Last year we talked a bit about tropes and why I think they are necessary. This year, I was asked to delve into which tropes are my favorites. Ready? Let’s go on an adventure!
Good vs. Evil
I love an epic struggle between light and dark, good and evil. I like it to be obvious which is which, and I don’t want the evil to be apologized for or defended. Like it says in this quote from one of my favorite books:
“You know,” she began, “Hank and Abe’s folks haven’t taught them right from wrong. You can’t quite hold them accountable for all they get into…” her excuse was feeble though her intention was generous.
Jeff’s reaction was immediate. “Aw, Mom. You don’t need to be taught it’s wrong to wring the necks of your neighbor’s chickens and clunk a few dozen of their eggs with a borrowed pipe wrench.”
~He Whistles for the Cricket, Gwen Walker
Evil and darkness are too often downplayed and excused in the real world as it is, I definitely don’t want it excused in my fiction. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be “gray” areas, and it definitely doesn’t mean evil characters cannot be redeemed, I also love me a good redemption story. It’s one of the reasons I love Boromir and Edmund Pevensie so much. Their stories are compelling because I can more easily see myself and my own fallen-humanness in their characters. But redemption and excusing are two very different things.
Give me a good epic quest any day. A journey to discover a new homeland. A search for an ancient relic. A race to destroy the ring of power. I will take all the quests all the time! I love following along with my characters and rooting for them through their struggles, aching with them in their failures, and cheering them on through every trial. There is very little quite so character-building as throwing someone into a quest he or she is woefully unprepared for, and I love watching my favorite characters grow in the discomfort of those situations.
Okay okay, hate me if you like, but I really do like the “chosen one” trope. I’d love to see it turned on its head a little bit more here and there… it doesn’t ALWAYS have to be a 16-year old farmboy, you know. But I enjoy the whole struggle against/with destiny and the clever twists and turns authors are forced to make in their stories to truly OWN this trope and make it unique. I also love the whole “prophecy” thing… especially if it’s kind of vague and doesn’t just spoil the whole plot of the story right up front or anything and leaves room for a few twists and turns along the way.
The Secret Heir
Much like the chosen one trope, I just love the whole idea of someone suddenly finding out they are the heir to the throne. I also love a subverted version of this where the character knows they are the heir and has the proper training, but are in hiding/their position is kept a secret from the reader and/or other characters until later in the story when it is revealed.
I love it when a story starts in our world and then heads off into a secret, magical realm and modern, ordinary, everyday people like me get to cross that barrier and have adventures. It isn’t done nearly often enough.
I don’t know if these are really “tropes” or just elements that are sure to catch my eye and make me pick up a book if I see them on a cover/title/mentioned in the blurb… but if a fantasy story contains dragons of any kind (I prefer sentient dragons who can talk… but I’m not opposed to the ones who are beasts and wreak havoc, or are trained as pets, either)! And magic. Fantasy without magic has a much harder time appealing to me. If I want something without magic, I’ll pick a different genre.
I’m sure there are other tropes I love that I’m leaving off, but these are the main ones that sprang to mind when I considered the question.
Now it’s your turn! What are your favorite fantasy tropes? Do you particularly love or hate any of the ones I listed? Did I leave off any obvious ones and you’d like to know how I feel about them? Let me know in the comments!