Home Forums Fiction Writing Genre-Writing Fantasy The Elements of Elemental Cliche…

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    Jackson Graham
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    Do you guys think elemental powers (i.e. fire and ice powers) are cliche? And if they are, what are some reasonable alternatives?

    Jackson E. Graham



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    @warrioroftherealm The way I see it, it’s more of a trope than a cliche. What makes it cliche is how you use it I think.
    As for cliche’s I have noticed I can only think of the fact that the villain always has fire power.

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    Kate Flournoy
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    @warrioroftherealm ehehe… well they better not be, because I’m using them. 😛

    No, honestly, I think they are. But then, so is a lot of other stuff. I’m confident using ‘elementals’ in my work because the system, while it does incorporate elements, isn’t just about elements. In fact the element part is probably one of the least important bits. It’s more than just a ‘he controls fire, she controls ice’ sort of thing.

    So yeah, I’d say go ahead and try for it. So long as you can take it to a point where it meshes with the story and feels like your own, you should be good.

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    I know you didn’t tag me, but…

    I would say it depends on how you do it. If you place specific limitations and define the uses, it would be less cliched. Also, I would try to think of one thing to add that is fairly original. If just one element of the elemental powers is different than usual, that can help. Overall, though, I think it’s a question of what limitations the powers have, why they exist, how they work, and mostly how they are used in the story. The main thing is not to use the powers to just get out of every situation.

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    What Kate and MNValentine said.



    Aislinn Mollisong
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    @warrioroftherealm I’m using elementals. I think they are only cliche if you have the protagonist and antogonist (or the two main protagonists) have opposing powers, such as fire and ice. If they have powers that don’t really clash, such as fire+earth and wind+water like my MCs do, it isn’t as overused. My villain doesn’t even have powers, which also changes it up a bit.

    Signed, Aislinn of Aethasia.


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    @warrioroftherealm As the others said, I think this is a trope, not necessarily a cliche. My advice would be to find very creative ways for the characters to use their powers, besides the standard combat. Perhaps the fire elemental-ist can also sense heat, and tell when an enemy is hiding around a corner through their body heat. Borrowing from the last airbender, water elemental-ist might be able to control blood (which is a really repulsive concept to me, so you might want to have the villain do that), or drain water from plants, killing them instantly. What would draw me to a story is not only using elemental powers, but using them so creatively, and so outside of the box, that I finish the book thinking, “That is such a unique way to use that power!”


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    You didn’t tag me either, but…no. Elemental powers aren’t cliche. Now, the way you use them can be cliche, but as for the powers themselves, they’re a great way to spice up a character.

    Everyone above me has already mentioned that, and everything else on this subject, so…I’ll shut up now.



    Mark Kamibaya
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    @warrioroftherealm Haven’t been on here for a while (thanks college), but I decided to give my two cents.

    Yeah, elemental powers may seem pretty cliche at first glance. But there are many amazing stories that use potentially “cliched” premises as starting points. Cliche is usually a relative term. For example, revenge plots and the lovable scoundrel are popularly deemed cliche even though you can still glean a great story out of these “cliches” (Gladiator and True Grit are revenge stories while Jack Sparrow and Han Solo are classic lovable scoundrels).

    Since cliches are relative, then don’t be worried about having a potentially cliched premise. Many premises can be accused of cliches. It’s the depth and dimensions you add later that really differentiate.

    I blog on story and spiritual things at mkami.weebly.com


    Sam Kowal
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    @warrioroftherealm I feel like they are, because they pop up over and over again. They’re a trope, but they aren’t an obnoxious one. You can do so many things to change them up and make them unique, that it becomes interesting again.

    But yeah, just straight-up ‘this hero controls fire, this one ice’ is somewhat boring. There’s a seed of epicness there that you can transplant, though. Maybe have more than the four traditional elements (fire, water, air, earth), and do creative things with them.

    You can change almost everything about elemental powers, like energy for them, how and when they are used, their limitations, a cost for using them, all while keeping the original base idea.


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    Ben P.
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    Warning: this is my personal preference, not facts.

    <span style=”line-height: 1.5;”>Well, I personally think they’re over used and almost always the same, but it could be done well I suppose. If I see someone who suddenly discovers they can create fire in a book or movie, my instant thought is “here we go again.”</span>

    Or you could skip the classic elements and go for things like light manipulation, electricity, or magnesis.

    So, basically, if you use elemental powers, be original.

    Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong. -Luke Skywalker


    Sam Kowal
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    @supermonkey42 Light, electricity, and magnetism is a cool idea. 😀

    @warrioroftherealm There’s also things like basing your elements on the real periodic table, which would make things a lot more limited. ( Power over, say, gold alone would create some really interesting circumstances for someone to use that power, versus power over all earth materials. And that could be continued with power over raw elements like sodium, carbon, nitrogen, etc. )

    And then there’s the matter of cost for using the power, for example the user could, by controlling an organic element, as a side effect increase the amount of that element in their body until it reaches a dangerous level, and then have to stop using magic until those levels decrease (or just recklessly use magic until they harm themselves.)


    *Giarstanornarak tries to melt chair*


    Emma Flournoy
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    @warrioroftherealm They’ve gottcha covered already. 😉

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