Avoiding Clichés

Clichés in fantasy are many, and in previous blog posts, I have addressed a few that I try to avoid.  As an author it can be dangerous to make the claim that I am avoiding clichés when they can be hard to avoid.  I would imagine that many times when authors use clichés in their works it is unintentional, or perhaps I would just like to give my fellow writers the benefit of the doubt.  Especially if the writer has a traditional publishing contract, I would guess if the author included clichés it is intentional.  What cliché have I not addressed before that is replete in fantasy books, TV shows, and films?  The one magical weapon that can destroy the dark lord.

I have seen this cliché repeated in various fantasy stories.  There is the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings, the Sword of Shannara in the Shannara series, and Harry Potter is the only one in the whole world who can defeat Voldemort.  In that sense, Harry Potter is the magical object that can destroy the villain.  It is a neat concept and is believable within the context of a nearly all-powerful villain.  If a writer sets up an immortal, super-powerful antagonist, it is very difficult to defeat him or her in a believable way.  However, does this have to be the case for so many villains in fantasy?  This cliché is also one of the many common complaints I have found with post-Tolkien fantasy.  What if fantasy started to regularly employ other means of defeating the main villain?  What if modern fantasy could rise above the common problems that make it look a lot like clones of the Middle-Earth Legendarium?  What if the antagonist destroyed himself?  What if the protagonist found an unconventional chink in the villain’s metaphorical armor?

What I want to see is new life breathed into the fantasy genre.

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2 thoughts on “Avoiding Clichés”

  1. As seminal as the Harry Potter series was to me and as important as LotR is to the genre, I agree. The ‘one weapon to destroy the dark lord’ trope is pretty played out (though Tolkein gets something of a pass as an originator). I do feel like many contemporary adult fantasy authors have moved past it though. The likes of George R R Martin, Rothfuss, Lynch, Lawrence etc. don’t use it and I think readers have woken up to it as something of a cop out. Good article.

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  2. Thank you for you kind words and feedback. I agree with you on Tolkien getting a pass. His idea with the One Ring, while not new, definitely wasn’t as wide-spread as it is now. You are right that modern fantasy is starting to get away from that fortunately. It still comes up more often than it probably should. The TV show Supernatural comes to mind (even though I love it).

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