I constantly attempt to always go the opposite direction from expectations within the confines of a solid storyline. In other words, not simply for effect but as somewhat of a misdirection from where the story plans to go.

That said, I've really been struggling with my latest story. I lay out just about every trope there is, right up to the point of nonsensical motivations. I worry it may alienate potential readers who could truly appreciate the originality of my characters that seem, on the surface, to be everything they've seen before.

To make matters worse, my revelation arc doesn't even engage until about 30 chapters in. I'm sitting on an egg with contents that truly have never been seen before but I just don't think I can convince the reader to travel with us to find out what's in it. Additionally, there's just no whiff of an egg, just a formulaic travel fantasy with an almost absurd end-goal.

Thankfully, the goal is never reached as the story explodes open just prior to destination. All my characters have deep, believable motivations yet will absolutely come across as paper thin; indeed, it's actually required by the story for them to be paper thin throughout.

Am I going to lose my thoughtful readers? They won't be interested in a trip to the fireworks factory and the type of reader that would enjoy that tale are going to certainly be confused as to why the book doesn't end at the fireworks factory.

How can I play tropes to dupe my reader without losing them as they dismiss my opening salvo as a trope?

Penny Leigh Sebring from Fort Collins on April 16, 2019:

Creative ideas can easily become boring when they are overused. Thanks for the run-down!

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on January 05, 2019:

You’re welcome, Bushra! Thank you so much for commenting.

Bushra Ibrahim from Decatur on January 05, 2019:

This article was great, I love reading things when people point out the flaws in mainstream writing. Admittedly, I have done this a couple times, but I am on the path of fixing them so hopefully, they can be avoided. Thank you for writing this!

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on December 20, 2018:

Oh dear! I'm sure it's still good though :) Thank you for commenting.

Marsha Blevins from WV on December 20, 2018:

Ah! Dang it! --raises a guilty hand-- Yep, I've done a few of these. Nice list, Poppy! Thanks for the insight.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on December 17, 2018:

Haha it’s okay, I’ve used a lot of them too. You know your books aren’t cliche at all!

JMD Reid on December 17, 2018:

NOOOOOO!!!!!!! I used some of these. Nice article, Poppy!

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on December 16, 2018:

Thank you! I also read a lot and definitely come across narrowing eyes often. The same with biting lips, furrowing eyebrows, and burning cheeks!

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on December 16, 2018:

Intriguing! I wish you all the luck in the world with it.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on December 16, 2018:

Thanks Liz. You might notice these cliches in YA novels in particular.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on December 16, 2018:

I'm not a fantasy writer, but I'm an avid fantasy reader, so I looked for your points in some of the books I've read in the last couple of years. I take advantage of Kindle Lending Library books (read one free book per month). In that group, the Chosen seems to always be the hero. I hadn't thought about it before, but it does get old.

Poppy, you know something else that gets old? (I may be giving you a topic for another article on writing.) It's the old cliche: His eyes narrowed. Her eyes narrowed. The dog's eyes narrowed. Everybody's eyes narrowed to express anger or anything but joy. This appears in every genre, especially romance books that I normally don't read unless I'm desperate. So puleeze, fellow writers, avoid this old cliche. I've almost put books down that overuse it.

Mamerto Adan from Cabuyao on December 16, 2018:

Thanks! About a boy who sees strange markings on his skin after a lightning strike. It's up to him to decode what the markings mean.

Liz Westwood from UK on December 16, 2018:

This a thoughtfully written guide. It makes me more aware of the cliches out there.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on December 15, 2018:

Very cool, Mamerto! What’s it about?

Mamerto Adan from Cabuyao on December 15, 2018:

I'm actually working on a fantasy novel right now. Thanks for sharing this!