Fantasy writing cliches

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kherezae

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Re: Fantasy writing cliches
« Reply #15 on: June 06, 2017, 11:50:38 PM »
How about:
* Protagonist is a young adult/it doubles as a coming of age story 
* (Even when they're not young adults, where's the wizened grandma saving the world and dragging the antagonist around by his ear?)
* There's a romance shoe-horned in! Where'd that come from?
* Related: So you mean to tell me men and woman around the same age can't just be friends? Shame.
* Why are all the groups so homogenized? Like... why aren't there more minority populations present within the majority? People of color? Etc?

That's all I've got for now!

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JayLee

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Re: Fantasy writing cliches
« Reply #16 on: June 19, 2017, 10:52:43 AM »
"Your name?" said Echo, dipping a demure curtsey.

A gravelly noise burbled from somewhere beyond the thing's green teeth. It sounded like "X'zz'zgorrth."

Echo chewed her pencil. "How d'you spell that? Z-O-R-T-H?"

The beast began to rock back and forth on stout talons. "X'zz'zgorrth! X'zz'zgorrth!" it wailed. "X'zz'zgorrth!"

Seriously.... just from that I'd read the heck out of this :)

Why are all the groups so homogenized? Like... why aren't there more minority populations present within the majority? People of color? Etc?

This is a very valid observation. Especially since fantasy worlds tend to be very European based. Which I'm totally guilty of because my forte is fairies.... Actually had an early beta get mad at me for having a very Victorian feeling world with no white characters in my WIP too... Oh well. Someone will always complain :)
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True Neutral

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Re: Fantasy writing cliches
« Reply #17 on: June 23, 2017, 04:51:06 AM »
There's something I like to call "Frengland." Basically, all pseudo-European societies strongly resemble France, England, or a mishmash of the two. Maybe a slice of Germany if you're lucky. The rest of Europe basically doesn't show up at all.

Strong Female Character™ because the answer to damsels in distress and male main characters (often farmboy-knights) is just as much of a cliche stock character, often one with absolutely nothing traditionally feminine about her because, you know, that would make her soooo less worthy of being called a hero. (Can you tell I'm not a fan?)

Deus ex Machina. Characters can't actually get themselves out of a situation they got themselves into in the first place? Have a god poof in and do it for them.

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SecretRock

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Re: Fantasy writing cliches
« Reply #18 on: June 23, 2017, 03:11:31 PM »
Strong Female Character™ because the answer to damsels in distress and male main characters (often farmboy-knights) is just as much of a cliche stock character, often one with absolutely nothing traditionally feminine about her because, you know, that would make her soooo less worthy of being called a hero. (Can you tell I'm not a fan?)

I saw this before. It's to do with the notion that feminine=weak, so to kick ass she's basically gotta be a guy with boobs. Another problem with it is that Strong Female Characters only get to be strong. Take Iron Man for example: he's seen as a strong male character and yes he's strong, but he's witty, conceited, a genius. Contrast to Black Widow in the same film, yes she's shown as smart and her backstory is hinted at, but her personality is much, much weaker than Stark's. It's like if a woman is strong, she can only be strong because anything else would detract from that.

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Tyrannohotep

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Re: Fantasy writing cliches
« Reply #19 on: June 23, 2017, 04:38:58 PM »
Strong Female Character™ because the answer to damsels in distress and male main characters (often farmboy-knights) is just as much of a cliche stock character, often one with absolutely nothing traditionally feminine about her because, you know, that would make her soooo less worthy of being called a hero. (Can you tell I'm not a fan?)
Meh, not all women have to behave according to traditional gender stereotypes (which tend to vary from culture to culture anyway). Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with a female character who comes across as more "feminine" either, but not every woman out there is going to fit into that mold.

I will say I'm not so fond of the "warrior woman trying to prove herself in a sexist patriarchal culture" kind of story arc. If warrior women are commonplace in a fantasy setting, I'd personally prefer it if their existence was simply taken for granted.
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True Neutral

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Re: Fantasy writing cliches
« Reply #20 on: June 23, 2017, 07:36:09 PM »
Strong Female Character™ because the answer to damsels in distress and male main characters (often farmboy-knights) is just as much of a cliche stock character, often one with absolutely nothing traditionally feminine about her because, you know, that would make her soooo less worthy of being called a hero. (Can you tell I'm not a fan?)

I saw this before. It's to do with the notion that feminine=weak, so to kick ass she's basically gotta be a guy with boobs. Another problem with it is that Strong Female Characters only get to be strong. Take Iron Man for example: he's seen as a strong male character and yes he's strong, but he's witty, conceited, a genius. Contrast to Black Widow in the same film, yes she's shown as smart and her backstory is hinted at, but her personality is much, much weaker than Stark's. It's like if a woman is strong, she can only be strong because anything else would detract from that.

Personally, I actively dislike female main characters. Period. I don't find them very relatable, no matter how well-acclaimed they supposedly are and regardless of whether or not the author is female. (I am a woman, by the way. I just have a very strong preference for male leads and generally find even a fairly flat, poorly-written male lead more engaging and more relatable than a supposedly well-written female one.)

SFCs are even less relatable than the average, for me. They also come across as simultaneously pandering to man-haters (especially because it's common to just have them beat up guys constantly, not other women) and condemning of traditional womanhood and anyone who aspires to anything that falls under that umbrella. As promoting a far worse message than any of the things they were trying to counter in the first place. And I swear certain creators just find that sort of personality attractive on a woman and therefore make all of their characters that type or close to it. (*cough* Whedon *cough cough*) I would rather, as a woman, have something with no women in it at all (typically, these are set somewhere like a monastery) or women who are only set decoration than yet more stories led by an SFC. I'm utterly sick of it, and I see it as a far worse message than any of the things it was trying to counter in the first place. I would have less of a problem with it if it wasn't so idealized as an archetype in the past, maybe 20 years or so, give or take, if it were something of an unusual diversion instead, but it seems like that's all that's been coming out for a long time. Or maybe it's just that I have too many loudmouth friends who constantly worship the archetype.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2017, 07:39:04 PM by True Neutral »

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Tyrannohotep

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Re: Fantasy writing cliches
« Reply #21 on: June 23, 2017, 10:48:00 PM »
Personally, I actively dislike female main characters. Period. I don't find them very relatable, no matter how well-acclaimed they supposedly are and regardless of whether or not the author is female. (I am a woman, by the way. I just have a very strong preference for male leads and generally find even a fairly flat, poorly-written male lead more engaging and more relatable than a supposedly well-written female one.)
Um...how would you react to a female main character you could relate to? Is gender really that much of a deal-breaker for you when it comes to protagonists? Because I'm a dude and I think strong female heroines are fine.
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Mars

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True Neutral

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Re: Fantasy writing cliches
« Reply #23 on: June 24, 2017, 02:38:48 AM »
Personally, I actively dislike female main characters. Period. I don't find them very relatable, no matter how well-acclaimed they supposedly are and regardless of whether or not the author is female. (I am a woman, by the way. I just have a very strong preference for male leads and generally find even a fairly flat, poorly-written male lead more engaging and more relatable than a supposedly well-written female one.)
Um...how would you react to a female main character you could relate to? Is gender really that much of a deal-breaker for you when it comes to protagonists? Because I'm a dude and I think strong female heroines are fine.

I'm the sort of woman who has mostly male friends due to common interests and demographics. I live in the sort of area where there's a strong gender skew in the demographics because of the jobs available here. (Defense and heavy industry. Because more males take these jobs, my area is heavily skewed male from around 18-45 years old.)  My husband also works one of said jobs, so almost everyone we meet through his employment is, you guessed it, also male. I'm used to being around far more men than women, and I'm used to relating more to men than women because, simply put, that's who's around me. For me, the entire world of hanging out as a big group of women around the same age and doing stuff together...that's totally foreign.

Part of my problem with most female characters is that they have a tendency to remind me of people I grew up with who were horrible to me. (Most of the girls and women I grew up around who weren't family were absolutely awful and violent toward me. Most of the men were not. Because of this, if a male character reminds me of someone, it's less likely, though not impossible, that it's going to be someone who left such bad memories, as opposed to a female character.) Sansa Stark (in the books, at least...I'm not familiar with the show because I'm too cheap to even have a television, let alone HBO) strongly reminds me of the biggest bully I went to school with, for example. In looks, mannerisms, attitude, dialogue pattern, etc. So I just find her an odious and unsympathetic character not necessarily because of anything GRRM or the character did, but because of the actions of another real-world human who just happens to very strongly resemble her in almost every way. She's not the only one, but, being from something relatively popular and being that the similarities are so strong, it's just the easiest one for me to point to. That's why a female lead is almost always a deal-breaker for me.

It may also have something to do with the fact that girl leads were shoved down my throat growing up. I loved books, and everyone would give me books with one certain type of lead, no matter what I asked for. My preferences were ignored and written off in the name of shoving this down my throat.

As for writing, I will never write that sort of character. Apart from them just being cliche and way overrepresented at present, I find them to send a horrible message, in particular that there's something inherently wrong with being traditionally feminine in any capacity. In short, I would not be OK with creating what I see as a terrible role-model for girls. (See above about this having been shoved down my throat.) I also write through observation of those around me, with people I know kind of having traits mish-mashed into characters.  I just don't have all that much female character-fodder around, and most of the little female character-fodder I do have happens to be motherly, matronly, mentor types over 50.

One of the few I've ever found that I didn't take a strong dislike to is Nanny Ogg, and, if you're familiar with Discworld, you'd know she almost never shows up without the other witches. (I think she showed up alone in the capacity of a midwife in Thief of Time as a very minor role, but I don't remember off the top of my head any other instances where she shows up alone.) She's usually second-fiddle to Granny Weatherwax and/or a younger witch (Magrat, Agnes, or Tiffany), and she's usually something of a comic-relief character because she's constantly either making crude sexual remarks or silly comments. She's a much more traditionally feminine character, though, perhaps best respected for her midwifery and for being the mother to a large extended family than anything else. An action heroine she is not. She's short and rather rotund and very grandmotherly. Physically and in terms of speech pattern (though not subject matter) and in terms of being such a motherly figure, she actually really reminds me of my great-aunt.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2017, 02:44:20 AM by True Neutral »

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Sheepy-Pie

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Re: Fantasy writing cliches
« Reply #24 on: June 24, 2017, 04:07:11 AM »
Have you found yourself relating to any female characters, or really liking any of them? It must be hard to get into a book when characters remind you of people irl.

As for SFC I do have two which are strong but hopefully aren't so much a SFC. They are strong because their lives have dictated the need to be strong to survive. One suffered a lot of abuse and ostracisation leading to depression and is continually being ostracised in her current life. So she's built an armour around herself basically. The other was trained into being harsh and ruthless and is the one picked for the hard choices, she will follow whatever her father says. Hers is more of a survival as they are living in the forest trying not to be killed by other demons around which could be anywhere.

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Tyrannohotep

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Re: Fantasy writing cliches
« Reply #25 on: June 24, 2017, 04:21:08 AM »
I have plenty of action heroines in my own work, and I am not ashamed of it at all. If that triggers anyone out there, that's their problem, not mine. I will simply ignore them.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2017, 04:22:52 AM by Tyrannohotep »
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True Neutral

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Re: Fantasy writing cliches
« Reply #26 on: June 24, 2017, 05:10:16 AM »
I have plenty of action heroines in my own work, and I am not ashamed of it at all. If that triggers anyone out there, that's their problem, not mine. I will simply ignore them.
To each their own. And it's not "triggering." I just find SFCs to be genuinely unlikable, unrelatable, unrealistic characters and a super overused trope to boot, in some cases bordering on a fetish, and a guaranteed deal-breaker for me if they're the main character of the book I pick up. I don't see the point in suffering through a book where the MC is not to the reader's liking. I did enough of that in school because I had to.

And I'm quite sure that my strong skew toward male characters (I once had a 95% male cast for a novel.), with the few females mostly being background decoration or traditionally feminine, submissive, and not heroic at all really angers a lot of feminists. (I've gotten threats over it more than once.) I don't think all stories even necessarily need female characters, depending on the setting. There are legitimate cases to be made for certain settings being single-sex and relatively isolated, most notably ships, prisons, monasteries, and some schools.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2017, 05:12:07 AM by True Neutral »

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Silver

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Re: Fantasy writing cliches
« Reply #27 on: June 24, 2017, 06:26:00 AM »
Friendly mod warning

Guys - everyone has their own preferences when it comes to what they like to read and write. While we always encourage friendly discussion, no one needs to justify their own personal preferences, and just because someone dislikes something that you do, it is not a reflection on you.

If I said I hated reading fantasy set in a medieval setting, I am not judging writers who do write that - I am simply saying that it is not something I enjoy.

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JayLee

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Re: Fantasy writing cliches
« Reply #28 on: June 24, 2017, 11:36:11 AM »
in some cases bordering on a fetish

You guys are bringing up some interesting points here, some that my friend and I didn't even touch on in our post about cliche characters. But I think this fetish note--that's where SFCs cross the line into cliches I don't necessarily enjoy in books. As a kid, I liked male leads much better because I read way too much fantasy written in the 80s. All the women were either damsels in distress... or big boobed, big butted perfect looking women with short hair  who could break a rock in half with their heads, much less a man (not obviously referencing Danica from the Cleric Quintet here :) ) I was a bit of a tomboy (a lot), and I still couldn't relate to those characters. As I aged, I found myself looking like a girl, acting like a boy, (you can find me out back in a pink mini-skirt and lacy shirt, firing pistols if you need me) and I began to really wish there were female leads like that. What's wrong with liking pretty things and still kicking butt? Can't warrior women be allowed to have long hair and fight? Aren't they allowed to like baking cupcakes with chocolate butterflies on them?? No. For some reason it seems to be hotter to have the scowling, Xena type princess with a full bod, skimpy clothes and three swords. They're not bad characters so to say, often they are written with some great dialouge/action, in fact. But I do get a little bored of them in the fantasy genre in specific. It's like the only SFC in fantasy must be "every FPC in every RPG ever". Or a woman trying to disguise as a man in a sexist setting.

Oooh... that brings me to another cliche that bugs me a little. Armor that doesn't work. Like, seriously, what's up with wearing tiny little pauldrons, half a chest plate, and knee bracers then calling yourself protected? The more skin showing, the more cuts you're going to get, young knight.

thansk @Silver for the mod note. Hopefully not crossing lines by adding my two cents to the discussion :)
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Tyrannohotep

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Re: Fantasy writing cliches
« Reply #29 on: June 24, 2017, 01:08:00 PM »
in some cases bordering on a fetish

You guys are bringing up some interesting points here, some that my friend and I didn't even touch on in our post about cliche characters. But I think this fetish note--that's where SFCs cross the line into cliches I don't necessarily enjoy in books. As a kid, I liked male leads much better because I read way too much fantasy written in the 80s. All the women were either damsels in distress... or big boobed, big butted perfect looking women with short hair  who could break a rock in half with their heads, much less a man (not obviously referencing Danica from the Cleric Quintet here :) ) I was a bit of a tomboy (a lot), and I still couldn't relate to those characters. As I aged, I found myself looking like a girl, acting like a boy, (you can find me out back in a pink mini-skirt and lacy shirt, firing pistols if you need me) and I began to really wish there were female leads like that. What's wrong with liking pretty things and still kicking butt? Can't warrior women be allowed to have long hair and fight? Aren't they allowed to like baking cupcakes with chocolate butterflies on them?? No. For some reason it seems to be hotter to have the scowling, Xena type princess with a full bod, skimpy clothes and three swords. They're not bad characters so to say, often they are written with some great dialouge/action, in fact. But I do get a little bored of them in the fantasy genre in specific. It's like the only SFC in fantasy must be "every FPC in every RPG ever". Or a woman trying to disguise as a man in a sexist setting.
I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this, because I think sexy warrior women are awesome as fuck. I don't think they necessarily have to cut their hair short or reject all things "feminine", but in my book, boobs + booty + action = WIN.

But going back to the topic of fantasy cliches...how do people feel about "save the world" type of stories? Because that's the first fantasy storytelling cliche that comes to my mind.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2017, 01:10:01 PM by Tyrannohotep »
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