Fantasy is hands-down my favourite genre to read, and just like any genre fantasy comes with many tropes, some overused. Some of these tropes are so overused that a quick peruse of the blurb or scan of the first chapter gives me a pretty good idea of the plot of the book. Not to say that all cliques need to be written out; tropes exist in different genres as identifiers and certain genres wouldn’t exist without their cliques – what’s a crime novel without crime? So here is a list of a few fantasy cliques and some options for switching them up.
- World Building in Medieval Europe
Examples: Vampire Academy, Throne of Glass, Lord of the Rings
There aren’t many fantasy worlds that don’t take inspiration from Medieval Europe; take away any kind of magic (in both human and animal form) and you’ve got Medieval Europe. From the fine gowns, weapon choice, castles, and social hierarchy (lords, knights, kings, etc) a lot of fantasy worlds are based in this time period. World building in Medieval Europe is quite a defining feature of the fantasy genre, but there are definitely other real-world locations and time periods that fantasy worlds could be inspired by.
- The Viking era: still based in Europe but there is a “rougher” way-of-life; it is not as refined as castle living
- Arabian desert: having a nomadic way-of-life and high survival stakes
- Amazon rainforest: tribe life with a different set of “rules” and “hierarchy” then what we’re used to seeing.
- Sword Play
Examples: Throne of Glass, Narnia, Peter Pan
Aside from the occasional archer (ie A Court of Thorns and Roses) often the main character or even the main villain wields a sword. This ties in with a lot of fantasy worlds being based in Medieval Europe, but if you ask me a sword is rather boring. Maybe this speaks to my lack of personal knowledge on weaponry, but I find a sword to be quite a cumbersome and dare I say “lazy” weapon choice, whereas I find other weapons to be more complicated and requiring far more skill and agility. But again: I’m no swordsman, so what would I know.
- Archers are perhaps an obvious second choice, but they’re still pretty cool and considering they only have so much ammo it’s a higher-stakes weapon
- Sky in the Deep (Young Adrienne) features an axe-wielding heroine and my goodness is it brutal and vicious, plus kinda badass
- Basically very large sticks used in the Studies series (Maria V. Snyder) by the heroine. These stick are deceptively brutal, despite a lack of point or sharp edge.
- The Governing Body is a Monarchy
Examples: Grace and Fury, Red Queen, Dorothy Must Die
Once again, fantasy worlds being based in Medieval Europe means monarchies run the show.
- Having a form of Government (republic/democracy). We should know from our own world that Governments can be just as corrupt as a monarchy
- Take a page from communist Russia and have a totalitarian government
- Having a governing body based in a church of some kind.
- The Chosen One
Examples: Harry Potter Series, Percy Jackson Series, Strange the Dreamer
We all know the “chosen one” trope, the “nobody” main character who unwillingly has some kind of quest/prophecy thrust upon them.
- Rather than having a poor “nobody” being surprised by a prophecy, how about a rich, powerful kid who has known their entire life about said prophecy and has chosen to ignore it?
- How about a prophecy about a villain rather than a hero?
- A Lack of Technology/Science
Examples: Poison Study, Catching Stars, Touch of Power
Despite being 2018, fantasy novel technology and science seem to be stuck in the dark ages with flame torches being used for light at night, or healers being used to cure the sick. We have hover boards, VR, and Uber Eats, imagine what technology a fantasy world could have.
- Could a type of magic power the technology?
- How does science explain magic?
- Are science and magic two opposing forces?
It is very rare to come across a fantasy novel written by an Australian author that is also published by an Australian publisher, so it would be really awesome to start seeing some arise in our publishing world here. For those branching out into fantasy writing this list just acts as a guide for ideas to explore within your own piece. But like I said, cliques exist as identifiers for different genres, so don’t feel like you have to stray so far away from the tropes