So, seeing as I did a list of my favourite fantasy tropes a couple of weeks ago, and because I can’t seem to get through a month without dishing out bile, I thought I might as well let you know fantasy tropes I hate.
Now it’s time to even the scales and hopefully, make these tropes so subconscious about themselves they cry and hopefully wet themselves.
5. Farmer to Warrior
You know what warriors or at least famous warriors all have in common? No, not loincloths. I’m talking about battlefield combat experience. You know what farmers don’t have? That’s right, combat experience, which raises the question of why so many fantasy novels have their main character able to fight warriors overnight after never picking up a sword before.
The most frustrating part is when the character goes from not knowing which end of the sword is which to defeating champions of the realm with no real explanation or reason other than ‘just because’. It just gives off the vibe that the author can’t be asked to build up the characters and just wants to get to the good stuff.
Most novels at least have the sense to show the farmer training with their mentor or give them some proficiency with weapons before they become a warrior but surely, we can just give characters more interesting backstories than farmer if we’re just going to magically give them experience without them having to earn it.
How about a pastry chef? That way they can whip up some snacks for everyone in between duels to the death.
4. Secret Royalty
Hey, have you ever thought there was something special about you like everyone else knows something you don’t?
Good news! If you’re in a fantasy world more often than not that means you’re a secret heir to whoever makes up the big ruling royalty of your world.
Because what’s cooler than having your character’s problems and struggles (you know, the interesting stuff) thrown into the trash thanks to some classic wish-fulfilment? It’s really frustrating to see interesting characters that have to overcome problems and struggles to succeed, only to have that taken away from them because as royalty they can do whatever they want without consequence.
Honest question: when has the revelation that the main character is secretly royalty ever made you feel more invested in them than you already were? Probably not, unless you inherently see those in a position of power determined by birthright to be of a higher status than everyone else (hello England!)
This trope has been done so often but it always feels half-baked and just comes out of nowhere.
3. Damsel in Distress
Princess Peach. Zelda. Daphne from Dragon’s Lair. Do you know what all these characters have in common? Their personality traits (at least originally) can be encompassed with one phrase – “Damsel in Distress”.
You know what else they have in common? They are as boring as baked beans on toast, with absolutely no agency of their own.
Think about the great characters that have persisted throughout history (or at least your favourite character). I can guarantee that none of them would ever be described as a damsel in distress. You don’t make a character memorable or interesting by locking them in a room and make them wait for actually interesting characters to rescue them.
If you absolutely have to have a character playing the damsel in distress role, at least give them something to do that actually affects the plot. Maybe have them distract the main bad guy with some sort of game… charades maybe?
Call me a carnivorous vampire hunter because I love me some stakes. For me, stakes are everything to a story. Sure, characters and worldbuilding are important but that means nothing if you’ve got no stakes to hook you in. Stakes are what gets me invested in a book and then the world pins me down so it can vomit all its characters over my face.
All of this to say that I hate prophecies. Not only do they kill any suspense about whether the hero will defeat the villain because the prophecy said they would. They also rip out the stakes and character agency entirely.
Whenever a prophecy comes up in a story, it just makes me stop caring about the characters and events because in the back of my head I know that whatever happens, it will all work out because some guy wrote that it would down on a scroll a hundred years ago.
1. Magic Resurrection
Death is one of life’s greatest mysteries. It, along with the innermost secrets of the cosmos, are some of the things we as the human race will likely never solve. Death makes everything in life all the more meaningful because of its finality.
This is true for both the real world and fictional worlds we love to immerse ourselves in. If a character is immortal, there are no consequences to their actions. With no consequences what’s the point of caring about what happens to them – it’s not like they’re going to die or anything. Ready your barbeques because once again it's coming back to those all-important stakes.
As soon as you introduce magic resurrection to your universe, you’re pretty much taking the stakes of your story and world and piledriving them into a concrete barrier with a sickening crack. Being able to resurrect characters time and time again undermines any emotional impact from their death in the first place.
I’d strongly urge anyone considering pulling a magic resurrection to reconsider – not because I hate happiness and want everything to die… well not just because of that at least.
What are some fantasy trope you hate? Let me know either in the comments down below or get in contact.
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