Screw the intro! I’m jumping straight into the blog!
Avoiding Fantasy Cliches 101
Step 1: If you are an up and coming fantasy author, take the following list of words out of your writing as of this moment unless you’re speaking about them ironically: elves, dwarfs, fairies, fae, orcs, trolls, goblins, magic swords, magic spells, wizards, witches, magic horse, curses, AND ESPECIALLY…Dark Lord. Yes, you can keep dragons. Their sheer awesomeness has kept them from becoming a cliches except for the slaying them for some chick part and this nifty little list to also avoid: Dragon Rider, Dragon Keeper, Dragon Dancer, Dragon King, Dragon Queen, Dragon Prince, Dragon (Royal Anything), Dragon Slayer, Dragon Stealer, Dragon Tamer, Dragons vs (ANYTHING), King of the Dragons, Sword of the Dragons, Slayer of Dragons, (ANYTHING) of the Dragons, and yes, that includes Double Dragon. Does any of these titles sound interesting? They should because more than half of the list is available on Amazon. So before you continue, get those words out of your writing. And if you don’t agree with me this is obviously not the blog for you. I’m not here to teach you how to be another Tolkien clone. There’s another blog for that. If anything I’m trying not to make more Tolkien clones. The world has more than enough.
Step 2: Avoid obvious cliches such as: the wizard who kidnaps a young farm boy or the dark lord who slaughters the hero’s parents so they have to live with their aunt and/or uncle who either terrible and live (Harry Potter) or are wonderful so one or both aunt and uncle are killed. (Spiderman, Star Wars). Also avoid things like the sword from the father, the ring from your mother, the magic sword that can do anything, and the plucky princess who can take care of herself but constantly needs the male lead to save her.
Step 3: This is a little trickier but try and avoid slant cliches. Slant Cliches aren’t exactly like normal cliches in that they’re glaringly obvious that you can easily think of several examples off the top of your head. Slant cliches are there but they’re not as obvious and their either in danger of becoming a cliche or they happen so often in so many different stories that they’re cliches but they tend to do undetected. One example is, hero loses a body part. Whether that body part is a hand or an arm or a leg or an eye or all of the above, during either a long first story or the second or third book, depending on the length of the series, the hero loses something very important and must learn to cope. I’m not saying this can’t be done right but sooooo many people do it wrong. There’s either obvious foreshadowing or zero foreshadowing, and the hero never seems to complain that the very important limb they lost is gone. The character tends to just move on and only mentions the issue in passing. Other slant cliches include overly family plots such as the king is murdered and the entire kingdom falls into turmoil as several successors fight for the throne or the bad guy and good guy are actually related or the good guy starts fighting along side the bad guys until he meets some woman who’s with the good guys so he betrays the bad guys and becomes a good guy or good guy is cursed or poisoned and he needs to cure himself before time runs out. Do these sound like good story ideas? They should be. They’ve already been written and rewritten. I’m not saying that they’re aren’t a few more good if not great stories hidden behind these cliches but they reason why they’re called slant cliches is the fact that when start using them, they have a very bad habit sliding into regular old boring cliches. My advice is to think of the most unique and interesting story you can. That way you have a better chance of avoiding cliches.
Step 4: As much as I hate doing this, because it generalizes too much, but I found that it has helped me as well as a few friends of mine. Take the list of cliches I’ve given you or make up your own. Look at each word on the list. Make up another word to describe the cliche word, and finally give three reasons why it’s NOT like the cliche it started out to be.
Example: Orc – Koloss – Unlike orcs they have blue skin, they range in size from 5 feet to 15 feet and their skin is either very tight or very loose depending on how big or small they are. This example is from Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy
Another Example: Vampire – Half-Breed – Unlike Vampires, Half-Breeds aren’t immortal but have incredible longevity. If left alone, a Half-Breed can live to be as old as 250. Half-Breeds drink blood, not to sustain themselves like vampires but to use magic. While traditional Vampires limit their blood consumption to humans, Half-Breeds only consume the “magic blood” of people called Mages (NOT WIZARDS!). Unlike most traditional Vampire victims, almost all Mages are trained assassins, can use magic without drinking blood and therefore, very hard to kill. If I have to explain where this example came from, you obviously don’t know me well enough.
Take Care, happy writing and I’ll see you next week. Thanks for reading.