Top Five Cliches of Fantasy Books


So what is a cliche in fantasy books? Well, in any book a cliche is something that’s used so much that it’s tired and shouldn’t really be used any more. Of course, there’s always an exception to the rule, and if you can write a cliche and somehow make it fresh and new, then by all means, do so! Of course, if you’re writing fantasy books and you just want to write and you don’t give a flying rat’s ass what people think, then good for you, you’ll probably make it farther than a lot of other writers!


So in my own opinion, here are some of the top five cliches in fantasy books and why I can’t stand them.


Evil because . . . hell if I know, he’s just evil, okay? I hate this. You have a villain who is literally no more relatable than the words on the page. They are evil just because all fantasy books need an evil person right? This evil person can have such silly goals as destroying the world, because apparently they don’t need to live in it. They do really evil things like hit people, and they are always mean and they always sneer and are mentally abusive. Sometimes they will employ tactics we all hate, like rape, or racism, or the like. And did I mention they are evil?


Magic . . . because I can’t explain my way out of this mess. I really hate this. It seems as though a lot of people think that writing fantasy books means they don’t have to abide by any kind of regulation. Seriously, if you create a world with magic, there’s gotta be some kind of governing principle with that magic. They can’t just be like “oh, there’s a million billion bazillion soldiers there and I can’t get out because I’m just a lowly mage and their swords are awful pointy. I think it’s the perfect time for a fireball the size of the Earth to wipe them out. Next?” There’s one series I was reading that I wanted to throw the last book at the author because he wrapped everything up all nice and neat at the very end with . . . magic. Despite knowing every freaking thing we did about the magic in his world, he pulled that shit on us. So frustrating!

Overly strong woman because I really want an annoying, unbelievable character. This isn’t a bash at strong female leads at all. I mean, seriously, have you read any of my books? But there come a point when you are trying too hard to make your female character tough as nails, and you end up failing and making her just really freaking annoying. This is the complete opposite of Bella from Twilight. “Damsel in distress? Bitch, I will make you the damsel in distress if you come around me with that machismo again!” (Actually, that kind of female lead is funny.) At that point I’m rooting for the really evil evil guy up above. Yes, destroy the world you faceless evil, at least that’s better than this woman who flies off the handle and acts all irrational when someone holds the door for her, because apparently that’s how really tough women rebuke a fool just being kind.

This is a fantasy world, so obviously I need to make this name goddamn impossible to pronounce. Let’s use every letter in the freaking alphabet. Jadflkuowery;;dafoi[y’sddd. I will pronounce it Steve. Seriously. Stop. I’ve got a huge forest behind my house with plenty of places to hide a body. You’re upsetting me. If the name is too hard to pronounce, I either read it as “that guy” or “Martin” (or some other name that’s easy). There’s no need for names that are that complicated. We want to read a book, not learn a new freaking language (well I guess some people like taking language classes to read fantasy). Keep it cool and simple. Is there no such thing as a world with names like Fred and George? (Besides Harry Potter.)

fantasy guard

I will put city guards in it because people expect it, but they are easily overcome because my characters need to get past them and I don’t want to really think this through. I’ve seen this a lot. The guards are apparently buffoons that have never used a sword before. They are all thumbs with their grip, and they are so easily overcome that you wonder who in the world is interviewing them and giving them their jobs. Like, really? That’s just bad writing. You might as well not even have city guards. Just don’t embarrass yourself like that man! This is worse than convenient magic! You shouldn’t be writing fantasy books. Put up your pen. Go home, you’re drunk. Or maybe you’re not drunk. In which case, go home and get drunk, it might improve your writing.

The list could go on. These are the ones that upset me the most when I’m reading fantasy books. Honestly, I looked over some sites on this topic and I found people bitching so much about every story plot and device that I wonder what they even read. “Magic with no laws. Magic with too many rules. Magic that follows rules like Earth. Magic that is too lax. Magic that . . . fuck it, just magic.” I might have added that last part, but you get the drift.

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4 comments on “Top Five Cliches of Fantasy Books
  1. Clara Bush says:

    Interesting post. I think. I’m a little confused about the evil thing. How can evil be a cliche? There is so much of the damn stuff, so I’m not sure what you are saying. Are you saying have no evil? Or have evil do some kind of evil none of us have heard about? And what would that be? Inevitably it all leads to death, or torture, or rape, or racism, or abuse, or crime or all of the above. Without evil doing evil thingys, what will the antagonist do?

    Perhaps, I have missed the point you are trying to make with regards to evil—and I am assuming—in all fiction not just fantasy? What is it again? Thanks.

    • Noooooo, of course have evil. What I meant is an evil person is evil just because you need an antagonist. I’ve read a lot of books where the bad guy has no real reason for being bad, they just are. It makes them feel cliched. People you can’t really relate to. I love baddies with a story as to why they are bad :-)

      • Clara Bush says:

        Okay, Gotcha. I see. Except the novella I am working on now, the antagonist is super evil and I really don’t give a reason—unless you consider a mean drunk as a reason. Guess I must re-examine that. Thanks, Travis. This post really made me think— which is the sign of a terrific post!

        • I’m sure there’s a reason in there and you just didn’t really consider it before. From what I hear about your writing, you don’t use cheap plot devices, so I’m sure your villain is good at what he does, and isn’t a cardboard cutout! <3 And thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it :-)

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