Story Within a Story– you all know I’m a sucker for this one.
Second Chance Romance– there’s something really cute about getting a do-over and fixing past mistakes.
Stuck Together- not to be confused with the isolation trope, which I also love 😉 I just adore when characters are forced together find themselves stuck working/hanging out/locked in with someone they don’t expect and then gradually fall in love… especially if they don’t like that person to begin with!
Found Family- this one makes me melt inside! It’s so much fun when characters find each other by chance or by adventure and become a little family!
Heists– this is a newer one for me, but it’ll never get old, cos it’s so entertaining. And yes, I know I have so many more to read (*cough* lies of locke lamora *cough cough*)
Portal Worlds- this has been one of my favourites FOREVER! Portal fantasy is one of my absolute favourite settings. I like the idea of stepping into another world and leaving this one behind- kinda like reading 😉
Old-school Witches– okay, I’ll admit, any witch will do! But still, there’s something endlessly charming about the old-school, dark and twisted witches, who play with pentagrams and dodgy spells that could go very, very wrong…
The Mentor– because I nearly always end up loving them more than the main character!
That’s all for now! What do you think of these tropes? Do you like these books? And do you have any you’d recommend in these categories? Let me know in the comments!
Lately I’ve been wondering what does it take to get a load of random character traits, stir them altogether, shove them in the oven and see what comes out… Because this is the year of baking metaphors 😉 In all seriousness… this post isn’t very serious 😉 (I just wanted a fun way to talk about some character tropes I don’t like). Okay time to look at the ingredients…
Let’s start with a dusting of special snowflakery. A main character has to be good at everything… otherwise how will you know they are the main one? The best way to achieve this is to have them be the best from the very beginning (but they don’t know how great they are) because if you leave them to ferment, they might simply explode in the process! No, better to just get an instant mix of perfection. Never have them be vulnerable; always give them every ability in your world. There should be nothing they can’t do- because is the point in side characters if you can’t outshine them and how else will your readers know your mc is a badass? What’s that you’re saying? You want flaws? Oh well, if you insist…
Make them clumsy! You don’t want your character to have any character imperfections (that they can work on) so instead give them two left feet! And make sure they trip over at every opportunity. Have them be uncoordinated to the point of it being baffling, causing genuinely life-threatening scenarios. Don’t worry- this won’t come across as slapstick, because you will have a love interest darkly berating them for nearly getting everyone killed over an untied shoelace. Speaking of which- introducing…
The love-interest-appendage. This entirely makes up for your main character having no personality. This love interest should be moody, speak only in grunts, but be impossibly hot. Not sounding exciting enough? Never fear! When in doubt, make two love-interest-appendages! (this will be useful later!)
And if you need these characters to do something together or bond in anyway, you can just have them be pretentious. They can do things like recite “memorised” verses back and forth. Just pages and pages to fill with someone else’s words- because that’s how you hit the big word counts! Thus you have now given them “obscure” interests that no one else has- which is especially good if you have a female lead, cos then they are conveniently…
NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS! Oh wow- who doesn’t love this trope? This character doesn’t like “normal” girly things like clothes and makeup, cos they’re just so cool and unique. One of my favourite things to include in this trope is having them be bitchy about all other female characters- especially ones who have boobs you envy or blond hair or (*OMG*) boobs and blond hair!! Because girls that have features you envy deserve your ire and this teaches teen girls really healthy messages about how they should treat other women. Also don’t have them be friends with other women- paha! No way is this possible when there is man candy on display. Let them all claw each other’s eyes out- that’s a fun form of conflict. And on the topic of bitchiness…
Your protagonist should be nice-ty. Aka they are really quite nasty, but somehow they believe (and everyone around them believes) they’re a saint. And here’s where that love triangle gets realllly useful- because you can have them cheat on their significant other, emotionally and physically, all the while having other characters saying how sweet they are and how they’re only in this predicament because they’re so nice (barf). Who knew this dilemma came from a place of pure goodness? I’m telling you, this book is going to teach so many *positive* messages.
And when in doubt, you should add some telling into the mix. Make sure to have other characters tell how clever the main character is for instance. Don’t have them problem solve a complex test or put them in challenging situations they have to get out of- just put in that they’re a certified genius and your reader is sure to believe it!
Plus, you can blend in the fact that they’re a plain jane (/plain john). And yet everyone is falling over themselves for their god/dess-like features. Weird that!
Also, add a pinch of bad parenting. Now, I say a pinch, because I don’t just mean removing the parents from the story altogether or an example of abuse. I mean, they should be non-absentee absent parents. I know a lot of people complain about dead/missing parents- so you know what’s better? A parent that’s *right there*… buuut completely ineffectual. Somehow they managed to bring up a child to near adulthood, not letting them run into traffic etc, but at the last hurdle they seem to have just taken their foot off the brakes and don’t seem to care whether their teen lives or dies. Smart.
Mix it all together and what do you get…
Okay, just kidding! But it’s pretty close! Do you agree with me here? What ingredients would you add? Let me know in the comments!
We all have different expectations for books. Sometimes that’s more general (like good writing) and sometimes it’s a bit more genre specific. In the last few years, I’ve really changed things up and discovered a new love for psychological thrillers. And over time, I’ve realised there are really specific things that can get me revved up… or completely grind my gears. So, today I’m talking about some of those tropes I love and hate. And I’m going to do it without spoilers (the book covers don’t necessarily correlate with the list and are in a random order to avoid giving anything away!). Let’s get into it!
Thriller Tropes I Love
Secret sociopaths– one of the best things about thrillers are the bad guys. I love a lot of the villain types that come up- but do get a kind of particular pleasure when the person pulling all the sadistic strings is a secret sociopath the whole time. Bonus points if I can get inside that person’s head, which leads me onto…
Multiple POVs– I don’t always love multiple POVs in books, but it can really work in thrillers. Especially if we get inside the head of the bad guy (preferably not knowing who that is!) It’s one of the biggest pulls to the genre.
Unreliable narrators– on the topic of getting inside people’s minds, an unreliable narrator can be used very powerfully in a thriller. There are lots of different ways this can create a fascinating psychological profile and keep the reader on their toes, so most of them work for me. It’s just all about the execution.
Justified bad guy– oof this can be a masterful twist, especially if they get away with it, cos then you’re kinda rooting for it.
Person you least expect did it– this can be so much fun. I know that some people like it to be paired with justified baddie, however, cos apparently I’m a messed up individual, I actually prefer if this goes with sociopathic killers. It multiplies the creep factor for me!
Creepy kids– this is taking me back to my gothic roots and my love of Turn of the Screw. If done well, this subversion of cutesy innocence can be a killer move.
Isolated in the middle of nowhere– this also plays into the gothicy vibes I love. Not only is it a great way to build atmosphere, I also love how much it builds tension because YOU CAN’T ESCAPE!!
Dark past and buried secrets– I mean, this is pretty much a staple of most thrillers, yet I still love when the past is dug up and the truth is exposed.
Cliffhanger ending or final gut punch twist- I know a lot of people like a clean ending with everything neatly tied up… but when it comes to thrillers, I want the exact opposite. I want there to be a last second reveal that turns everything on its head and makes my stomach drop. Well, within reason. I still want it to make sense, which I guess leads me onto the tropes I don’t like.
Thriller Tropes I Don’t Like
An impossible twist– or anything really that comes out of nowhere. The worst example I’ve ever seen is in a book that thought (for some reason) it’d be a good idea to have a paranormal plot twist. Which, yeah, I didn’t see coming from a seemingly realistic thriller… but that’s also what made it really dumb. Don’t genre shift at the last second! Grr!!
*Surprise* not dead– this can also break my suspension of disbelief, cos while it happens an awful lot in thrillers, it never does in real life… so maybe it’s not the best trick to pull. Plus, I’m never keen on being robbed of an emotional moment. I guess the only way this could work is if a character was believed to be dead before the plot ever began and somehow wormed their way back into the story. I could just about get behind that.
Police procedurals– okay, this isn’t really a trope, it’s more of a subgenre, but anything in this vein doesn’t do it for me.
Clueless mc– this is probably one of my most hated tropes, because even if it helps the plot, it can be annoying to be in the head of someone really stupid. A lot of the time, if the book is otherwise well written, I can let this slide. But it will still make me dock points, because there’s only so much a person can go through before I think “wow this person has the IQ of a pigeon- and not even a smart pigeon, a stupid pigeon that keeps flying into windows” (this is why so many books involve unreliable narrators with substance abuse issues!)
Bad guy is irrelevant character– quite simply, this will spoil the fun of a good thriller. You want to feel invested and terrified of the antagonist. You don’t want to get to the end and go who?!
When the red herring was a better solution- similarly, I don’t like it when the misleading subplot would’ve been a better outcome. It’s disappointing when a writer lays down a roadmap to a really entertaining outcome… then veers off course. I end up wishing they’d taken the other route.
Agenda driven twists or plots– this is another way I’m seeing authors really spoil a dramatic plot. What makes this even worse is how heavily signposted and moralising this can be. It’s not that thrillers can’t deal with hard-hitting topics- I’ve read a number that really work. It’s that it shouldn’t take away from the thrill of a thriller. It’s supposed to keep me on the edge of my seat… not make me feel like I’m slumped over, held hostage in a lecture theatre by a crazed activist, trying to tell me something painfully obvious. Yeah, no thanks. I was reading this to be entertained.
They’re not so bad, really– this is very close to the justified killer- so it’s probably odd that it’s on the hate side. Still, I can’t help hating it when a character does something terrible and everyone in the story goes above and beyond to excuse their behaviour. There are times when this can work… and others when it can fall flat on its face. Even if a character’s justified and even if the plot demands they get away with it, I think it’s a delicate balance to reach, so I can’t stand it when characters keep going on and on and on about how the character shouldn’t be punished. I think it’s just a question of knowing when to stop.
Alrighty then- that’s all I’ve got for now! Do you love or loathe any of these? And do you have any thriller tropes to add? Let me know in the comments!
It’s nearly Halloween and- rather tangentially- that’s got me thinking about *scary* book tropes. No, not literally scary. I barely ever even read kids spooky stories. I mean, things that realllly make me break out in hives and send a shiver down my spine for all the wrong reasons. I had a good think about this, cos I didn’t want to include anything that could potentially be done well. These are the most irredeemable, the gah-why-is-this-a-thing, the KILL ME NOW tropes. That said, it goes without saying, these are my personal preferences, so if you like any of these, feel free to go on liking it *yada yada yada*. Without further ado, here’s some things that will probably (almost definitely) make me hate a book:
Stream of consciousness– this is my number one NO GO. Granted this is *absolutely* a matter of personal taste. I’ve tried loads and it never works out. I can barely ever manage to finish stream of consciousness books- let alone enjoy them. Whenever I pick something up in this style my brain just goes “lalalala not listening!” At this point, I’m genuinely frightened to pick up anything else in this style.
Stupid moralising– if you really wanna make me freak out though, just include some moralising. It’s especially scary when it comes with simple platitudes like “war is bad” and “be nice to each other”. Wowww no one could’ve figured that out unless a brave author points it out. Sometimes, this is even combined with some post-structuralist pseudointellectualism crap where the author goes on a nice nihilist rant about how nothing means anything… I could really live without it.
Bodily functions– there are some exceptions where this is acceptable (ie comedy) but basically this is a no-go. Disgusting me is a sure-fire way to put me off a book. Speaking of shit things…
Cheating Love Triangles– what’s worse than a love triangle? A love triangle that involves some kind of cheating. What’s sad is cheating is often the default in books revolving round love triangles (and why I typically hate them).
The boy/girl is a reward– people still do this in books?!? I hear you yell. Unfortunately, yes. It’s not just the failure to make the love interest an actual person, it’s the fact that sometimes this is combined with…
Miraculously escaping the friendzone– don’t get me wrong, I like friends to lovers, but when a character repeatedly says “I don’t want to be with you!” it can come off badly when they suddenly change their mind (usually for no apparent reason other than getting bored of arguing). This often ends up undermining “no means no” and I’m not a fan.
It was all a dream– I mean, what is more horrifying than getting to the end of a book and finding out it was all a waste of time? The same goes for anything else in this vein, like winding the clock back or ending up back where you started (when there’s little to no character development). But there are other *awful* ways to end a story, like…
The villain saying: “I was trying to help you all along”- ugh- surprisingly there are books that genuinely have the antagonist about-turning in the last chapter. I pretty much raged to read a story where a baddie said “you thought I was chasing you across Europe? Noooo I was trying to warn you about the other guy stalking you!” (a banana goes to anyone who knows what book I’m referring to 😉 )
This entire book was setup for the next one! Yeahhh there are certain authors who think it’s a good idea to write an *ENTIRE BOOK* that has no plot of its own and to prep you for the sequel. Then, they go and stick a cliffhanger in to get you to tune in next time for an actual story… maybe… (it’s scary how often I’ve fallen for this trick!) There’s only one thing worse…
Amnesia– I hate when characters- particularly protagonists- get amnesia. It basically allows the author to repeat entire storylines/romances/character development. It’s so lazy and you end up with an entirely recycled story. So yeah, at the risk of repeating myself, I hate amnesia in books.
So, what are your thoughts on these? And what tropes or writing styles will instantly put you off a book? Let me know in the comments!
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!
*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 😀
Dragons– 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!
Cool 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.
Antagonist 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…
The *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 😉
Quests! 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!!
Going 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.
Mysterious 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…
Ghosts 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.
All 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!
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:
Gotta admit, this was the easiest category to do- there are just so many!!! And I love them all!! (most of the time 😉 )
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 😉
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!
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 😉 )
#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!
#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!
#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…
#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…
#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).
#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 😉 )
#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!
#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)
#9Dark 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.
#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!
#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!
Ever wonder how cliche fantasy books get written? Well wonder know more, because this is the ultimate guide for writing the WORST fantasy novel imaginable! Enjoy!
Before we get started we need a prologue about *mysterious forces* at work. It must be overladen with plenty of pathetic fallacy- make sure that wind roars and rain falls- you set that tone! Please note that this can’t have any actual bearing on the plot, because that would be daft. Instead, let’s flashback 10000 years, before the dawn of mankind, to where a magical talking rook-creature-thing lived. There- that seems sufficiently random and obscure. Now we can forget all about that and get to the actual plot…
Welcome to the village of Farplace where nothing ever happens and say hello to this random farmhand Nut M Portant (Nut for short). He doesn’t have many hobbies, except horse riding, being the only person around who practices sword fighting with a staff, and visiting the old guy with the long white beard who lives on the edge of the village (watch out- he’s gonna be important). Also he spends a lot of time complaining how bored he is.
But then!- lo and behold- something dark and evil and wolflike (but with a human voice for convenience sake) comes to the village late at night and kills the Nut’s father, who, with his dying breath tells him to go to the old guy for help. It turns out that old guy is an important wizard known as The Last Wizard Standing (didn’t see that plot twist coming, did you?).
Yet Last Wizard is not feeling particularly helpful right now. He sends Nut on his way *immediately* without giving him any information or guidance, just an old sword.
Also at the same time an elven woman with an unpronounceable name (something like llwellgenlle). She’s from an order of Only Women-No Men Allowed (seriously keep out!) comes to the village seeking the slayer of the wolfthing (shall we just call Swargs- from the old tongue title meaning It’s A Warg- and be done with it?) She’s totally not allowed relations with ANY MAN- which means she’s perfect for a prospective love interest.
Nut runs into said love interest just as he’s coming out of Last Wizard’s hut. He is instantly struck by her beauty. Conveniently- for the sake of the plot- a Swarg pounces just as they cross paths- but Nut really easily smites the beast! (very important to note here Nut’s amazement as he’s never handled anything more than a practice sword before). The female falls into his arms in a swoon.
“Hail fair maiden, I thee help!” he says to her (note: always mess up the syntax for conversations- we don’t want the dialogue to be too comprehensible).
She responds in her native tongue (he understands- naturally- even though till now he’s only spoken “common”- keep up!) (any and all translations must be done by the reader using the helpfully provided dictionary in the glossary)
“Ah fair maiden!” Nut goes on in common, for the reader’s sake. “Never fear- I have thee saved, thou wilst now be my love interest and have no need to speak at all, except for the occasional incomprehensible word, you are most welcome.”
Last Wizard comes out of his house and applauds. “That was all a test- congratulations!- you’re not dead- that means you passed!”
Yay! That’s a relief, isn’t it? As we let that sink in, Last Wizard explains that he has some very important information (though he’s shaky on the details cos *reasons*) pertaining to a quest because of a prophecy that he can’t remember the exact details of…
“Prophecy? What prophecy?” Nut asks, emboldened by Last Wizard Standing’s words.
“Prophecy- oh er- mumble bumble… Yes it’s important… but I think the soup’s burning…”
Okay so that’s enough explanation. I think it’s a good time for the Priestess/Elf/Love Interest to announce she was looking for him too- so she’s joining the quest as well. And it’s probably a good time to infodump about why she thinks it’s important to save the world- something about the trees talking and the origins of Village Farplace came and some crucially-non-crucial stuff about magical creatures… (be sure to include as much of your world-building notes as possible here- you never know how many opportunities you’ll get and you must make the most of every. single. one.)
Alrighty then, time for the quest! Make sure to bring this forgetful wizard along for the ride, but make sure he forgets anything expedient when asked and only use his powers when you’ve written yourself into a particularly tight scrape you can’t get out of with logic (it happens). You now have the perfect plot-foil. You’re welcome 😉
Where are we going? Who knows! How long will it take to get there? Doesn’t matter! Just make sure to include these landmarks on the journey:
A secret cache of weapons in a not-at-all well-hidden tomb (make sure to describe weaponry and helms in excruciating detail)
A very beautiful, peaceful place they can rest (but not live in permanently) that’s home to the elves- preferable to visit after a run-in with some more swargs and norcs (not orcs- keep up!)
An inn where they drink yummy yummy mead (actually I have had this at a fair once and can confirm it’s pretty darn good, so I get why people in fantasy drink it now, but I digress…)
A place where “natives” live- description is blanked out for offensiveness (no I didn’t actually write this bit, what do you take me for?) Here they learn important *lessons* they never thought they would from *insert ambiguous term* people.
You can also pad out this section with creatures like: A dragon with a hoard, some friendly dwarves, sex goddesses, a thieves guild, a rebellion, goblins, riddlers, ents, basically anything from Tolkien you’ve not managed to rip off yet.
Please insert intermittent exposition because, as the author, I’ve done all this work on the world building and you need to hear all of it damn it!
Finally they arrive in scary, scary Ochaye- which is supposed to be the villains’ lair, but this early into the story you’ll only get a projection of him. We have the opportunity to drop lots of very mysterious truth bombs like “I killed your parents… something… lost prince… something something… chosen one.”
That sort of thing- make sure it whets the appetite, but doesn’t actually reveal anything too expedient this early in the story. Oh- did I mention- this is obviously going to be the start of a series (of an indeterminate number of books). But don’t worry- you won’t get a sequel for years cos this is a fantasy… Annnd I’m leaving it there. The projection of the baddie disappears in a cloud of smoke. I’m sure I’ll continue this one day, but in typical fantasy fashion I’m gonna go focus on writing something else now. (Maybe an anthology of all the backstory I couldn’t squeeze in…)
Voila- you now have a terrible fantasy novel! Leave it for three years, let your readers stew, and come back when they’ve lost interest.
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?
Dragons 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.
Mr 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)
“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.
Needless 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…
Pointless 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)
Ripping off Tolkien– do I need to explain why this is bad? Before people get mad, I will say that borrowingis 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…
The *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*.
The 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…
The *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?!?
The 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.
The “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!
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…
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.
*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!
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.
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.
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!