Fantasy Cliches to Avoid: Part Four

Posted: August 2, 2009 in writing update
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Today sees the last part of working through the Fantasy Writing Clichés to Avoid list from Obsidian Bookshelf.

Magic, Too Cheesy
Fireballs shoot from one’s hands!
When I started I was guilty of this with over-the-top cheesy magic. I got over that phase though when I grew up. The magic that exists now is of the much more subtle variety and fairly limited; not as limited as in Lord of the Rings, but not all powerful either. Some people can speak with animals or see through their senses or even accomplish some limited shape-changing. Others can control the growth of plants. Healing is limited, being little more than speeding up the natural regeneration of the body; you can’t heal what is lost or destroyed. There is some limited control of storms and weather, though it is notoriously easy for getting out of control. The most common types of magic are mind-work; reading and detecting thought, misdirection, causing fear and panic and similar things.

Prologues.
Please, God, don’t give us an event that happens 50 years before the action.
Ah, prologues. What fantasy doesn’t seem to use them? I know I did. All. The. Time. I’ve since stopped. I rarely use them nowadays, instead just getting on with the story. If an event in the past is relevant, it can be worked in tot he story as I go along.

Races.
Elves, Dwarves, and especially Orcs can drop the property values in your neighbourhood!
Very guilty in the past. I had them all. In fact I had so many different creatures and races it was a menagerie.
Orcs were the first to go, replaced by a semi-nomadic, horse-riding race of herdsmen who are called hobgoblins by most.
Elves. I hate elves now days with a burning, burning hatred. They are so clichéd, so over used that it is sickening. When I initially used them they were your stock-standard elves. Over time they changed into something rather different, but eventually my hatred of elves got the better of me. Parts of their culture went to the hobgoblins, and what remained was an evil race that was something like a cross between a vampire and a wight.
I had always been a fan of dwarves, so they had to make an appearance. As I progressed they became more and more formidable until they were probably too powerful. Now days they don’t look much like conventional dwarves and tend to keep to the deep deserts where they work at task beyond the ken of most.
Most other races got axed as well over time, with only a few surviving. Others include minotaurs, a race of insectoid-men who live in the arid lands and some fairly unique dragons. There are a couple of others (giants and trolls) whom may still make the cut.

Telling Instead of Showing
Let us readers draw our own conclusions.
I think we all starting our writing with this problem, but as we improve we get past it. Well at least I hope I have.

Viewpoints, Too Many
They all start sounding alike!
While I often have a number of characters, I think I do try and follow this with only a few main characters, with the odd occasional viewpoint from one of the others. I’ll have to go back over old writing and see how I actually do do it.

Villains, Two-Dimensional
Why DO they want to destroy the world?
I don’t do Dark Lords any more. There are no overtly evil nations or races. Villains aren’t out to destroy the world – after all they live in it as well. Mostly they are after power and the heroes just happen to be in the way. Or in one case, the villain is simply trying to recover his baby daughter the heroes abducted.

And that concludes the list of clichés to avoid, for now. I will now have to find some other topics to post worthy of discussion.

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