Top Ten Tuesday: Fantasy Tropes That I (Not-So) Secretly Love

Top Ten Tuesday

You know there are some. Let’s see what we can come up with.

Yash

  1. The Chosen One: I am not quite tired of this yet. I want more Chosen One stories with characters of colour. Or, a Chosen One who just happens to identify as trans. Maybe their personal struggles are being worked out alongside saving the world. Maybe they save the world and that’s that. There are so many ways this could go! I want to read them all!
  2. The Dark Lord: I like dark lords, but I like it more when their intentions are explicitly evil. Like, Libba Bray’s whistling baddie in The Diviners. *shudder* And Cassandra Clare’s Valentine with his basement of horrors, the near-scientific way he tortured people he saw as beneath him, his poisoning of his pregnant wife … explicit evil, see? Even if we are talking less megalomaniacal, look at Jack from The Graveyard Book, so singular in his obsession and so deliciously creepy. I yearn for a proper baddie and I will never tire of them when they are delivered.
  3. Forming a Resistance: Be it against the above mentioned Dark Lord or against the Capitol, it is so exciting to read when a resistance is formed against a dominant power. I mean, of course, everything will go to hell shortly after, but until then it’s quite fun to read!
  4. Call to Adventure: Sometimes when the protagonist resists their role, they get drawn back into the fantasy world in interesting/funny ways. I mean, I also like my curious protagonists who just go headlong into danger, but it could be really funny when they just want to stay home in their PJs and watch their Netflix queue.
  5. Familiars for Female Characters: On the one hand, we have Disney’s Snow White which makes me gag, but on the other hand we have an interesting take on this trope with Dany and her dragons from GoT. I would like to see more stuff like that.

Janet

  1. Dreams: Dreams always bring messages, be they from allies or enemies. I like dreams that convey the protagonist and her/his perception of people/the situation with the same peculiar mixture of clarity and obscurity that dreams in real life do. Not everything needs to be revealed, ever, of course, but I enjoy the sense of the character’s internal world and/or foreshadowing of events that dreams reveal.
  2. Special Weapons: When our hero picks up her sword, or bow, or knife, or garroting wire (just joking, if she used a garroting wire she would be evil and we would not root for her), it hums in her hands, or feels warm, or something along those lines happens to convey the essential right-ness that she should have this weapon, and the magical near-animation (and consummate loyalty) of this weapon.
  3. Cloaks: Swirling, warm, hooded, cloaks just spell out romance (in the sense of adventure and heroism, of course). Other suitably “exotic” clothing, such as tunics, embroidered dresses, surcoats, and leather belts from which swing small coin purses, are also awesome.
  4. Familiars and Animal Companions: I want one. Just saying.
  5. True-Hearted Companions: From Samwise Gamgee to Pol (The Thief), I can’t get enough of this sort of stalwart, faithful, pure-hearted, true to the death companion. These people aren’t single-minded or flat characters – Sam has his gardens, his shy attachment to Rose, and steady relationships with characters other than Frodo, and yet he generously sets everything aside to devote himself to taking care of “Master Frodo”, destroying the One Ring, and saving Middle Earth. He does all this, goes home, rescues the Shire, and becomes a loving husband and father. Whatever he does and whomever he cares for, he acts with a whole heart and unwavering loyalty.

Steph

  1. Characters like “Jack”: Janet mentioned the True-Hearted Companion – and I whole heartedly agree, Sam is my favourite character from LOTR. Yash talked about the truly evil bad guy, y’know the one that won’t just realize all the harm he’s done and ask for forgiveness as he dies, and I too enjoy that although I think it’s a trope that needs more exploration and is not tired or worn yet. For me – I love the scallywags! Gimme the backtalking, spitfire of a thief, who also has a heart of gold (but really hides it, and it’s kinda tarnished but we love him all the more for it). Han Solo, Jack from Blood Red Road, Captain Jack – you know, the Jack of all Trades master of getting readers and audiences to love them. I’d love to see more females take on this role.
  2. Mediaevalism: Because what is a fantasy novel without moats, ramparts, swords, the peasants and the rich. I think this can become tired because – well – I want there to be magic and elves and talking cats in my own time, why does it only belong in the past? I’m thinking David Eddings type setting, and LOTR of course. I enjoy it and I enjoy new twists on this trope as well – like time travelling, or completely ulterior settings that have mediavalesque features but is not totally set in that historical period – Steampunk for instance is making a come back as a twist on this setting.
  3. The Mystery: I love it. Usually the mystery is tied into the quest, where the MC doesn’t really know what their quest is, or doesn’t know the half of it and there is a big reveal. I love this because I like to try and figure it out before the hero and I am just delighted when I am TOTALLY wrong. A good mystery can make any book worth reading.
  4. Good vs. Evil: Ok, not exactly good versus evil, but clear sides. I like it when a writer can really pull off two different points of view or perspectives and delve into a characters motivation and background. I think, perhaps, that’s why so many “chosen one” stories start with a child or a child-like creature because, well, they haven’t really formed their perspectives and motivations all they know is what is not fair, or obviously not right.
  5. Magical Land: Usually forests that are scary because they have some secret magic in them – ie. Fangorn from LOTR (I’m also thinking of Plain Kate by Erin Bow or the Forbidden Forest of Harry Potter). I love the magic of the earth and the land and the sky. The way that the wilds can have a characters and play a role in the story. Oh landscape, <3

Nafiza

  1. Like Yash, I, too, have an enduring fondness for The Chosen One. Especially if said Chosen One is female – okay, only if the Chosen One is female. I have no time for male Chosen Ones.
  2. Strange and Wonderful Magical Powers. I love it when the Chosen One displays these powers (which, one could argue, is the entire reason she is the Chosen One but sometimes the author tries to be tricksy and gives the Chosen One no powers which is why she’s the One but I don’t like that.)
  3. Talking Animals as Familiars/Best Friend. Or, who am I kidding? Talking Cats. I love them. I love them a lot.
  4. High Stakes. The reason Lord of the Rings worked so well for me was because failure meant doom. Literally. I like that a lot.
  5. Non-melodramatic and Subtle Romance. I admit it. I like a little bit of romance spicing up the narrative but I only like a little bit of it. I don’t want it to be a central theme unless it adds something substantial to the narrative but if it’s there, I’ll appreciate it a lot.

13 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: Fantasy Tropes That I (Not-So) Secretly Love

  1. Reading this, I realized that I am using several of these tropes in my series…maybe that means I’m doing a good job!
    Great post, as always ladies. Here is my list:

    1) Complete Friendships…not the hey lets kill the best friend and the chosen one gets over it in a day because, hey, there’s work to be done. But Real, abiding, two sided, friendship. One that can complete the characters and round out the story. One that motivates and helps move mystery along. I love stories that actually display the history and connection of friends.

    2) Crazy insane baddies. I love a good creepy insane genius. Moriarty is so creepy and amazing, Valentine (Mortal Instruments) certifiable, and Voldemort loony tunes. They keep you hoppin!

    3) I like chosen ones who are ‘hidden’ or not necessarily decreed as the chosen one. They kind of stumble in to the story, and should a burden or two. They may faint, they may not understand everything, or they may just try to be a peripheral piece of the puzzle…but they wind up pulling the sword from the stone or saving the world from a demon attack, or finding the gillyweed for Harry.

    4) Familiars or partners who are talking animals…my characters include dragons that are just part of the family and I love that type of interaction.

    5) Cool clothes/weapons. You know, that umbrella with the sword or gun or wand in the tip. Or the cloak with hidden pockets for special throwing stars, grenades, or a light saber that still swirls around your ankles and hides your face in the hood as you walk on a stormy night in deserted downtown London.

    • Based on your number four, have you read Diana Wynne Jones’s Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin? They parody poorly-thought-out worlds (using all the tropes and giving them a twist so that things make sense). One of the two protagonists of Dark Lord of Derkholm is a wizard-geneticist, and he makes griffin children for himself and his wife, so that they have all-human kids (via the normal way) and griffin kids (part lion/cat, part eagle, and part human), and they make a fantastic family full of a nice mixture of squabbles and love.

  2. Yes! I love all of these, too!

    I also love Companion/Group tales, like Wizard of Oz, where a hero starts out on a lonely journey and slowly gathers a group of strange companions who help them on their quest.

    Descents into darkness, and tales where the hero have to battle or keep tame the darkness within themselves are stories I also love to read.

  3. Nice list!

    Thanks for the comment – and, for sure, if you use these tropes you are probably doing something right ;)

  4. Nafiza, when my book is published (I hope within the next few years), I hope you’ll read it. Because it has every single one of your favorite fantasy tropes. And it’s first in a series! Woot! I’m honestly not trying to market here, I’m just glad somebody has the same preferences I do. The only thing that isn’t 100% the same is that the MC sort of talks to all animals, not just cats.

    • Good luck with the publishing! I look forward to reading your book! I’m guaranteed to love it if it has all my favourite tropes!

  5. Oh I do not enjoy the “Chosen One” trope at all cause that tend to veer into Mary/Tom Sue territory. I do like “Cloaks” though cause one of these day when my job pay me better, am gonna splurge on a LOTR cloak cause SO.COOL!!! And I live for “subtle romance” cause it’s so rich to mine in imagination (and not even shame here but also in fanfics! <3)

    • Oh fanfics. Not so guilty pleasures. How can you not love The Chosen One though? I always imagine myself in that role (until she makes mistakes I wouldn’t or think I wouldn’t). And yes, man. Subtle romances, emphasis on the subtle. Those do it for me all the time.

      • I feel the “Chosen One” is sort of lazy? In that the Chosen is able to rescue/have sudden onset of awesome magical ability that will save mankind because it was predestined to be that way. I prefer the reluctant heron/heroine trope a lot more.

        Yeah, subtle romance works cause it’s just enough to whet or satisfy our appetite and prevent the eye rolling.

  6. I immediately started running through all of my own favorite tropes/authors! Mercedes Lackey! Tamora Pierce! Robin McKinley! And a newer one, Anthony Ryan with Blood Song!

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