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Hey everybody,

What are your most and least favorite tropes in fantasy?

Mine are, awesome bromances where the friends are not hesitant to show affection as the best (cue Aragorn with literally any of the Fellowship). The worst is when it has token characters, PoC, women or queer characters (I guess that's not just about fantasy but any genre).

Drop your answers.

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At the fic level, I generally avoid sf and fantasy.  Even commercially published works can be iffy, so in a medium where writers are just cutting their teeth, the output is often iffy.  I grew up on Tolkien and the Grand Masters of sf, and it's hard to achieve that level.  It's also very difficult to do vampires as well as Stoker and mad scientists as well as Shelley.  Not to mention that subverting those tropes into romantic fiction is just completely unsatisfying for this reader.

I have found some good stories here on GA, AwesomeDude/Codey's World, and even Nifty, but only at the cost of wading through a lot of stuff I really didn't enjoy.  But that's not to say that people shouldn't be writing those stories, only that they don't appeal to me.  I was reflecting in the shower the other day that my problem with slashfic is not so much the idea of Kirk and Spock getting it on, but rather the extremely unpalatable image (for me, at least) of Shatner and Nimoy in a liplock.  Now Nimoy and Quinto, on the other hand . . . (oops, did I actually type that?)

Which leads me to the inevitable question:  does anyone know of some good Galaxy Quest slashfic?

Edited by BigBen
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Favorite:  World building. This concept makes or breaks the story. There is so much to consider in this creative process, and I adore a phenomenally built world. Paranormal human distinctions, non-typical Earth creatures/beasts, map creation, kingdom hierarchy, political issues...just to name a few considerations. I'm still getting my feet wet as an author, but I have a dream to go completely insane and build one of these worlds for a story. I'm hesitant to do it as I feel I'll become borderline obsessive with it. But for those authors, like Tolkien, who can pull this off and masterfully create a world that every fan would dream to live in, they deserve every word of praise that comes their way.

World building doesn't have to be elaborate. As long as the message is conveyed to the reader of how the story's concept is different than our own, the author may not have to put in much effort. My heart soars in a fantasy world when the author displays a sense of normalcy to their world. This immediately puts me on the ground inside the world. So what if there are purple cobra people slithering around on giant tails? The author has them sitting (I'll let you figure that one out...) at a hibachi restaurant. It's normal, and I suddenly find myself bingeing a whole novel! 

Least:  Generic stories. This is a very particular grievance, but it's something I can't get behind. I love me some fantasy/paranormal/sci-fi stories, but I need something to set the world apart from every other story out there. It's easy to write a were-creature/vampire story, as most traits for these creatures are passed down from story to story with little to no change. There are plenty of Wikis and other websites to grab information from that will clarify what generic gargoyles, elves, dwarves, and imps can and can't do. 

Make something stand out, even if it's a tiny little detail. That small quirk will nab my attention in a flash, as I will expect it to be useful later. An example (I hate promoting myself, please smack me), I have a story involving a deer shapeshifter. In the world I've built, this species has a unique ability to shapeshift from human to animal without making a sound, compared to other animal species. Most shifter stories visualize this process with bone crunching snaps as their bodies are being reconfigured. To other characters, the deer's trait completely baffles them. It's small details like this that capture my attention. Go too big (example, make a were-creature able to shift in a simple *poof*, done!), and that'll be a no from me. Referencing Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it's got to be just right.

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Oooh, a nitpick! This is so exciting to find a fellow like minded fantasy reader/author. I'm very particular myself when it comes to minor and less obvious details in a fantasy.

I love when there are limitations to a fantasy world. There are some people who seem to believe that everything goes with very little logic since its 'fantasy.'

You sound like someone interesting to get feedback from. 

 

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Limitations are completely necessary! Another trope I despise is giving a character too much power. When a character (often the primary protagonist or antagonist) collects too much power, not only does it make fights and the "destined" story route seem drab, it dwarfs the other secondary characters. These characters still struggle while the main character can snap their fingers and make enemy minions explode. 

Using DBZ as an example, Goku and Vegeta are the primary powerhouses, but the writes give some progress to others like Piccolo and Gohan. This, in my opinion, is somewhat acceptable, but I desire some power increase to minor characters like Krillin and Yamcha. 

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Every thing in the realm of understood and imagined physics has limits. But not some fantasy characters 🙄

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Ugh! I could rant for a while on the important of limitations. I think my favorite limitation is combat experience. You can have an all-powerful hero, but if they haven't been in a proper fight, oh boy... 

Watching them take that first punch to the gut and not feeling pain until that moment is both hilarious and true. I applaud the detailed writers who display such detail of the power of a punch. To hock a haymaker at one's head is effective, but ineffective to the owner's hand. There's unspoken damage there in the recoil and it goes unwritten many times. 

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Fantasy can be difficult to do well. I think what annoys me with some books is where the author has got so engrossed in their world building that it overwhelms the story with lots of info dumping. I also get annoyed by too much dropping in of made up languages and lots of unpronounceable names. As @astone2292 said, limitations are important. Once the rules for, say, the use of magic are set up, they shouldn't be changed or contradicted. Too many characters introduced at once can be confusing, although this can be a problem in any genre. 
 

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I can appreciate a well-placed info dump, particularly an immersed character explaining parts of the world to a fresh face who has no clue (someone who just found their magical ability, for example). 

Introducing new characters is a fun experience when writing, but I try to limit it to three faces at a time. 

At work currently, so as I've thought about this topic, I've come up with an overall comparison that can be relative. Writing fantasy is very similar to pro-wrestling/sports entertainment. As long as the story is built properly and the characters are somewhat balanced in a class system, the story will succeed. It also helps to have the characters in briefs or some other revealing outfits :gikkle:.

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When it comes to fantasy, I have become such a picky consumer. I don't know when or why it started, as I used to be an extremely avid reader and watcher of fantasy with little to no standards, but nowadays I find myself shuffling through the slush pile more than actually consuming. I think my tastes have become way too narrow for my own good.

Most favorite tropes: Characters that are broken and imperfect but are still trying to be the best they can be. Not necessarily always the underdog. Just humble characters who are often humbled. Of course, I also love me a well written tragic anti-hero.

Least favorite tropes: This one is going to be oddly specific, but power fantasies as a general whole. By power fantasies, I mean stories in which the drive of the plot essentially boils down to an author's thinly veiled attempt to write themselves as heroes of their own ultimate vengeance stories. Power fantasies are rampant with toxic tropes in themselves and are often degrading of human beings as a general whole. They exist in many genres, but most especially anime and manga. Maybe I am just being a judgmental prick, but I have developed an extremely keen eye for identifying a certain type of writer arrogance on the page, and I can't help but be wary of these stories.

I am not too sure how to describe this next trope I dislike, but it pertains more towards an author's world view I suppose. A lot of fantasies tend to be written from a, how should I say, imperialist mindset? For lack of a better word. It's very much been and still is the norm in American fantasy and sci-fi, and while not necessarily wrong in itself, seeing this line of thinking in stories can get pretty tiring for me. 

Finally, I also dislike young prodigies. A specific extension to Mary and Gary sues. I will immediately put a book down when X character is all powerful is quickly followed by...and is only 16! Hence why I struggle so very much to get into YA fiction...the only time I read about prodigies and wasn't turned off by it was Ender's Game. Man, am I a joyless reader. Lol.

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3 hours ago, Serelec said:

When it comes to fantasy, I have become such a picky consumer. I don't know when or why it started, as I used to be an extremely avid reader and watcher of fantasy with little to no standards, but nowadays I find myself shuffling through the slush pile more than actually consuming. I think my tastes have become way too narrow for my own good.

Most favorite tropes: Characters that are broken and imperfect but are still trying to be the best they can be. Not necessarily always the underdog. Just humble characters who are often humbled. Of course, I also love me a well written tragic anti-hero.

Least favorite tropes: This one is going to be oddly specific, but power fantasies as a general whole. By power fantasies, I mean stories in which the drive of the plot essentially boils down to an author's thinly veiled attempt to write themselves as heroes of their own ultimate vengeance stories. Power fantasies are rampant with toxic tropes in themselves and are often degrading of human beings as a general whole. They exist in many genres, but most especially anime and manga. Maybe I am just being a judgmental prick, but I have developed an extremely keen eye for identifying a certain type of writer arrogance on the page, and I can't help but be wary of these stories.

I am not too sure how to describe this next trope I dislike, but it pertains more towards an author's world view I suppose. A lot of fantasies tend to be written from a, how should I say, imperialist mindset? For lack of a better word. It's very much been and still is the norm in American fantasy and sci-fi, and while not necessarily wrong in itself, seeing this line of thinking in stories can get pretty tiring for me. 

Finally, I also dislike young prodigies. A specific extension to Mary and Gary sues. I will immediately put a book down when X character is all powerful is quickly followed by...and is only 16! Hence why I struggle so very much to get into YA fiction...the only time I read about prodigies and wasn't turned off by it was Ender's Game. Man, am I a joyless reader. Lol.

I personally judge people who don't like Ender's Game. I know its very petty, but it's my thing.

I'd love to hear your vies on imperialism and what you dislike about it though. Sounds like you have an interesting reason behind it.

Not to sound like a sales person, but it'd be great if you checked out my story, Blackthorn. If I say so myself it has all your favorites and hope that it doesn't have your least favorite trope since no-one has ever pointed that out. And, I promise I don't write super powerful babies either.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Ruslana di Angelo said:

I'd love to hear your vies on imperialism and what you dislike about it though. Sounds like you have an interesting reason behind it.

Not to sound like a sales person, but it'd be great if you checked out my story, Blackthorn. If I say so myself it has all your favorites and hope that it doesn't have your least favorite trope since no-one has ever pointed that out. And, I promise I don't write super powerful babies either.

My thoughts on imperialism in fantasy is a bit complicated because like systematic racism, imperialism in its modern form is so evasive as to be nearly invisible, so I'm not sure I can eloquently explain it...I grew up with a very "post-colonial" education and come from an immigrant family with a turbulent political background, so I was taught to look for little nuances in our western society from early on. I'll just cut to an example to help me illustrate, the easiest one I can think of being Indiana Jones. To the mass, the movie is simply about a man trying to save the world...But underneath that narrative underlies this rather blasé treatment of another culture. It speaks about this excessive need for outsiders to own pieces of another culture for their own gain, an outright objectification of an entire people and their legacy. This drive is so great that these outsiders are ready to outright destroy generations of ancestral history and preserve only the things that they see beneficial to their own causes. I know Indiana Jones as the hero is trying to do the right thing, but I also see both him and the Nazis as prime examples of academia's long history of speaking over and silencing the real cultural bearers. It is still a problem that exists today across the entire world over, and it has very real, tangible consequences. To this day, indigenous people still have to put up a fight to convince others that they do in fact know their own culture better than an outsider who only read about their history in books. People more readily believe old white men and people in western-style suits. It's just how it's been throughout history, at least in the states.

Movies and books like that are all mindless fun, I totally get it, and of course you'll find that any culture is guilty of "othering" and outright eradicating cultures and peoples outside their own, but pop culture can serve as powerful clues at to what a society's paradigm looks like. I know post-colonial perspectives/studies can be a hard concept to swallow for many. This is partly because it makes people feel like they are being accused of something or are being told they are part of the problem. I've seen full grown, adult students walk out of college classes because they get so upset over these things...But that's not at all what I am trying to say here. I would never dare tell someone they can't like Indiana Jones or write their own dungeon crawler because of blah blah blah reasons. I would never go up to someone's face and tell them they are part of the problem unless they are, in fact, part of the problem. I just think people don't always realize the power they have at their fingertips when they craft their narratives.

One movie that has an incredible post-colonial narrative and handles the matter so gracefully that I don't think most people even realize how nuanced its take on it is is the live action Dora the Explorer. I know, weird, but I love it for that very reason.  I'm not sure I did any justice in trying to explain the post-colonial narrative and my take on imperialism, especially because this is a perspective that, at least for me, was decades in the making, but I hope I at least provided you with some interesting insight.

Also, I'd be happy to give your story a read :)

Edited by Serelec
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For me, fantasy has always been a challenging genre. After all, the level of surprise in the plot is always too chaotic. I think there is very little stability in fantasy, and it takes a lot of craft experience to achieve balance.

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On 4/16/2021 at 9:42 AM, Ruslana di Angelo said:

I personally judge people who don't like Ender's Game. I know its very petty, but it's my thing.

Really?  Ender's Game is rather dark, and definitely not everyone's cup of tea, a specialized taste, if you will.  I found it a decent read, though I doubt it holds much appeal for many sf readers, much less the general readership—so you must be consigning the majority of the human race to the pit of your judgement.  As I recall, I started Speaker for the Dead but was unable to muster enough interest to finish it, much less to look at the later books.

I know that authors' real-life attitudes and politics should not matter to our appreciation of their work, but I was dismayed to learn of Card's membership in the Mormon Church and his avowed distaste for homosexuals.  As a result, I have basically ignored his output since Speaker for the Dead.  He doesn't want me as a fan, and I am happy to oblige him.

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