9 Classic Tropes Of Fantasy Writing And How To Avoid Them

Last Updated on March 9, 2023 by Dr Sharon Baisil MD

Fantasy writing has always been a beloved pastime for writers, readers, and daydreamers alike. From adventurous quests to mythical creatures, it’s no surprise that so many people are captivated by these otherworldly stories. But with the increasing number of fantasy stories, it’s becoming more difficult to keep the genre fresh and exciting. To prevent these stories from becoming to cliché, let’s explore 9 classic fantasy writing tropes – and ways to avoid them!

1. The Chosen One

It’s no surprise that the chosen one is a classic trope of fantasy writing. According to research, around 60% of fantasy books feature a character who is destined for greatness. However, as readers start to crave more innovation in their literature, it’s important to consider how to avoid this cliché when crafting your own stories.

The best way to do this is by looking at alternative ways to portray special characters without making them the sole focus of your story. Instead of having just ‘the chosen one’, why not explore what happens when there are multiple people with unique gifts? This creates an interesting dynamic and allows you to tell a more complex tale full of unexpected surprises.

It also ensures that no single character becomes too powerful or dominates the narrative; instead, each individual has something valuable to contribute. By creating ‘the chosen few’, you can give readers something fresh and exciting while still incorporating elements they know and love from traditional fantasy fiction.

2. The Wise Old Mentor

The Wise Old Mentor is a classic trope of fantasy writing, often used as a shortcut to character development, and it can be difficult to make it feel fresh and exciting. This is usually an elderly character who is far more knowledgeable than the protagonist and serves as a teacher and guide. They are often wise, powerful, and mysterious, and they are often the source of important information or magical guidance that helps the protagonist on their journey.

The problem with using the Wise Old Mentor trope is that it can be seen as lazy writing, as it’s a trope that has been used over and over again in fantasy writing. To avoid this, it’s important to ensure that your Wise Old Mentor is unique and stands out from other Wise Old Mentors that have been used before. Make sure your Wise Old Mentor has distinct characteristics and motivations and is an integral part of the story. Also, try to avoid the Wise Old Mentor being the only source of wisdom and knowledge; make sure there are other characters in the story who can also provide guidance and advice.

3. The Hero’s Journey

Have you ever noticed that all fantasy stories seem to follow a similar pattern? It’s known as ‘the hero’s journey’ and it is one of the classic tropes of fantasy writing. So, how can writers avoid this trope while still telling an engaging story? The first thing to keep in mind when attempting to break away from the hero’s journey is to make sure your protagonist isn’t just a single person. Instead, make them part of an ensemble cast that each has their own individual goals and motivations.

This will help give the story much-needed depth, complexity, and tension which are essential for any good narrative. Additionally, don’t rely too heavily on conventions such as grand battles or magical creatures. Focus instead on creating natural conflicts between characters – whether they be physical or psychological – so readers can become invested in their fate without feeling like everything has been predetermined by some ancient power. By avoiding these cliches, not only will you build a more unique and innovative story but also create something that resonates with your audience on a deeper level. And if done correctly, you may even find yourself crafting something truly special!

4. The Use Of Magic

Contrary to popular belief, magic is not necessary for a successful fantasy story. In fact, around 70% of fantasy stories published in the last decade have not relied on magical elements as central plot points. Despite this statistic though, many authors still rely on familiar tropes such as magical powers and mystical beings when writing their fantasy works.

When it comes to creating an innovative experience for readers, consider avoiding these classic tropes altogether. Instead, add more depth to your characters by exploring how they interact with their environment without relying on supernatural forces. By doing so you can create unique experiences that will captivate readers and keep them coming back for more!

It’s also worth noting that although these traditional tropes may be appealing at first glance, there are some drawbacks to using them too often or heavily – namely becoming predictable and formulaic which could detract from your narrative’s overall impact. To avoid this trap, focus instead on developing creative solutions based on real-world scenarios to provide unexpected twists and turns throughout your story. This approach can give your audience something new and exciting while maintaining the core principles of the genre itself. Onwards now than to discussing ‘the evil overlord’…

5. The Evil Overlord

It’s a common trope in fantasy writing to have an evil overlord. It’s the classic villain who is out to take control of everything and usually succeeds at some point during the story. They are larger-than-life baddies that can be fun but also easily become cliche if not handled correctly. So how do we avoid this?

First off, it’s important to give your overlord depth and nuance. We don’t want them just being ‘evil’ for evil’s sake; make sure there’s something more beneath their actions. Give them motivations for why they’re doing what they’re doing, even if it doesn’t excuse their behavior or justify anything. Make sure your audience understands why they might choose certain paths instead of others and can empathize with their struggles – even when they aren’t good people!

Another way to avoid making an evil overlord too cliche is by giving them unexpected qualities or traits that may surprise the reader. Consider having them show moments of vulnerability or kindness, or maybe add elements of humor into their dialogue so they don’t come across as one-dimensional characters. Ultimately, you want readers to remember your villain long after they finish reading, so adding unique details helps accomplish this goal.

As with any character in a story, crafting a layered antagonist will help ensure that your work stands out from the crowd – especially when it comes to those pesky evil overlords! With the right amount of thought put into developing these characters beyond just ‘being bad’, you’ll be able to create villains who stay with readers well beyond the last page turn – which is really what every writer should strive for. And speaking of memorable characters…

6. The Damsel In Distress

Ahhh, the damsel in distress trope. It’s a classic element of fantasy writing that we’ve all seen before; the beautiful princess needing rescue from some dark and evil force. But is this tired cliché really necessary? Not necessarily! Let me give you an example: In Disney’s Frozen, Princess Anna embarks on a journey to save her kingdom with the help of Kristoff and Olaf – but she doesn’t need rescuing by a prince at any point during the story!

With a little bit of creativity, it’s possible to bring your own spin on traditional tropes like ‘the damsel in distress’. Think outside the box when constructing your narrative and take time to consider if there are alternative ways for characters to meet their objectives without leaning into outdated stereotypes. For instance, why not have female protagonists saving others or themselves instead of waiting around for someone else to come along?

It may be challenging initially, but embracing innovation can lead to exciting new outcomes for both you as an author and your audience alike! Moving away from these generic archetypes requires fresh ideas and innovative storytelling techniques – so don’t let yourself get stuck in a rut. Instead, explore different avenues which present unique opportunities for character development and plot points…then watch how those creative decisions will transform your work into something truly special.

7. The Unexpected Ally

The unexpected ally trope is one that has been used over and over again in fantasy writing. This trope can be seen as a bit of a cliché, yet it still finds its way into many stories today.

To avoid falling back on this familiar plot device, there are several other ways to present an unlikely alliance:

  1. Make the partner-in-crime someone who hasn’t been featured prominently before. Perhaps they don’t have any superhuman abilities nor belong to a special race – just a regular person with something special about them, like courage or wisdom.
  2. Introduce another antagonist who joins forces with the hero for their own self-serving reasons – either out of necessity or even by choice. This creates more tension and excitement when both sides must work together despite having different goals.
  3. Create an enemy of sorts who could become an ally under certain circumstances – maybe they harbor deep resentment towards the protagonist but ultimately find themselves joining forces in order to survive against a greater threat.

This technique of introducing unexpected allies adds depth and complexity to your story while also avoiding predictable tropes. It encourages readers to think outside the box and keeps them engaged throughout the narrative arc as they wait to see how these unlikely heroes will interact with each other along their journey. As we move forward into exploring ‘the power of love’, let us remember that sometimes our greatest strength lies within those around us—even if they may not appear so at first glance!

8. The Power Of Love

Love is often seen as a magical force, capable of transcending obstacles and uniting enemies. This old trope has been used time and again to bring about miraculous resolutions. However, it can be hard for modern audiences to connect with such a tired cliché – so how do you avoid the power of love in fantasy writing?

Firstly, look at what lies beneath the surface. Love isn’t always the answer; sometimes there are underlying motivations that need to be explored more deeply. It’s important to focus on creating complex characters who have their own personal struggles they must overcome before they can even consider joining forces. Instead of relying on love as an easy solution, create meaningful relationships between your characters that draw upon elements like shared experiences or goals. These connections will help readers develop empathy for each character while also providing them with something tangible to invest in.

By looking beyond simple tropes and making sure all relationships feel genuine, authors can craft stories that go far beyond the expected narratives of love conquering all problems. Moving away from this classic theme allows writers to open up new possibilities within their work, ultimately leading to unique and engaging stories readers won’t soon forget! As we move forward into exploring epic battles in our next section, keep these tips in mind when considering how much (if any) romance should feature in your writing.

9. Epic Battles

Epic battles are often seen as a cornerstone of fantasy writing, but they can be quite formulaic. To avoid this trap, try to explore the deeper meanings behind these conflicts and give your readers something that truly resonates with them. Symbolically speaking, epic battles represent large-scale struggles between good and evil—a timeless theme that carries weight in nearly every culture.

To keep your audience engaged and seeking innovative outcomes, focus on the human stories within these conflicts rather than simply the clash between two powerful forces. Showcase characters who have been thrust into an unwinnable situation and need to muster their courage or discover hidden strengths to survive. Focus on their choices and how those decisions will affect both themselves and others around them. As people come face-to-face with insurmountable odds, it’s easy for us to see ourselves reflected in them, which helps us engage with the story on a much more personal level.

When done properly, epic battles become far more meaningful than just physical clashes; they become moments of self-discovery where heroes must claw out from underneath impossible circumstances only through sheer force of will. Transitioning now from ‘epic battles’ to ‘the power of friendship’, let’s take a look at how true companionship can help our protagonists rise above all else.


With fantasy writing, it can be easy to fall into predictable tropes. But with a few creative solutions, you can avoid these classic traps while keeping your readers engaged and entertained. When it comes down to it, avoiding cliches doesn’t mean restricting yourself creatively. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box as you craft your own unique tale from start to finish. With enough imagination, you’ll end up with something truly original that readers won’t soon forget — and that’s always worth striving for!

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