There are many fantasy tropes, from the chosen one, the orphan rising to the helpless princess, the unbeatable hero, the ugly villain… Some are really horrible, seen so many times they make you sick, reflecting close-minded times, belittling an entire group of people… take your pick, there is many cliches we REALLY don’t want to see anymore.
But tropes don’t have to be all bad.
There are many GOOD writers still using them and people loving it. I don’t think anyone is being fooled into believing they are presented with a new concept. That does happen, but it’s extremely rare. I kind of believe most tales have already been told, the only thing that changes is the way it is told. When I think about it honestly, I have to admit there are old things I really enjoy seeing again and again. I’ve never been tired of seeing a new interpretation of one of my favourite tales. Give me a spin on the Beauty and the Beast any day and I’ll gladly read it/watch it/play it. Same goes to most Jane Austen fiction. If a new BBC series turns up, I’ll pounce on it. Can’t help myself.
This is why I always feel that the criticism of cliches or tropes is a little misplaced. When the trope is not offensive (those can burn in hell, like the necessarily smart Asian, or the nameless token coloured person who dies first), most of the time the trope is just a tool in a heavy toolbox. Used right you don’t even notice it. Used wrong you roll your eyes.
So I was very happy to see this video recently:
Even if I don’t completely agree with the list of iWriterly, I do agree that we all have things we enjoy. I’m a sucker for good endings, and while I find bitter sweet ending intellectually very satisfying, it always make my sensitive heart ache a little.
So personally what are my top three fantasy tropes?
- I love the hard boiled female warrior/executioner in Urban fantasy. I discovered the Anita Blake books in my late teens, when there was nothing like it yet, when the term Urban Fantasy didn’t even exist, and it blew my mind. I just had to get more of whatever that was and started a real binge. Buffy had been there, but I had never gotten into the TV series, it felt too much like a corny teen flick, with all the bad american school cliches. That overrode any fantasy element it contained. Everyday school drama bored me. Australian schools don’t have that aggressive dynamic about them so it didn’t talk to me at all. Which proves that one element you like doesn’t always makes for a creative work you go for.
- I love the enemy to friend trope. Because to me, this is what life is about, learning to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and seeing things from their angle. I love when there is many sides to a same story and when it’s well done, how the shift in point of view completely turn things on themselves. Of course I love the banter between people forced by a situation into an unlikely alliance. It’s fun to read, and it’s great to keep in mind that you have to always make an effort to understand what others mean by their action and words and not assume anything.
- And last I really really love good endings. Keeping in mind tragic endings are also a cliche, but really not one I adhere to. I am not a child, I don’t need warnings as to what I’m NOT supposed to do, and nailing on the coffin that THIS WAS A BAD IDEA or how the hero choose the wrong path and THEY NEEDED TO PAY just annoys me. Nor do I need reminders that life is ironic or unfair, or random, or that we all suffer equally. That just makes me depressed for days, and I just have to watch the news to know that. Sure, I love thinking about dilemmas and seeing different options, but I prefer to be presented with a solution, not a purge. I don’t feel catharsis from seeing/reading about others suffer, I feel depressed. Good endings uplift my mood and provide me with in the best cases with a positive response to a real problem, in it’s most mediocre cases it’s still a nice escapism from everyday.