Fantasy Cliches to Avoid: Part Two

Posted: July 31, 2009 in writing update
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Continuing on from yesterday’s post, looking at the Fantasy Writing Clichés to Avoid list from Obsidian Bookshelf, seeing how I fair.

Characters, Names.
Don’t create names that sound randomly generated by software!
I go about names through a couple of steps. First, work out which culture they belong to in the world. People who come from Tirhan and Shekan have different styles of names than those from Chelos or Maedar or Tuafi. Each region has an Earth equivalent culturally, so I come up with names that sound similar to real Earth names. Then I run through the name a few times, modifying it here and there until I get a name I like the sound of.

For example, Tirhanites have names like Abhiala and Khiria (females) and Kazniah, Kesiad, Elial, Elaniah, Achiar and Elezair (for males)
Maedari names include Heric, Halir, Halraen, Cavraen, Jal, Awn, Raevak, Taenar, Ravaian and Laetan for males and Jaessa, Fianna or Remaia for females.
A Chelosian may be called Palidas, Adrasto, Kiriastas, Lastrasios, Skanaos or Lachanon.

Dialogue, too Modern.
Yo, baby, no slang. Okay?
I write dialogue much as I speak. It isn’t archaic, nor is it slang. Just simple conversational speech, normally. I do toss in a few Australianism from time to time, but most of the world won’t know them so they can pass, and plus most of them are also seldom used nowadays anyway.

Dialogue, too Weird.
By the Deity’s private parts!
Ah yes, I used to do this – back when I was young and though coming up with such expressions was the norm for fantasy – Phoenix’s Teeth, Mother of All Horses, that kind of thing. It fell away long, long ago and I don’t even have anything closely resembling it any more.

Dialogue, too Wordy.
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Most of my characters are fairly plain speaking folk who use everyday language much like me, as previously mentioned. No thees and thous and foreasmuches. There are the occasional more wordy, intellectual types who do at times use more flowery speech and dialogue, but that is to make them stand out a bit from the others, to show they are a bit different. It is not like we haven’t met people in real life who use big words all the time to try and impress.

Freud thought they were the royal road to the unconscious.
Again, one I did one use, but seems to have fallen out of favour. Sometimes people to have visions, but they tend to be brought about by shamanistic type rituals or forced onto people by outside forces. One thing I recently worked on did have a dream, from the POV of the villain. It was one he was forced to have nightly by outside forces, reliving a terrible day in his life that changed his character. It was put in to flesh out the character and shoe he wasn’t quite the one-dimensional villain he had appeared to be earlier in the book.

That is enough for part two; tomorrow we continue to work the way through the list.

  1. Yarnspnr says:

    How about dragons? I had a fantasy editor tell me once that if a story contains anything about a dragon it’s rejected immediately. Also, groups of adventures. Way too overused no matter the story line. Also overused are elves, dwarfs, orcs, etc. People, it seems, don’t have the imagination to invent their own fantasy races.

  2. qorvus says:

    Things like dragons, elves, dwarves, orcs etc are covered further down in the list which I will get to eventually. There are a lot of clichés to cover. 🙂

  3. Yahzi says:

    Dialogue is crucial. Good dialogue excuses a lot; bad dialogue makes people not care about your characters, which is the kiss of death.

    Of all the places to focus on, dialogue would be a good one.

  4. Beth says:

    Character names: Guilty. And the terrible pseudo-Tolkien ones. Ergh. I’ve wised up.
    Dialogue, Too Weird/Too Wordy (too archaic!): Probably guilty. Can’t think of anything off the top of my heard.
    Dreams: Totally guilty. Flashbacks? Even more guilty (that’s what comes from watching too much LOST).

  5. Skanaos says:

    Skanaos is my nick name!!! (OO_ )

  6. Dominic says:

    Character Names: Probably. I think I have maybe one Tolkienesque placename, but it’s well explained in context so I suppose I can let that slide. Although I try my best not to allow my naming to decend into randomised drivel, occasionally in a moment of madness they will slip in 😮

    Dialogue: Not really written much yet, truth be told, I’m still working my way through the world building and making the story take shape.

    Dreams: No, although I have not one, but TWO prologues back to back (ouch). I know, not good, but hey, it’s how I write!

    Personally I hate it when authors use the standard fantasy archetypes. I can’t get my head around why anyone would want to do it. I’m loving the creative process and, frankly, one of the things I find the most fun and exciting is actually creating my own races and cultures. Anything less and I’d consider it to be a bit… well, pointless.

    It’s like playing a video game and using cheats the whole way through. It removes the whole point of why you’re doing it in the first place.

    Although, I do believe that it’s ok to borrow from established and recognisable tropes from the genre, as long as you don’t just add them in generically, but put your own spin on things and make them unique, fresh and exciting. I’m thinking of including dragons at some point in my novel, but I’ve yet to think of what sets them apart from everyday dragons just yet.

    Anyway I’m rambling now so I’ll say adieu and goodnight. 😀

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