Fantasy Cliches to Avoid: Part One

Posted: July 30, 2009 in writing update
Tags: , , , ,

Recently came across a post at Obsidian Bookshelf called Fantasy Writing Cliches to Avoid.

I’m going to make my way through the list over a couple of days and see what I have and haven’t avoided.

An historic castle is sometimes really tiny!
I seem to have avoided this by not really having castles. There are palaces and there are forts, but given the lack of a feudal period with knights and the like in my setting, castles never really featured.

Appearance of character.
Keep it to a minimum.
Yes and no. While main characters do get fleshed out more, it is usually only a few lines, not whole paragraphs. Others can get a more basic description. For instance, Abasan is described as wiry, dark-haired man with a narrow face. I do like to give basic details; hair and eye colour, height and body type. Facial hair or scars. That kind of thing.

British Culture.
Don’t make your British readers laugh their arses off.

Pass this one. I’m an Australian and write, I think, with an Australian style and language. At least I try too.

Characters – Ethnicity
Why is everyone a Northern European?
Can announce I pass this with flying colours. One culture, the Maedari, are of this type, but they are alone. There are others who are Mediterranean or Slavic or African or Semetic or Indian in appearance, as well as others. A good, broad spread.

Characters, Mary Sue.
We don’t want a too-perfect version of yourself!
Maybe once, but not anymore. I hope. None of the current crop of characters look anything like me really, or act like me. They have flaws and weaknesses to balance out strengths.

We will look at some more of these tomorrow.

  1. Ben Godby says:

    I’m Canadian and all my fantasy characters are English. Well, most of them anyway. The same thing happens every time I play Dungeons & Dragons. I think it’s my dad’s fault for always switching into a mock-English accent every time we have tea, which is about thrice daily…


  2. qorvus says:

    It is hard not to find English based fantasy characters – I think Tolkien is at fault there 🙂

  3. Beth says:

    I’ve become far better at avoiding describing every pore of my characters. I’ve worked it so my usual fantasy character is described as “a dark, thin man whose nose over powered his face.”

    Interesting post, I like how you analyze yourself in terms–I’ll have to scoot over to Obsidian Bookshelf and read the list myself! Looking forward to the next post.

  4. qorvus says:

    I have, floating around somewhere, some horrendous purple prose from many years ago describing a character in elaborate and overwrought detail. Went on for hundreds of words. Terrible stuff looking back on it.

    Now days I do more so along your lines.

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