A Fae Diary | Logo

The Worst Tropes in Fantasy Literature (And How to Avoid Them)

Tropes can be fun and familiar, but let’s face it, some of them have been way overused, and they’re starting to feel as stale as yesterday’s bread. We’re here to wield our quills and slay those clichéd dragons, and by dragons, I mean the repetitive storylines and character archetypes that have been plaguing our favorite fantasy tales.

In this article, we’ll unravel the tangled web of common tropes in fantasy and see how they’ve been holding back the true potential of storytelling magic. We’ll wield the sword of critique and learn how these tropes can dampen the excitement of our fantastical adventures. But, there’s hope on the horizon as we also uncover the secret spells to avoid falling into these trappings and give our stories the refreshing breath of originality they deserve. This article will also include a recommendation for each trope because no matter what we still love it!

Tropes in Fantasy

Common Tropes in Fantasy

we’ll be shining a spotlight on the usual suspects – you know, those overused clichés that seem to pop up in every fantasy adventure like some sort of magical weed. We’ll unmask these tropes and figure out why they became such fan favorites in the first place. Maybe they were charming at one point, but now they’re as common as enchanted mushrooms in a fairy tale forest.

But hey, we won’t just be pointing fingers and shaking our heads – that’s not our style! We’ll also be showcasing examples from beloved books and movies, some of which might even surprise you! 

"Chosen One" syndrome

 It’s like the fantasy world’s favorite go-to plot twist! But seriously, let’s talk about how this trope has become as common as tavern brawls in epic tales.

We’ll put on our detective hats again and investigate why the “Chosen One” narrative has been spread like wildfire in fantasy literature. Don’t get me wrong; I get the appeal. Who doesn’t love a destined hero rising from humble beginnings to save the day? It’s like the ultimate underdog story, and we all cheer for the underdog, right?

But here’s the thing, when every other book introduces a chosen one, it starts to feel like we’re stuck in a magical Groundhog Day. Let’s face it: we need some fresh air, and it’s time to break the cycle!

So, what’s the alternative? Exciting and creative ways to develop our characters and craft heroes without relying on the old chosen one trope. Because trust me, there are plenty of other hero archetypes waiting to take the stage! 

Example of “the chosen one” trope : Throne of glass by Sarah J.Maas (One of my favorite books ever).

"Damsels in Distress" trope

A classic that’s been raising eyebrows and rolling eyes for ages! 

The brave knight in shining armor, charging off to save the helpless damsel in the tower. It’s a scene we’ve seen countless times, and let’s be real, it’s getting a bit old. Don’t get me wrong; we love a good rescue mission as much as the next adventurer, but must our female characters always be stuck in the role of a passive victim?

There are so many ways to challenge traditional gender roles and stereotypes in fantasy literature. We’re talking about warrior princesses who can wield a sword as skillfully as any knight, cunning sorceresses who outsmart their adversaries, and fierce rebels who defy expectations and break the mold. These characters prove that being a damsel in distress is so last century!

Example of the “Damsels in distress” trope: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

"Magical Minority Stereotype"

a trope that’s got some serious issues to unpack! You know the drill: mystical beings or magical races depicted as exotic and marginalized, often serving as mere plot devices or side characters. It’s time to wave our wands and break this cliché spell!

Imagine a world where magical races aren’t just token characters thrown in for some “exotic flavor.” Let’s give them the spotlight they deserve! We need to develop diverse, multi-dimensional fantasy races that have depth and their own stories to tell. It’s about time we move beyond these tired stereotypes and explore the richness of different cultures and magical communities.

Think about it: why not have elves with their own epic sagas, dwarves with intricate societies, and other magical races that play central roles in their own adventures?

We’ve seen some brilliant works that have already taken this leap, breaking free from the chains of racial stereotypes. They’ve woven inclusive, magical worlds where all races shine bright like stars in the night sky. These stories teach us that it’s not about being “the other”; it’s about embracing our uniqueness and coming together in harmony.

Example of The “Magical Minority Stereotype” Trope: The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith

"Deus Ex Machina"

The sneaky plot device that magically saves the day when the writers are in a pinch!  You know the deal: just when things seem hopeless, poof! A convenient solution drops out of thin air like a rabbit from a hat.

But let’s be real, this trope can be a total buzzkill for readers. Nobody likes feeling cheated or that the story’s been thrown off balance by some cheap trick. So, why not opt for a more natural, well-grounded plot progression? 

We want stories that make sense, where actions have consequences and characters face the consequences of their choices. After all, life’s not all rainbows and butterflies, right?  A little struggle and sacrifice can add spice to the tale and make those triumphs feel so satisfying.

Let’s say “abracadabra” to those contrived plot devices and “hello” to engaging, believable narratives. Readers want a rollercoaster of emotions, not a magic button to solve every problem. Let’s keep our fantastical worlds feeling authentic and let the heroes earn their victories the old-fashioned way – through grit, growth, and genuine struggle. 

Example of the “Deux Ex Machina” trope: Alice in Borderland by Haro Aso

"Dark Lord" trope in fantasy

you know, the ultimate baddie who’s so evil they practically ooze darkness and malevolence?  We’ve seen this guy (or gal) in countless stories, and it’s time to shine a light on the fact that they can be a tad overdone.

Sure, having a big bad villain can add some serious stakes to the plot, but when every villain is an all-powerful, irredeemably evil Dark Lord, things start to feel a bit clichéd. We want depth, we want complexity – we want villains who make us question our own moral compass!

How about we mix it up and explore the vast spectrum of villainy?  Characters who aren’t just pure evil but have layers, motivations, and maybe even a hint of sympathy. These morally complex baddies can be way more captivating and relatable.

Take a look at some of the newer fantasy works out there – they’re breaking the mold and giving us villains who challenge our perceptions. Maybe it’s a villain with a tragic past or one who genuinely believes they’re doing the right thing, no matter how twisted it may seem.

By shaking up the dark lord archetype, we open the door to thought-provoking tales with shades of gray and emotional depth. It’s like a literary feast for the soul!

Example of the “Dark Lord” trope: The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R Tolkien 

Remember, diversity matters, and innovation is the key to keeping fantasy fresh and exciting. Let’s dare to dream big, embrace the unexpected, and infuse our tales with the magic that only originality can bring! Let’s make fantasy literature a realm that knows no limits!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

©2019. Elements Kit. All Rights Reserved.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x