My Musings

Annoying Tropes in Fantasy: A humorous perusal of overused tropes in my favourite genre.

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As a fantasy fan, I occasionally come across over used or old tropes that I find annoying. Every genre of book has them, that tired old cliché that makes you shake your head and sigh whilst reading.

Well, I have created a humorous (well, I think it is) list of my fifteen most annoying fantasy tropes:

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So there you have it, a good-natured and fun look at annoying tropes in fantasy. There’s two tropes and clichés that I didn’t mention, my list, my rules and they are Animal Companions and Weapon Naming and that’s because animal companions are awesome and well, weapon naming is also cool, if I was a fantasy character – anti-hero obviously! Then I’d have myself an animal companion and a named weapon. 🙂

Out of the list, my most annoying fantasy trope is Number 8: Magic. I’m a big fan of magic but sometimes less is more and you don’t need wave after wave of sorcery being unleashed in duels and battles destroying entire towns and armies. Little hints, nods and nuances to magic in the world most of the time work far better.

Also, there needs to be a cost when using magic, a price to pay for either the world or the character using it, magic usage needs consequences.


Well my fellow bookish bloggers, is there any tropes you would add to the list?? What is your most annoying fantasy trope?? And, if you’re not a fantasy fan (I hope you had fun reading this and smiled at least once too) then I ask you, what is the most annoying trope in your favoured genre of books??

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143 thoughts on “Annoying Tropes in Fantasy: A humorous perusal of overused tropes in my favourite genre.

  1. Omg the fictional languages though! Hahaha it’s so sad but so true. I’ll admit when I’m writing, I tend to use phonetic Russian or Persian instead of being creatively annoying. Laziness? Pity for whatever unsuspecting reader who’s willing to read the work? I say a combination of the two. Brilliant post 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ha, thanks, it’s one of the worst parts of the fantasy genre especially when you read alot of it like I do and every different series has different complex languages, names and places, it’s not necessarily the language itself but figuring out how to pronounce it and going over and over in your head trying to get it how you think is right!😂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh I know! My pet peeve is “strong female leads” who are anything but. Catnis, Hermione, Tris, Danerys… I could go on but I won’t. I HATE “strong”(weak) women. Ain’t none of my ladies like that.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. But they don’t need to be what the reader wants them to be? Realness is far more important otherwise it’s just insanely stupid. Katniss very obviously suffered from PTSD after taking part in the Hunger Games which makes her human, Hermione has a scientific mind that is reluctant to accept new ideas but that makes her far more human, Tris is extremely relatable, kind of selfish, morally undecided and thus a pretty normal person and if it wasn’t for Daenerys’s flaws and poor follow-through then THAT would be bad character writing. Who wants to read about a person who just gets it right all the time? That’s not real, human beings are flawed and to reiterate it would be incredibly dull. I’d rather read about a character who makes mistakes, continuously, maybe even makes the same mistakes twice (mistakes do not stop for the sake of character development) a character who might divide readers instead of inspire mass devotion…. this is what gets people talking! As for inspiring young women (if that’s your motive), it is not an authors job to provide good role models, that’s for parents, teachers, leaders etc to do.

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      3. I don’t want characters who get it right all the time, just ones that aren’t called “strong female characters” while pretty much always still being saved by the boys. Take for example some of my main female characters. Mòrag has struggles with rage and jumps in without thinking a lot of the time which causes a lot of problems, she is also very blasé when she gets stuff wrong and just brushes it off and moves on without dwelling on the consequences which infuriates other characters, yet she still is the one that does the saving of herself and others. Ava has struggles with PTSD, substance abuse as part of her coping mechanisms and is at times extreme a social detachment, yet she could assassinate even Mòrag without having to try too hard (Mòrag essentially being a Demi-god) we then have Nora, who is tortured, battered, beaten all both mentally and physically, she is helped by two of the boys but she gets out of it on her own while simultaneously being part of one of the biggest love stories in any of my books but not letting that be the thing that defines her, she is her own woman. I have so many more. I am all about strong women. REAL strong women. Because let’s not forget, women don’t ask for things to be done for them. If they want something done, they roll their sleeves up and do it themselves 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great list! Absolutely amazing hahaha I really like your descriptions about the characters, the magic, the bad guy who’s not bad. Again, great post ^_^ I also realized that I’m use a lot of these when I’m writing as well haha and that I actually like and expect some of these to appear in fantasy books :’) I’m sometimes dissapointed even when many of these points above don’t come back in the novel :’)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent list! I’m very much irritated by the lack of clothing and also the maiden in distress, and usually those two are combined in one, and oh that is so irritating. Where are our capable, clothed heroines?
    And great point about dragons – I haven’t ever thought of dragons that way, almost as a crutch, and yeah, there should be more magical creatures around!
    And I totally agree with you about having an animal friend and a named weapon. Those are two of my favorites! And they always have the coolest names.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.😀

      It’s only a humorous list but the points are valid, I forgot though that clothes and maidens could be together, damn, I could have really been sarcastic in the list if I’d remembered that!😂

      Dragon’s are cool but there’s a lot more different magical creatures and sometimes it seems that authors just stick with Dragon’s instead of branching out and being slightly different.

      True, cool names are a given for weapons and animals to.😀

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I used dragons in mine, but only for one chapter. They weren’t imperative to the storytelling, just kind of a side thing. Like something one of my characters encountered while traveling the world. But for only a couple of pages. There are references to dragons in other places, but I took more of a myth/lore approach, rather than having them be front and center. I used other creatures, like Sepharyn (my own made up name for flying demons lol), Nymphs (kind of like Elves, immortal, connected with trees, but more like caretakers). Mages were featured, but none of them were primary characters. They just exist in the background. Most of my characters are human and based on real world ethnicities/cultures (Hispanic, Middle-Eastern, Indian, Asian, etc.)

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Yes to all of these. A lot of these tropes are the reason I didn’t like reading adult fantasy. The made up languages, magical herbs, the old wizard, the perfect snowflake… And the bridge thing is so annoying. Anytime they have to take a detour I’m always like okay what’s going to happen now. There’s no element of surprise anymore. Nice list!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My pet peeve, which is relatively recent one, is the downtrodden female drudge who leaves an abusive father/brother/lover and runs away to the city where she stumbles across a canny bloke, usually on the wrong side of the law, who hands her a knife/sword, gives her a few lessons on how to use it. And then pow! She’s a fully emancipated female, capable of handling herself in any situation and becomes a kickass heroine. Really??? Because if it WAS as easy as that, millions of women and girls around the world wouldn’t still be battling against prejudice and poverty.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. My least favorite is number 10- prophesy of any level frustrates me. It just opens up for the author to use Deus ex Machina. Ugh.
    A great list– while I adore many of these troupes alone or in small groups, I really struggle with books where the are piled on. But, where would our genres be without troupes?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Amen to all of these! Though I’d have to say that my least favorite is number 6 – the bad guy’s not really bad. Sometimes I just want me villains to stay the villain, even if they’re my favorite character in the book (looking at you, Darkling!).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahahaha yeah, it’s YA – The Grisha Trilogy 😂… And I completely agree, anti-heroes are my favorite. Like Edmund Dantes is one of the greatest fictional characters ever and he definitely wasn’t the best person.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Don’t give authors terrible ideas like that Justin Bieber monster!! I wonder where it comes from… 😂 I haven’t read that much fantasy but the fact I can check all of these from the stories indeed says something! The most annoying for me is the characters looks. Of course, they have to be beautiful and modest about it and throw their hair back with a majestic move or look you deep in the eyes with those blue jewels of theirs. Yikes because in the end their beauty is just a lure and you’re stupid enough to fall for it you moron!!!! Also, there are so many orphans in fantasy someone should investigate, it’s a real epidemy.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Top notch Drew, TOP NOTCH!! 😀 You should’ve seen my face while reading this :’). (or well, not, since you’ve spread the man flu onto me and I’m DYING now!)

    LOL! Flying Justin Biebers :’) Now that’s a mythical creature I can pass on! Dragons are definitely overdone, though. I love dragons, but do they have to be in everything?! Ah, yes, it’s called a trope, Anne ;).

    Bridget’s Nielsen’s weapons of mass destruction, ahahahah! Is this a reference to the beloved strumpets you were talking about a couple of moons ago? 😉 Funny how there are a lot of reclusive old men living around my place but none of them are wizards. Unless they’re really good at hiding it. The “I can change for her syndrome” is why I love my Horror movies. I know I can show the true meaning of love to Michael Myers if he lets me :’):’). And start a baby factory afterwards :’D. You’re definitely right about the magic costs. No mana or getting a bloody nose should be a minimum of the consequences after using too much of it! Great post Drew!! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, glad it amused you, I tried to make it funny.

      Lol, unless you’ve asked those reclusive old men to show you their staff or wand then how do you know they’re not wizards?!?!?! They could be undercover and waiting for the chosen one! 🙂

      Dragons are cool but there are other creatures out there that authors could use and it’s nice to occasionally see that instead of thinking oh, another dragon!

      No, not really a strumpet reference, I guess I am showing my age with the Conan/Schwazanegger and Red Sonja/Nielson references though!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Drew, are you suggesting I should ask old men to flash me their wands? :’) LMAO, the chosen one! I think my reputation of being the crazy cat lady will definitely be confirmed if I’d just walk up to any old guy saying “I’m the chosen one. Now show me your wand.” :’)
        Are you saying you’re an old man as well? I’m the chosen one. Now show me your wand.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ha! Getting away with it…*shakes head* ;).
        Well, now that would be unfortunate. But I’d take pics and post them here obviously >:D. Or on flashyourwand.com… Potato/potato!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I just checked for you because that’s what a friend does :’). And there’s no website, but maybe the domain name is still available. I smell a gold mine here! XD

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Maybe I can gift it to myself as an early christmas present :’). Oh yeah, that’s right, I can’t because I’m broke!

        Like

  10. hahahaha hilarious post!! Shame that your biggest issue is the magic one- that’s the one I’m most likely to let off the hook- in fact I’m irritated by people often trying to explain the mechanics of it- although some symbolic costs are interesting- I’m basically fine with people saying because *magic*. I’d rather not have some annoying infodump explaining it away. I also *love* dragons- but I’m very particular about them being done right- and I agree that they’re overused. For me though I think elves are used much more frequently and unnecessarily! The wise reclusive wizard, the nobody and wielding swords with no difficulty all really annoy me! But the one that gets me the most is the gibberish aspect- if I have to use a dictionary in the back of the book to understand what’s going on, then I will be extraordinarily irritated! (Because even gibberish should be obvious in the way it’s placed in the syntax dammit!!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I went for funny with it.😀

      Dragons are cool, just overused at times, they work really well but in some books it just comes across as the author used dragons because they’re cool and popular but they don’t add anything to the story.

      I haven’t read to many books with lots of elves in – there not my favourite type of character anyway though.

      The wise reclusive wizard is so annoying because you just know when there’s an old recluse in the village, etc that he’s going to turn out to be a wizard, sigh – it is fantasy though but old reclusive guys in reality aren’t wizards!😂

      The worst thing for me about the gibberish is trying to pronounce it in my head as I’m reading and then the pronunciation changing daily!😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yeah definitely!! They’re not my favourite either- but they seem to crop up everywhere- maybe that’s just me lol 😉
        Hahaha yes- they’re usually just people that haven’t washed in a really long time! I suppose you might mistaken for thinking they have magic, cos they do have the power to repel a lot of people with their smell 😉
        Hahaha yes!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. **clapping enthusiastically**
    I think you covered all the bases here (and I love the “old paper” look of the list, very fine work there…), but I laughed out loud at the item about language: there was one book I read a couple of years ago, where the characters’ names were so convoluted that I had trouble pronouncing them even in my head! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I agree with you on the magic bit. As Rumplestiltskin would say, “Magic always comes with a price.” I love your list and your descriptions were hilarious. I love dragons as well, but they do tend to be over-used. I don’t get the no clothing thing in fantasy. It’s weird. Lol the old wizard with the beard. Unless it’s Dumbledore or Gandalf there’s no real reason why the old wizard needs a white beard that they’d trip over unless they’ve been cursed with facial hair that grows at an exponential rate. The Damsel in Distress is so annoying (which is why I enjoy Game of Thrones so much, for characters like Arya and Dany). Oh my god that language thing is so true! I get having another language but there should at least be a glossery or index or whatever its called where you explain what the words mean! Most of the time I just glaze over the words cause I don’t know what they mean.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I was going for fun with the descriptions.😀

      That’s true about Dany and Arya, GRRM may like certain tropes but he does write some decent female roles.

      Language is bad, I keep changing the pronunciation every time I read some words and it’s like damn, simple words please!😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah when I even try and pronounce something from the book in real life I give up. Then people think I haven’t read the book cause I can’t say the protagonists name

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Lol very funny. Great post and great points too! I have to say that the old wizard is one I’ve seen crop up in some kids fantasies I’ve looked at lately. I think some of the list like the orphan or an outcast can be written well but a lot of books go with a generic story these days. Great post and something for me to think about in future…I’m trying to write fantasy for the first time :o!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This is awesome! So many ring true but I particularly took a liking to Rule #4 (A nobody becoming a master swordsman overnight) and Rule #15 (Gibberish). Of course it’s cool for our humble hero to become proficient with a sword, but oftentimes he/she learns far too quickly!

    And as for the nonsensical languages, I actually just wrote a post which included a bit of a rant against ridiculous character names in fantasy. I do enjoy the genre but sometimes the names can be a bit contrived/overboard.
    You have a great blog here. I’ve just subscribed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.😀

      It’s really a humorous look at the tropes as fantasy is my favourite genre but it’s all also true about them.

      True, if they’re going to be the hero/heroine then they need to be proficient with weapons, it should just take some time and mistakes to learn that though, some books it’s a couple of paragraphs and they are awesome at it, sigh, if only learning was that easy in real life.😂

      Naming is definitely annoying, it’s make believe and the author has to create names and a language but sometimes they just go to far with them.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. This is hilarious! I really laughed at the wizard (although I love Gandalf), the bridge and the adopted son. I can conjure up a similar case in every epic fantasy I have read. I also hate to take away from the amount Tolkien invested in the elven language, but it is so true 😉 It has gotten so out of hand haha. It is like they bag of some scrabble pieces, shake em, and toss them out and bam! New language!

    The clothing is not as bad in most of what I have read, but being a gamer and also lover of fantasy film.. HAHAHA. Especially being a girl gamer.. I cannot count how many time my new “chest peice” was questionable. It protects what exactly? My nipps? I am dying 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  16. This made me laugh! They’re all so true but to be fair, some of them do work if written well and providing there are too many cliches. I totally agree that whilst I am an avid fan of dragons, there a serious lack of imagination put into other magical creatures alongside these dragons. I so want someone to go all Spiderwick and create a whole bunch of new creatures that look insanely cool!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Quasimodo is a character that transcends the “beast with a heart of gold” trope. But then again The Hunchback of Notre Dame isn’t a fantasy book. As a fantasy writer myself (1000+ words), I used to but now try to steer clear of these tropes. One way I’ve done this is by reading actual history. I took a cue from George RR Martin, who’s often praised for his more “realistic” approach to the genre. History teaches you about human behavior, and is good for crafting a classic story.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Apart from fantasy, there’s this annoying habit of authors that want to teach their female character how to fight. The thing they point out? Every. Single. Time?
    “Just don’t put your thumb inside your fist!”
    If I have to read that sentence one more time, I’m probably going to stop reading.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Pretty sure it’s mainly used in “badass” chicklits and I kinda doubt you’d read those, haha.
        Honestly though, you’d think authors would come up with something more original if they want their female character to learn how to knock someone out. Oh well. :’)

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true. I agree with Drew when he said “just make the female a capable lead from the start of the book!” That’s how I feel every time an interesting female character pops up only to be sidelined. I started writing my own stories incorporating female leads because of this very issue. I’m grateful that some pieces of fiction featuring good female leads exist but there could definitely be a whole lot more.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Loved this! I admit, I giggled and laughed quite a bit. I agree with your list. I like how the characters in a series by Mercedes Lackey (Tarma and Kethry) do NOT fall into these molds. I knew there was a reason I loved those two! And the BEST dark character to love has got to be Drizzt.
    You are kind of young, by the Belgaraid series is full of cliche and absolutely an darn good read (David Eddings). Or yes, I know, YA—Tamora Pierce is VERY good at training women to fight properly. (have you read the book, ‘By the Sword?’ About sword fighting thru the ages?)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You might not like Eddings then. He’s more fun than dark. Pierce has dark. She had one character in a story who still makes my skin crawl!!!! One who was truly evil. And yet, he was so easy to like!

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Drew you are a fucking legend!
    OK I love Dragons, I will pretty much read any book with a dragon in so it royally pisses me off when they are used as a trope. If you aren’t gonna do dragons properly don’t fucking do them.
    The magic thing is really annoying, especially when a new mage comes into their power and ‘magiclly’ knows exactly what to do, as if!
    And the needy maidens, fuck right off! In fantasy land women kick arse thank you!
    And that whole made up language thing is hard work, really hard work. I think authors think they are being clever but no, not really.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Ah yesss, that is a great list 😀 As I am mostly reading Fantasy as well, I came across all of them, some more often than others.

    A couple of years ago, I got really tired of ‘Quest Fantasy’ – just a group on their way to defeat the dark lord. Mostly including an old wizard, a young baker’s boy/farm boy, an old grumpy sword fighter and a runaway princess^^ I am into quests again, but only if the team is not that stereotypical 😀

    Tropes I really can’t stand and try to get around are the chosen one, the ‘boy turns into swordfighter within a couple of pages’ (It’s a montage!!), the princess running away from marrying an evil dude and ‘all heroes are beautiful, all villains are ugly’. Also, I stay away from books featuring elves, dwarfs and orcs.

    I can never get tired of dragons and don’t mind almighty sorcerers. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I’m not a fantasy fan and my experience with the genre is pretty limited, but mostly it’s these kinds of tropes that put me off fantasy fiction completely. I feel like the use of magic as a theme, or the inclusion of the “wise old sage”, or even the use of mythical fantasy creatures as a plot device is a bit of a lazy way to propel a story. The world is created by the author, but often the author relies on these tired tropes to tell the story. I don’t know… just seems a bit frustrating!

    What would be on a “15 favourite fantasy tropes” list of yours? Or just “15 favourite things about fantasy”?

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I have to admit and say some of these overused tropes are my guilty pleasure (as they often appear in ‘those books 😛 Does that make you feel tainted somewhat!?), especially 6! I like to think bad guys are just, y’know, misunderstood and deserving of a chance to change!
    15, though! Oh my god, don’t even get me started. Sometimes I’ll see a name of a character or place and there’s literally near enough no vowels in it. I just have to either omit the name entirely when reading it or just make a random noise when I come across it!
    Also, you’re right; weapon naming and animal companions are awesome!

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  24. hahahaha a massive flying Justin Bieber would be more terrifying than a dragon by far!! 😉 hehehe there always does seem to be a blocked path somewhere along the way 😉 And gosh yes the orphan-is-really-the-chosen-one trope is overused!! And convenient prophecies!! And the gibberish one made me laugh out loud. I will be honest though, the one thing I can forgive in any fantasy is magic. While I appreciate clever or unique magic, it’s just fine for me to have any type of magic in fantasy, cos, well, exploring the unexplained is the point of a lot of the genre, so I’m bound to be forgiving if the author leaves it unexplained. But that’s just me- I know a lot of other people are bothered by that- it’s just something I find it easy to suspend my disbelief for and actually get irritated if there’s too much in the way of explanation. (Which basically proves you can’t please everyone LOL!!!)

    Liked by 1 person

  25. What if the dragon was a time traveler and really liked Bieber? What if he had the fever? What if… and go with me on this… what if he imprisoned Bieber and took him back to his cave where he could make him sing forever?

    Liked by 1 person

  26. This list is brilliant! But just after I read the first entry I have noticed that after many years as Dungeon Master for DND, that I do not recall ever using an actual dragon in my stories. Yes, they would be in the background or something but always tried to find or create a unique monster as the villain. Other than that though, the rest is spot on. The Maiden in Distress who needs no man half way through and the language one made me laugh.

    /thumbs up

    Liked by 1 person

  27. This list is wonderful! 11 and 10 are my main bug-bears in fantasy. One day I look forward to the farm boy that after his quest rocks up to the nearest castle and turns out just to be a farm boy that no one wants to acknowledge. I have a tendency to like things where there’s an actual cost to magic too, otherwise I always feel like it’s a little too easy.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome! I’m very much like you too on the magic front, I hate it when the characters don’t have a stop to their magical abilities or endure consequences 🤣🙈

        Liked by 1 person

  28. So glad that Dave @TheWriteRead highlighted this post, Drew, cuz it’s brilliant! No. 8 is one of my pet peeves too. I think that’s why I love Kevin Hearne and Jim Butcher so much. 💜
    Gotta confess that the made up language thing is what keeps me away from space/sci-fi as well as fantasy. Love watching but don’t have the patience to read it. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a cool surprise that he featured it.👍📚 Such an old post with shockingly bad grammar but fun and most seemed to find it funny too.😂

      Eurgh, made up language, it’s OK when it is simple but when it is complicated with various different sounds and no clue as to how to pronounce it, grumble.😂

      Like

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