TROPES AND TRAPS – Avoiding Cliché in Fantasy Writing

It’s tricky to balance writing originally while still pleasing readers. If a fantasy author does this right, they’ve made magic.

But it isn’t easy. Fantasy readers generally like more of what they’ve liked in the past, so an author needs to 1) be aware of the genre’s tropes and 2) include at least some of them in their novels.  

‘Trope’ is defined variously, but its meanings include a theme or a pattern typical of a literary genre. A trope can be a useful device for a writer to anchor the reader in a story; it’s a touchstone that reassures said reader that what they’re reading contains familiar and treasured elements. As such, tropes needn’t be clichés, but sometimes they are.  

We’ve all read fantasies where ‘hunky werewolves chase sexy vampires through the nighttime streets of a darkened city under the diamond bright, pitiless stars’ or where ‘a seemingly normal, yet plucky individual turns out to have wondrous magical powers and is somehow chosen for a horrendous epic quest’. Want more? Google ‘fantasy literary clichés’ and hundreds appear.    

Gosh, how does the fantasy writer respect the genre’s tropes and keep an audience while dodging the worst of these hoary chestnuts? It ain’t easy, but part of the answer involves working to develop an individual voice and seeking to be creative about which tropes to use (and which to ignore) and then how to assemble the selected tropes into a compelling narrative. Every fantasy author consciously or unconsciously confronts these choices. And there’s a better chance of success by being conscious and thoughtful in making the selections.

A future post will look at one of my novels, THE LORDS OF THE SUMMER SEASON (Amazon link: ), as a case study to probe what tropes – for better or worse – I used or snubbed.

You’re welcome to use Amazon’s ‘look inside’ function to check out the first 20 pages of THE LORDS OF THE SUMMER SEASON for free. Also, please consider ‘liking’ this post and/or following this blog.

(image from Willgard Krause from Pixabay)

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