Fantasy Tropes I Love

 

orangutan list

Poor old genre fiction is often maligned- even by me 😉 Too often I talk about the downsides of tropes and themes I don’t like- so today, since I’ve got a lot of my Moaning Minnie opinions out of my system, I thought it would be fun to talk about some fantasy tropes I actually love!

hermione witch magic gif*Magic*- especially if there’s too much of it!! Which may sound weird to everyone- cos either you think like me “can there BE too much magic?!” or you think “welllll there are limits”. For me there are no limits! I’m always willing to suspend my disbelief for fantasy and this will always make me excited 😀

rhaegal dragonDragons– all the DRAGONS!! Now, I will admit, I’m a bit more discerning when it comes to dragons- as I said in my least favourite fantasy tropes post I won’t just settle for any old dragon. Still, that comes from a place of love, because I can’t really say it enough: dragons are my favourites!

 

Cgadget manool gadgets/magical artefacts– similar to the dragons, I’m not always into magical gizmo fixes all the problems/needs to be destroyed in order to save the world. That said, I do get a thrill when little magical objects find their way into the story and are shown off in a James-Bond-gets-his-gadgets kind of scene. 

zukoAntagonist turned ally– I just love redemption arcs. So, whether it’s an enemies to lovers twist, or an antagonist turned ally, I am super on board for this trope!! At the same time, I wouldn’t say no to… 

 

walder freyThe *just deserts* being served– as much as I love villains learning the error of their ways, I also enjoy them being punished just as much. Especially cos not all villains are created equal and sometimes it’s satisfying to see the Walder Freys of stories being served their own sons, Titus Andronicus style 😉

questQuests! A huge part of the fantasy genre is the hero’s journey and what better way to get them started than sending them off on a literal journey?! While I think this can easily go wrong or be done badly, I can still be tempted by a jolly jaunt into fantasy land. For me, this will never get old!!

 

Mirkwood_Peek_01Going into the *wilds* and coming back transformed– this is an age-old trick in folklore, which Tolkien drew on and famously made a part of the genre. It’s very typical to read a fantasy novel where the main character ventures out into the unknown (most often represented as forests) and learns something dark and twisted about the world or themselves. It’s a stalwart part of the genre- and I can’t get enough of it.

got-credits-picMysterious libraries/castles/schools– naturally, adding magic can make the mundane more special- who knew? 😉 Seriously though, some locations blend better into the fantasy realms. Personally, I really appreciate when buildings are transformed into something creepier and more enigmatic. Speaking of which…

casperGhosts and necromancy– blame Garth Nix’s Sabriel for cementing my love for this one 😉 Funnily enough, I’m easily creeped out, yet I still firmly believe the ability to bridge the divide between life and death is one of the best things about fantasy. It’s such a great opportunity to explore interesting and unearthly themes. I can’t quite get enough of fantasy books which draw up the veil and dance over this line.  

helms deep rohirrimAll hope is lost… oh no wait it isn’t! Also known as the “here comes the cavalry” twist. Maybe I’m a masochist, but I get all jittery when the author makes me truly believe we’ve reached the end of the road and then *DADA* reinforcements come at the last second.

 

And that’s all I have for now! What do you think of these tropes? Do you have any favourite fantasy motifs of your own? Let me know in the comments!

Books with Tropes I Like

 

orangutan list

So a couple of weeks back, I did a post about tropes that don’t bother me (and some I even like) and Katie @Never Not Reading requested that I do a follow up with recommendations in each of the categories. And since I am nothing if not accommodating, I obliged 😉 Althoughhhhh, I have to be honest, this might not be the most comprehensive list in the world, since a fair amount of the time I pick up books with these tropes, they disappoint. Either way, here are some books I did enjoy:

Forbidden Love

Gotta admit, this was the easiest category to do- there are just so many!!! And I love them all!! (most of the time 😉 )

Fake Dating

Ah this was the toughest. Truth be told, ever since I picked up To All the Boys, I’ve been trying to find more in this category, but a lot of them fall flat. Still, there are some good ones out there if you know where to look 😉

Enemies to Lovers

I had so many for this, but I decided to split them up so that there would be some for my other fave trope…

Secretly a sweetheart

Yeah there’s a lot of overlap with Enemies to Lovers here! These two tropes go hand in hand for a reason!

Descent into darkness

Annnd basically every other Shakespearean tragedy 😉

Redemptive arcs

This was another super popular one in classics- maybe because it is a classic! (oof- that joke was painful- I’ll see myself out)

Rags to riches/Cinderella stories

Is it just me or does this happen more in movies? I could think of a gazillion rom coms with this and for some reason it was a struggle to think of more than a few books! (I also think someone’s going to tell me at least one in the comments that I’ll be kicking myself for not remembering).

Do you like any of my recs? Or do you plan on checking any of these out? And do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

Tropes I don’t mind (and some I even like)

orangutan list

Okay, I’ll admit that title is a little misleading- cos most of these I really, really love. I just know some of these are not well liked- so please, don’t throw banana peels at me! (that’s my job 😉 )

daughter of smoke and bone#1 Forbidden Love– starting off with something nice and safe, I love the Romeo-and-Juliet style forbidden romances, especially where everything is at stake because of two characters falling in love… Alright, so not totally safe 😉 This one ties me up in knots, unravels me and makes me super invested in the story. I don’t care how much of a cliché it is- it gets me (nearly) every time!

to all the boys#2 Fake Dating– this is one of those romance themes that is becoming instabuy for me. Ever since I read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before I have been head over heels for this trope. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it, I will always go back for more!

 

 

secret countess#3 Misunderstandings– okay getting to the first controversial one. Lots of people hate this one- and believe me, I get why- the thing is… I don’t hate it. I think it’s a staple of romance for a reason, partly cos (unfortunately) it’s realistic, but mostly cos it creates tension and reasons for people not to be together, without resorting to making the love interests terrible people (aka indecisiveness, cheating, and basically most of the ingredients for a typical love triangle). Also, it nearly always gets used in one of my favourite ever tropes…

carry on#4 Enemies to lovers– I’ll admit, I’m complete trash for this one. Think Simon and Baz from Carry On– there’s a reason I keep going on about that book! This one also ties into…

 

 

court of mists and fury#5 Secretly a sweetheart– nothing melts my heart more than seeing the soft side of a supposedly hardened character. And I know it’s not always popular, but I cannot get enough of the misunderstood bad boy (important caveat that they can’t actually be an irredeemable bad guy for this to work).

 

darth vader#6 Redemption Arcs– this one can be unpopular, cos some people think it’s overdone… annnd I don’t care. Darth Vader, Snape, any other controversial redemption arc- I am *there* for it. For me, it’s a basic idea that if someone goes into the dark side, there has to be a way they can find their way back and if it’s done well nothing hits me in the gut more. More than that, I enjoy pontificating about how far a character can be redeemed (one great copout I totally approve of is for the baddie to redeem themselves and promptly die- yes, I’m sneaking in another trope that I am totally a sucker for 😉 )

the young elites#7 Descent into *DARKNESS*– kinda can’t include the redemption arc without talking about how much I love the opposite. Though this is done far less, I am so excited to read when a hero becomes a villain. Perhaps it’s because it’s like a form of *evil wish fulfilment*; maybe it’s because it’s such a fascinating way into the human mind. Either way, give me all the anti-hero story arcs please! 

game of thrones book#8 Moral ambiguity– well, if I like the last two, it stands to reason this would be on the list. Basically, I like the good, the bad and everything in between. Give me all the characters I don’t know whether to root for or simply hate (thanks GRRM)

 

 

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_Cover#9 Dark backstories- including dead parents– yes, you read that right. I’m one of those *MONSTERS* that actually appreciates when the parents are killed off before the story begins or something nasty happens in the protagonist’s past… Really though, this can’t come as so much of a surprise given how often I’ve talked about the need for darkness in books and why bad parents in books can be totally necessary. I won’t go into too much detail, as I’ve spoken at length about this before, but I personally find it can be essential to a lot of storytelling and can be an exercise in empathy for the reader.

geekerella#10 Rags to Riches/Cinderella stories– here’s another one that I cannot stop reading! Every time I see a Cinderella retelling, I pick it up. And whenever a character goes from incredibly sucky circumstances to being raised far above their station- I eat that stuff right up! I’m a glutton for this kind of narrative!

 

red sister#11 Ridiculously overpowered characters or magic systems– this one’s a weird one for me to include, cos it skirts super close to the Chosen One line- and I’ve made it pretty clear I’m not a fan of that. That said, when there’s magic in a story, I want a bit of a show. I find it so entertaining when there is endless possibility when it comes to a magic system. I love when fantasy breaks all the laws of reality. And for this to happen, it means a lot of the characters have to be able to do the impossible. I especially love it if the protagonist in the world has multiple abilities that make them stand out from the crowd- like Fitz in the Farseer Trilogy and Nona in Red Sister. It’s not just that talented characters are interesting to me, I get hyped to see what they’ll do with all that power!

So let me have it- what do you think of all of these tropes? Do you love them or hate them? And which tropes (unpopular or not) do you secretly love? Don’t be shy!

 

My Least Favourite Fantasy Tropes

So I’ve been looking at my stats for the year lately and I’ve come to the realisation that I’ve read *a lot* of fantasy in 2017. A lot a lot. And yet, as much as I clearly love fantasy, over the years there have been some sticking points for me. That’s why I thought it was about time I did a fantasy tropes post where I talk about some of the things I like least about the genre. And, just in case anyone thinks I’m going after specific authors, along with examples, I’ll be talking candidly about mistakes I made as a younger writer (though god-I-hope never anything like that last one). Let’s get started, shall we?

  1. mushu trampledDragons that are just giant lizards– or anything that tramples over dragonlore. I don’t know if I’m the only one that gets shirty about the representation of dragons in fantasy- but mannnn I’ve seen some dragons that read as stroppy teenagers (Talon), dragons that are little more than lizard people (Seraphina), dragons that can’t breathe so much as a noxious gas…. Okay maybe that last one’s not so important, yet I do have high standards for my dragons, so I’m not particularly crazy about it when they turn out to be lousy (except in discworld, where they are epically lousy). One thing I have learned is that labelling something a dragon does not make it a dragon.

 

  1. dr evil 2Mr Evil– yup one of my least favourite tropes is the obviously evil villain with zero motivations for his/her actions (oh let’s face it, it’s nearly always male) JUST GIVE THEM A GOOD MOTIVE GAH!! And make them three dimensional for heaven’s sake! Also, while we’re on the subject “born evil” doesn’t work for me- I find the best villains take a dark path by choice and have that possibility of redemption (basically Darth Vader is awesome)

 

  1. everyone i don't like is hitler“I think you’re a Nazi baby, are you a Nazi?”– Basically evil organisations that are supposed to be Nazi-esque yet aren’t all that scary or motivated by the same sort of ideas, but whatever, here’s the paraphernalia, that’ll do. This comes back to me hating lame-ass villains. I’m also not keen on the “everyone I hate is Hitler” bandwagon or hanging on the coattails of true evil to imply the baddies really are bad. It’s not good enough to just whip out the “fascist” label like in Lord of Shadows. If you wanna write a holocaust book/something really dark, go for it- no half-assed attempts.

 

  1. do you want some expositionNeedless exposition– The “I’ve done loads of work on world building so you need to read *ALL OF IT*” trope. Seriously, if it’s not plot expedient, cut it out. It’s just boring and it’s why I quit the Wheel of Time series after just one book. Which leads me onto…

 

  1. are we there yetPointless meandering about– this is what I like to call book travelling syndrome. Annnd I will admit, I coined the phrase specifically because it’s something I struggled with early as a writer (and still do to an extent). The problem arises from the simple thought process: “they’ll wander about, have adventures, it’ll be a blast”. What you end up with is not good. There are so few books that manage to pull this off (aka The Neverending Story) and yet it’s unreal how often this turns up in fantasy. I will admit, I always sympathise with the writers for this one 😉 (even if it’s still boring as eff to read)

 

  1. gollum scaredRipping off Tolkien– do I need to explain why this is bad? Before people get mad, I will say that borrowing is a natural part of writing and this is a tricky area to navigate, so take everything I’m about to say with a grain of salt. This is a question of how much does this resemble Lord of the Rings. I don’t mind the odd elf, but maybe cool it on the orcs, hobbits, dragons, dwarves, ents etc. I’ll *hold my hands up* as guilty writer again- when I first started out I had a fair number of these (this is unintentionally turning into a what-I-did-as-a-teen writer confession piece 😉 ). But I grew up and realised *whoa I can do other things*. And it’s not just the copycat creatures. I’ve read whole books where I’ve genuinely thought c’mon this is just Lord of the Rings. An original plot point or two wouldn’t hurt. Speaking of which…

 

  1. the-one.gifThe *Chosen One*– especially if there’s a prophecy attached. This is something I’m sick of most of all, because it is literally done to death at this point. It was even shoehorned into a Peter Pan movie recently and Throne of Glass looks like it’s headed in that direction. Ironically, any play on the trope and I’m instantly in love with the book (you guys know how much I love Carry On, right?). If it turns up in a serious capacity… *groan*.

 

  1. dumbledoreThe Dumbledore– every hero needs a mentor- but why-oh-why must some parents/teachers withhold vital plot information because *reasons*- even if knowing it earlier could save the hero’s life!! For some reason they figure it’s better to hear this from the antagonist or something??? I never understood this one to be honest- it seems like a pointless way to build tension- when really it could be solved by the mentor not knowing all the secrets. (And for older followers, yes, I mentioned this in my YA Tropes post– it still really bothers me). And when it comes to useless tension, there’s nothing like…

 

  1. boromir deathThe *not dead yet* trick– I have a love-hate relationship with this one, because it’s something that can work if done well (all the different narrators in Game of Thrones mean that we’re often on shaky ground when it comes to who’s alive and who’s dead) BUT I feel like this can so easily suck and is something I see overused in YA. The biggest problem is if the character doesn’t matter or if it literally showed they got a ton of arrows to chest Boromir-style and just HOW?!? 

 

  1. FrankswordThe magical sword or any magical weapon really that’s given too much power– you know, the *special* sword, or the only arrow that can possibly kill a dragon, or the one ring (okay not that last one). I actually feel bad for all the magical swords that are attached to the hero and by proxy make them look good. What gets to me even more is how often these turn up in the most convenient of places, like tombs that for some reason were never raided, even though they stood in a deserted landscape for millennia- someone clearly never looked at archaeological history.

 

  1. pocohantus savages.gifThe “oh look savages!” trope– I debated over whether/how to put this on the list- but there’s no way to sugarcoat it and you all know what I’m talking about anyway. There is some seriously dodgy stuff in old fantasy- particularly from the 80s I believe- where there’s this kind of tribal tourism going on. I want to say, in fairness to the authors, there’s often this “surprise, they’re people!” moment (no shit Sherlock) which always makes me think the authors are seriously trying to be progressive… only trouble is, it was the eighties, it’s about as progressive as a spinning wheel in the 21st century.

Okaaay on that note- do any of you agree with me? Disagree? Have any of your own hated fantasy tropes to add? Let me know in the comments!

The Worst YA Novel Plan – Ever! PART 3

And now for the grand finale… In case you didn’t catch the first and second parts, you can check them out here and here. But I don’t want to keep anyone in huge suspense- cos I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seats after the very uneventful events of book 2 :p

Book 3: The One Where Everything Is Conveniently Resolved

No one will talk to Sally after the events of the last book. And she doesn’t understand why Bad Boy Bob didn’t kill her- he’s supposed to be evil- but she won’t think about that again for at least another hundred pages- just put that in now because *foreshadowing*.

Worst of all, Harry the Hottie broke up with her- which is so unfair. And totally unjustified. I mean, she only cheated on him and betrayed him. But that’s nothing, because he didn’t pay enough attention to her. It was totally his fault that the world nearly ended. She will get mad at him instead.

That totally works- because whinging and whining always works in real life. Once she bends his ear back to make him see reason, they get back together and everything’s hunky dory again. Until…

world ending

Ahhh the sun is crashing into the earth again!! Oh no- that means I. M. Evil’s been up to no good again, everyone else forgives her too because they *need* her help. So now everyone comes grovelling to her so that they can have a war.

soldiers fighting

*Jam in more action than the last two books combined*

Oh and as they’re going off to war, “Bad Boy” Bob reveals he was on her side *the whole time*, even the times when he wasn’t, cos you know, he loves her and stuff- so that’s a relief, she can go back to liking him. Oh no wait- that’s not so good- because now she doesn’t know which one to choose AGAIN!!

In the meantime, I. M. Evil has the idea that instead of doing evil-bad-guy stuff, he will toy with the main character- just for kicks. This means capturing, torturing and releasing various characters to annoy the sh*t out of Sally. It’s like an attention seeking thing- and it will totally make sense when he reveals his big master plan. Which he does, immediately after telling everyone why he’s such a great big meanie. He has daddy issues or something. So now Sally totally relates to him- but that won’t stop her kicking his butt in the last act!

sad loki.gif

Because Sally was totally just using delay tactics to get this out of him. Now she can defeat him with her special snowflake superpower (you know, the one that was always designed to be the perfect contrast to his power). Yay, that’s convenient.

Just as they achieve this victory, Harry the Hottie conveniently dies. Also he gives Sally and Bob his blessing with his last breath.

harry death

All the mean people in the books decide to do whatever Sally suggests now she’s saved the world and they set up a nice, democratic government that will be free from corruption for all eternity. And all the minor characters pair off. Bad Boy Bob and Sally share a long awaited kiss. Aww.

kiss-emma-killian-breathe-out.gif

The End

So are you satisfied with the conclusion? Did Sally McEveryman end up with who you wanted? Was I. M. Evil sufficiently ghastly? Think this would make the worst YA novel ever? Let me know!

The Worst YA Novel Plan – Ever! PART 2

Well hello there, in case you didn’t catch my last post, I’m in the process of writing my very own *terrible* novel plan- cos it’s fun! You can read my draft for book 1 right here.

*Warning: take this seriously at your own peril!*

Book 2: The Angsty Pointless Bit In the Middle

Okay, so picking up from the last book (read my plan for that one here), Sally is trying to deal with the ABSOLUTELY-CATASTROPHIC events of the last book. Think something along the lines of dead puppies or something- basically I. M. Evil lived up to his name and did something, well, evil. Everyone is totally shocked that he would do something like that (clue is in the name people!)

*Insert a really long winded recap of book one here* Because books should never feel like there is limited space- just keep writing- we want this to be at least 100,000 words long…

tris cuts hairBeing the second book in a trilogy, not much happens. Obviously, Sally’s all grief stricken and stuff, so cue: cutting off hair to signal character development.

I. M. Evil does some mean stuff to some nice people. But who cares about that when she can’t stop thinking about Bad Boy Bob and how he may have lied about loving her. Oh and Harry the Hottie is not paying her enough attention- so that sucks. But Bad Boy Bob has been stalking her- so that’s good… I guess.

In the meantime, they join the rebels/forces that aren’t under I. M. Evil’s control. Harry the Hottie tells Sally to trust him- no he can’t just tell her what they’re up to, because *mysterious reasons*. But ughh how can Sally be expected to trust him when he’s been so distant and stuff? Instead, she will do the sensible thing, and sneaks off to meet Bad Boy Bob and steals a kiss- which is totally not wrong, because, you know, *reasons*. I mean, Harry the Hottie should’ve paid more attention- jeez!

Oh no- when she gets back people are dead. Whoops. Didn’t mean for that to happen. Obviously Bad Boy Bob betrayed her. Sally swears she will never see him again and doesn’t tell anyone the part she played in the disaster- I mean, she is still the hero and stuff- can’t have anyone losing morale or confidence in her.

tris looks in mirrorBut then bad stuff happens, Sally’s part is revealed anyway, and everyone’s mad at her. Damn it. Now no one likes her anymore and that sucks. Cue: long thoughtful gazes in the mirror to signal more character development/thoughtfulness.

Sally realises she will have to prove she is still the BIG HERO- so she dives head first into danger without thinking of the consequences and without telling anyone of course (that would mean she would have to share the glory). More bad stuff happens- because no one ever told her that never works out. Oh and she gets captured by I. M. Evil!!!

*Big show down where Bad Boy Bob SHOCKINGLY lets her go instead of killing her*

To be continued…

What do you think will happen next? Who do you think Sally will choose? And with the fate of the world in the balance- does it even matter?

The Worst YA Novel Plan – Ever! PART 1

Ever wondered how someone writes one of those dreadful YA books? You know- the kind that’s just full of all the worst tropes and clichés? So did I! To try and understand what possesses someone to commit such a heinous crime against literature, I’ve decided to put myself in the mindset of one of these criminals (*ahem, I mean “authors”*) and create my very own plan for the world’s worst YA novel- ever! And of course I’m going to overload it with all the terrible tropes from my least favourite YA tropes post. This should be fun… So let’s get started!

Book 1: Special Snowflakes and Insta-love Galore

bella swanMeet Sally McEveryman. There is absolutely nothing special about her. She is so plain, with her mousy brown hair and ordinary brown eyes. Her hobbies include doing laundry and reading books. No one could ever find her interesting or attractive, because, as I said, there’s nothing special about her… or will they?

chad michael murrayEnter Harry the Hottie. He’s an impossibly attractive male. He is just the bestest! He’s one of life’s good guys! Yay!! Obviously, he has an impossibly incredible secret, that he cannot possibly tell anyone about, because that would be bad- because, you know, reasons. But then his eyes meet Sally’s across the room and…. *INSTALOVE*!!! Ding ding ding! (Okay you get the idea, stars realign, the whole world stops, yada yada yada).

*Insert kissing montage here*

In between kissing, make sure you quote better works of fiction, so kissing seems deep and meaningful.

Oh and add *lots and lots of info-dumps* here, so now everyone is totally clued up on how the world works. No one will question any of it for the rest of the book- especially not the main character who is very understanding and accepting of all strange things. Cos that’s just how she rolls.

Suddenly Sally is thrown into a world of intrigue and danger. Because it turns out Sally is the Special Snowflake that was prophecised- who knew? What a relief, she is special after all. HALLELUJAH! Everybody do a happy dance. Okay, now she must train to save the world from the terrible *threat*

*Insert training montage here*

But oh no, just as she is trying to concentrate on the two most pressing issues in her life (the end of the world and her new boyfriend- squeal!) she meets someone who will change her perception on everything: Bad Boy Bob. Now Bad Boy Bob is not your run of the mill hero- no he’s a sarcastic, leather jacket wearing rogue. And he doesn’t agree with the Powers That Be with how they’re running things. He also doesn’t think Sally is such a Special Snowflake at all. And some generic blond mean girls agree with him. Cue: crying, lots and lots of anxious crying.

bad_boy_by_g_rape_fruit-d5y3me3Sally desperately wants to hate Bad Boy Bob, but the only issue is there is some *insane* chemistry between them (emphasis on the insane). What’s a girl to do? Treat him like a leper and ignore him or desperately try to prove herself to him and all the generic blond mean girls? You guessed it- she tries to prove herself.

The Real Look of Lord Voldemort from "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"And guess what? She manages to prove that she is the most saviour-y of the saviours. She is the Chosen One! Cue everyone’s amazing gratitude as she saves some tiny children from a burning building. Still, this won’t solve her problems- because there’s an evil villain prowling about called I-Am-The-Evil-Dark-One-Cower-In-Fear-But-Don’t-Judge-Me-It’s-Not-My-Fault-I-Have-A-Stupid-Name (I. M. Evil for short) who wants to ruin everything! Oh no!

But worse than that- Bad Boy Bob seems more appealing than ever AND he seems to be interested in her after all the saving the children thing. Which is not good- because all she wants is to be happy with Harry the Hottie- but Bad Boy Bob is incredibly distracting and sooo cute. She thinks she might love both of them. Also, destiny is telling her that one of them is her soulmate!!

*Cue angst*

Apocalypse1-630x420

Who will she choose?? Okay, the world is coming to an end (because, you know, reasons) but that’s not the most important thing happening here- seriously, we shouldn’t be concerned with the fact the sun’s gonna *literally* crash into the earth or something, nope, what we should really worry about is how this lovestruck teenager will choose between two perfectly decent guys.

I. M. Evil does some evil sh*t and kidnaps her parents or something (yes she has parents- they didn’t turn up earlier because they weren’t relevant to the plot- but turns out they knew she was the saviour all along, they just wanted to protect her from her *destiny*- keep up people). Now she has to choose between her family and the world. She can’t decide. Daddy dies. Cue: heartbreak and despair. Oh and Bad Boy Bob turns out to be her sworn enemy. So cue: double heartbreak. *Sally runs off with Harry the Hottie*

That’s basically the plot for book 1. Tune in next time to see what happens with Sally and co.