Hello everybody! I’m back after a few million years.
Okay, that might be a little bit exaggerated, but I just saw on my dashboard that it has been a month since my last blog post. Ooops!
The last post I made about clichés was quite popular, so I decided to do an other one. There are many unattractive features in fantasy books, so, in my humble opinion, any aspiring writer should aim to avoid them. At least I do, even when writing on the digital pixels that is the internet (any writing counts for me!).
Common Clichés in Fantasy Writing
Number 1: Boy Meets Girl in First Book, Falls in Love Instantly. Often a fallen angel and a vampire.
I mean, I’m not sure if this is true in real life. And if it is, well, that’s lovely, but fantasy writing should be a little bit different than our world (not too much), otherwise it can be a little bit boring. Besides, I’ve read books with that and the love is not poetic or beautiful, or makes you think, ”oh they should totally be together! Curse the evil Balrog that comes between them!”. No, they completely override the book and make you think, ”ick, where’s the plot?” There are so many Romeo and Juliet knockoffs, and trust me, I’ve studied Romeo and Juliet and it is very believable. I don’t mind romance in a book, as long as it is believable. Aspiring romance writers: Read Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare!
Number 2. Bright, flashy magic
Not necessary at all, in my opinion, that is more for science fiction than fantasy. In C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, the Witch is very powerful but her sorcery is nature-oriented. She can turn people into stone, and that’s more terrifying than any green smoke, because we’ve never seen any green smoke and any evilness it may possess. However, we’ve all at least knocked an elbow or leg against a rock or something made out of stone, and yes, that’s painful! We’ve seen the stiffness of a boulder, so being turned into stone seems painful. In Tolkien’s the Return of the King, Gandalf fights against the Nazgul to save Faramir’s cavalry. No green fire, no red smoke! Instead, a white light is described springing from his hand. Now, that seems similar to the painful glares from the sun, and they’re pretty as well as painful, or white light from stars. Now that seems interesting! If you relate to something we’ve all seen, avoided, or liked looking at, we can relate and go like, ”oh yes, that’s terrifying, I would not want to run into that witch!”‘
Number 3. Wizards with auras and globes of light.
In my opinion, that’s sort of cheap. We know the abilities of the wizard then, so there’s no mystery in that, and aren’t wizards supposed to be mysterious? Let them show a few of their (not flashy!) powers. Saruman and Gandalf are powerful wizards by not conjuring up globes of light. Merely by breeding an army of orks without us knowing how adds to Saruman’s evilness and mystery.
Number 4. The Supernatural with red alleyways, evil glowing lights, and twisted faces.
That’s unbelievable, horror-movie-eske, and a tad bit boring. The Nazgul in Lord of the Rings have many evil powers, but Tolkien exploits a few, one of the biggest is fear. We all are afraid of fear (no pun intended! Sort of…) so naturally we get creeped out by a creature that sows fear like grain. It also makes the Dementors in Harry Potter believable. Terror is our biggest fear, because it is intuitive and primal, and is associated with danger. If you do make a supernatural evil thing, put it in human form, or something close to it, and make its biggest horrible thing something that relates deeply to humans, such as repulsion, hate, or fear. Eventually, the first two things I have listed above trace back to fear, so, as long as you don’t go overboard with that, you’re in safe hands. By the way, don’t give your Evil Supernatural Thing too much mystery. That is a cliché, and to make it realistic and appealing make it as human or as animal-like as possible! (hint…if you choose the latter, base it on an animal most humans don’t like, like spiders, snakes, vampire bats, crocodiles, etc. With humans, it is an interesting idea to base your Evil Supernatural Thing on a truly horrible historical figure.)
Number 5. Animals, especially fantasy animals, that behave and talk like humans.
If your troll acts like a human, why make it a troll? Give it a few trollish traits, and don’t be afraid to invent new ones! Once I read a book about dragons, and the dragons behaved so humanly I wouldn’t be surprised if they threw their scales off and were actually humans in carnival costumes playing an elaborate hoax. Read the dialogue between Bilbo and Smaug in Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Smaug is the perfect cross between your average Scrooge-like greedy human and a dragon. You can also observe animal behaviour to incorporate into your mythical or non-mythical beast. But make sure the animal is safe, or just read about it. Don’t go ogling tarantulas because your villain looks like one!
Number 6. Shallow descriptions of surroundings that are not castles, villages, or caves.
If you can’t feel the rock beneath your feet, smell the sweet air of Sprite Paradise, hear the struggling magical antelopes or taste that potion pie, the book seems sort of shallow. In Julie Kagawa’s Immortal Rules Book 1, I was seriously impressed. Vampire books are commonly clichéd, and I tend to avoid them. However, I did feel as if I were navigating the trashy suburbs of the vampire city, running away from the horrible rabids, and learning in the old hospital. And by the way, vampire books are commonly over-creepy and way too dark. This one wasn’t. I liked it very much not because of the vampires, because I am so not a vamp fan. I liked it because of its gripping reality, difficult emotional debates, and the flawed characters. Not one character in there is perfect! If you want to have a read that brings you through a tough, survivor, realistic journey in which you have to choose between really gritty options, read this book! A must read for anyone wanting to write realistic fantasy.
See you next blog-post!