Why It’s Okay to Have Clichés in Your Fantasy Novel

By Gabrielle Massman

“Your story is a bit cliché, don’t you think?”

For a long time, I dreaded I would hear those words. They seemed like the ultimate insult, meaning that anyone could have written my story.

I was obsessed with avoiding clichés. I Googled “fantasy clichés,” and I even posted a list of ten common ones on my blog. I gave the characters in my fantasy world Hebrew-based names—no Norse or Celtic for me. My fantasy nation would not have a monarchy! And heaven help me if I even read a book with a damsel in distress, an evil dragon, and a brave prince.Why_It_s_Okay_to_Have_Cliches_in_Your_Fantasy_Novel

However, I’ve recently come to a new conclusion about clichés. I think we need them, and uniqueness is grossly overrated. Isn’t the Bible and the entire history of God and humans one big cliché? Kill the dragon; get the girl (Revelation 12:9 and Isaiah 62:4–5). [Read more…]

Character Types: The Evil Overlord

Evil_Overlord_PinterestIt was only a matter of time before a video series on character stereotypes would get to the evil overlord character.

And so here we are.

The overlord character often struggles to be much more than a cheap Sauron rip-off.

And it often struggles to be more than a Sauron rip-off because readers assume that Sauron is the perfect villain.

Here’s the problem.

Sauron isn’t the perfect villain–he isn’t even a particularly interesting one.

“What?” all my fellow Tolkien-fans are now saying. “How can Sauron not be an interesting villain?”

Watch the video to understand why.

Previous Stereotypes:

The Strong Female Character (TM)

The Damsel in Distress

The Parents

The Comic Relief

The Mentor

The Henchman

The Herald

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf started reading when he was four, started writing fiction when he was six and hasn’t stopped doing either ever since. After growing up with seven younger siblings, he eventually found himself graduated and attending Patrick Henry College, where he plans on majoring in literature with a minor in pedagogy (it’s a fancy Greek word for education).
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels that have worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as fun as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. Plans for obtaining those impossible goals include listening to a lot of Hans Zimmer, ignoring college work so that he can find time to write, and avoiding coffee at all costs.