Im writing a fantasy story What are some clichs I should avoid and what are some possible alternatives to said clichs

I’m writing a fantasy story. What are some clichés I should avoid and what are some possible alternatives to said clichés?

Omg I’ve dreamed about ranting on this I’m literally so excited!!

These are some cliches I absolutely HATE—but can always expect, to such a degree that I can sometimes peg them the instant they introduce a character in the first few chapters:
Know that it’s not always bad to use cliches, but you have to be very careful when using them.
If used correctly, they can still be good.
If using them cleverly, you can defy expectations and be ironic.
But, note—especially when starting out in writing—it’s very dangerous for your story to use cliches.

A common way to subvert a cliché is to jump to the polar opposite.
And that can be quite successful.
The entire TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer stemmed from the premise of taking the helpless, pretty blonde teenage girl that usually dies in horror movies, and making her instead a monster-slaying warrior.
But in my view, the most interesting way to subvert a cliché isn’t to jump to the opposite extreme.
That can still leave the story closely tied to the cliché, and some such subversions are obvious and common enough that they become almost cliché themselves, like re-telling fairy tales from the perspective of the villain.
If possible, the intesting thing to do is take the cliché, turn it sideways, and move in a different direction entirely.
Take the common trope of rescuing the princess.
An obvious subversion is the self-rescuing princess, who doesn't need the help of the bumbling would-be hero.
That trope has been around for a while – you can see a version of it in the original Star Wars when Princess Leia grabs a weapon and takes charge of the situation after being freed from her cell.
But there are a lot of other ways you could subvert the “hero rescues princess” trope that could lead to interesting stories.
One way to come up with these sorts of subversions is to think about how a trope might play out in a more realistic setting.
Kidnapped princess? Well, missing persons cases are not usually kidnappings – they’re more likely to be accidents or run-aways .
And real hostage rescues are very delicate operations; violence isn't the preferred approach, and when it's deemed necessary, hostages often end up dead.
Here are some ideas, along the same lines, for subverting the “Chosen One” trope:

I'll cover a few of them, they’re generally nitpicks but still continue to defy logic.
This mostly pertains to medieval fantasy, but I suppose it could extend further as well.
Rich People Things:
Picture this image…
The richest of kings lives in a castle.
The castle is cold, dark, has no furniture, tapestries, grey, and miserable.
Why the f*ck doesn't the owner of the castle spruce up the place with furniture? He's rich.
Throw up plasters, paintings, murals, couches, and expensive rugs.
This is actually something Harry Potter does correctly, they do a really good job of making the Hogwarts common rooms sound fun to live in.
Now if you really insist on making the place as miserable as possible, write some sort of justification for the lack of comfort.
Maybe it's a sin in their religion, or maybe the owners are too stingy to spare any of their fortune for comfort, like House Frey in GoT.
About Torches:
Torches were rarely used for anything in history, and a fantasy tale would probably be similar, provided you didn't explain it.
Torches were hard to maintain, required a large amount of tar or pitch that could be used for better purposes, and caused smoke to well up in a small room with little ventilation.
Any room that has less insulation and could let the smoke flow freely would probably snuff out the torch pretty quickly regardless.
It's also fairly unlikely that they used torches for much else.
Torches were a fire hazard and the large, unwieldy flame often impaired your vision in darkness.
A good justification for a smokeless, hassle-free torch is to use magic for it.
You could explain that the torch is powered by magic and that justifies the lack of smoke.
For an added effect, you could also make the flame a different color.
Alternatively, you could just use lanterns, like what real medieval people used.
Thousand Year War:
These have continued to defy logic for me.
It is technically possible for two civilizations to hate each other so much that they end up fighting each other for a thousand years straight.
But what's the actual likelihood of that ever happening? Even when cultures hate each other enough to pass on a generational conflict, the hatred is strong enough that sooner or later, one culture obliterates the other (i.
e.
Rome vs Carthage).
In the real world, there's periods of inter-regnum and things similar to the Warring States Period of China, so those are far more plausible.
Keep things in the realm of possibility, even in a fantasy world.
Or at least figure out some way to justify it.
Good * Evil = Racism^2:
We've all seen it, elves and humans are good, goblins and orcs are evil, and you should be rooting for the good guys because you’re one of the good guys!
Not only is this lazy writing, but it ignores how the real world works.
Even if you somehow try to inject some sort of predisposed “evil” into another race, it comes off as forced and sloppy.
I’d normally add a justification or an alternative here, but I dislike this practice enough that you shouldn't really figure a way around this, other than avoidance.
Chosen One:
Nope.
Anyways, if I think of anything else, I'll add it in.
If you disagree, wanna critique me, or just feel like making fun of my opinions, feel free.
I'm very much a noob when it comes to writing of any sort.
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One:
Don’t make your main character “The Chosen One.

This is a fantasy tripe that has been horribly overused.
The only way it works in my opinion is if it isn’t revealed that the main character is the chosen one until the very end of the story.
Stories about a prophesied chosen one are boring and predictable.
If you want the reader to connect with your story then they need to be able to relate to the characters.
Two:
Harry Potter aside, don’t make your main character some 10 year old kid, unless your target audience is 10 year old kids.
This goes back to what I said about being able to relate to the characters.
It’s fine having young characters but only if you write them authentically.
No one over the age of 16 is going to believe that a character who is a teenager or younger is going to be mature enough or skilled enough to lead a company of heroes on an adventure.
Three:
Don’t be different just to try to make your story unique.
I think that Ed Caruthers answer gives the worst advice I have ever seen anyone give an aspiring writer of fantasy.
There are certain elements in a fantasy story that make it a fantasy story.
Things like magic, wizards, elves, and dwarves.
Not to say that you have to use all of those things but going out of your way to not include them because you don’t want to compared to Tolken is going to seriously hamper your writing.
If you are serious about writing fantasy there is no way that you are not going to at least in some small way copy Tolken’s work because he pretty much created the genre.
When someone is browsing the fantasy section at Barnes and Noble that is going to be what they are looking for, and if your story is full of giant talking chicken people because you didn’t want to include orcs just to be different they are probably going to put it right back on the shelf.
I don’t even need all the fingers of one hand to count the number of good vampire movies I have seen in my lifetime for exactly this reason.
Writers are so obsessed with trying to be unique that they completely fuck it up.
If your writing is good no one is going to care that you weren’t the first person to come up with the idea for elves or dwarves.
I had a few more points that I can’t remember now after that rant.
If I think of them later I will add them.

Writing a fantasy story is not easy.
You have to cross your boundaries of thinking and give birth to something new and fresh.
Well, if you ask me it takes time to inculcate such virtue.

Fantasy literature is a genre and fantasy stories are about magical people living in a strange world.
These stories become a source of entertainment for children.
Most of the children’s literature beginning from nursery rhymes to fairy tales belong to the fantasy genre.
These stories are enthralling for children as they ignite their minds.
Their imagination and curiosity are aroused.
They help to bring about creativity and problem solving skills.
With these skills they will be able to steer their life boat with adroitness.
Source[1]
In the words of Albert Einstein
“The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge”.

Fantasy quotes-
Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?
― Albus Dumbledore via JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Source[2]
Don’t you know that everybody’s got a Fairyland of their own?”
― PL Travers, Mary Poppins

Source[3]
There are a whole lot of things in this world of ours you haven’t even started wondering about yet.

― Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach
Source[4]
Children have to learn a lot and it is about learning communication skills, about cultures and the world around them.
They have to become a sponge to absorb so much information and it won’t be possible for them to gain this knowledge by serious study.
So both parents and researchers came out with these fantasy stories which being harmless fun would help them learn better.
Kids are hungry for a sense of wonder.
With advent in science and technology kids crave for magic, excitement and mysteries.
Fantasy helps to keep the kids protected from real world problems.
It helps to develop their imagination fourfold.
They dream big.
Children expand their internal, external and emotional worlds.

Today’s children have a wide range of choices to explore fiction and fantasy.
Gadgets hamper the learning process of children while fantasy stories give wings to their imagination.
Their creative thinking can brainstorm to solving complicated problems as they become older.
Source[5]
Let’s see the benefits of these fantasy stories:
1 – IMAGINATION
Fantasy novels on a regular basis help to express and explore the children’s imagination, which is an essential element to childhood.
Kids who read and live in the wonderful world of their imagination are generally happier and more willing to learn about new things in the future.
Source[6]
2 – PROBLEM SOLVING
When children use and develop their imagination, they become aware that there are several ways to solve a problem.
This will become an essential skill as they progress through elementary, middle, and high school.
They will be engulfed in so many academic and practical problems.
Their imagination will give them a impetus to solve these problems.
Source[7]
3 – MAKING READING FUN
Several kids get bored by the idea of reading because it seems like a chore.
Studying school books makes it a monotonous routine, they may not pick up books for fun.
However, when kids discover interesting and exciting adventures found in fantasy novels, they tend to view reading as an enjoyable and a recreational activity .
They can easily participate in this both in and out of a classroom.

Source[8]
4 – LIMITING GADGETS
Although gadgets can keep kids busy and provide a good amount of educational activities these days, but then children become more and more addicted to gadgets and start preferring them over reading or outside play.
When children are encouraged to delve into a fantasy world found in a book (as opposed to a video game) they get to explore new worlds while improving their reading and writing prowess.

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5 – CHARACTER ANALYSIS
Many senior school students struggle to analyse a character properly, which is an important skill for high school classes and college preparation.
They only use the rote form of learning and can’t do justice to analyse a character.
when kids are trying to figure out the motivations and actions of a made-up character, they only have the book itself to help them understand what’s going on.
Character analysis in a fantasy novel can help with essential skills for the future.

Source[10]
THE CHILD’S VOCABULARY WILL IMPROVE
Their vocabulary will benefit, too, if they read a wide selection of books.
.
They will have to look up words, and it’ll be helpful to have a dictionary handy.
With each new word encountered in the variety of books they will add to their writing skills.
Gradually they will turn into bibliophiles.

Source[11]
HELPS IN ESCAPISM:
Life can be a little dull at times.
In between the big events and good days there are the dull days at school and daily tasks to complete, and so reading a little fantasy can add a little dose of magic to those dull days.
Source[12]
fantasy not only removes you from your own life, but from your own world, and puts you somewhere where the impossible is possible, and children absolutely love that!
You might have some stories that you can share.
Here is something that I found!
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Besides, best entries to get published as book / ebook.
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Shin-a-in or F-nor is just cringeworthy, they sound like made up fantasy names because that’s what they are.
Avoid awkward sounds, read them out to make sure they don’t trip up on your tongue.
Place names should be short if possible and suggest the area or give clues.
Ironbridge would be a good mining town, Kings Landing would be where the King lives.
Not very inventive, but you know exactly where you are without people needing to drop hints about what people are wearing or tools on the walls.
Don’t call people names that suggest personality traits as it’s too obvious.
You can do it with nicknames, so Red would be fine for a red head.
Mr Badcrook, Noooooo :)
This also follows through to spells and magical beings.
Try to imagine what would happen if people talked about these things all the time.
They’d get shortened and adjusted as that’s what language does.
Nobody would ever call something ‘unobtainium’ in the real world because it’s literally naming the property of something instead of its use or inventor.
It’s like calling it Expensivium … ewe!
Velcro is called ‘velcro’ because that’s the name of the company who invented it.
They actually want people to call it ‘hook and loop’ which will never work.
The number of nicknames for things that then become the common name is staggering.
We’re constantly naming and renaming things to suit.
It’s what we do.
Avoid the obvious and think it through :) Good luck.

So many answers all offering a list of the “worst clichés” in fantasy.
I’m going to say something different.
Don’t avoid fantasy clichés.
Don’t even try.
The thing you will have to do, though, is make sure that, when you do use a trope that is common in fantasy, you use it well.
If you want to write a dragon, write them well.
Do not simply make them an intelligent mount bonded in some kind of magical slavery to the hero.
Or, if you must, make them aware that the magic forces them to follow some little weak creature with no brains and no magic.
Or have them keep the hero as a pet.
Or something — anything — that is fresh!
How to do this? First, many people have mentioned
Or how the story would be if it turns out that Neville is actually the chosen one, not Harry.
We'd have a much better story than “chosen one Harry defeats the evil lord, gets married and faces midlife crisis, struggling with the fact that his best years are over before he reached 18.

Better yet, write about how a chosen one gets thoroughly screwed because he believed he has plot armor or people manipulated her into believing she's the one, and only to find out there's nothing special about him before he's chopped into little pieces by the evil lord.
Don't write a chosen one.
we have enough special magical kids saving the world.

Good luck with your endeavors! You are way ahead of me—I can’t write fiction to save my life.
Here are my suggestions:

Well, in the novel I’m writing I decided to use one of the most classic clichés: The Hidden Prince(ss).
This created some conflict in me, even though I didn’t used this troupe by design; it was simply the way the story shaped in my mind.
I thought in the possibility of changing the story, simply for the sake of avoiding an overused troupe.
In the end, I decided my original idea was the best for the sake of story progression and for story telling.
Troupes exist to be used.
Just try avoiding using too many of them and try to add your own spice to make your story really yours.
For instance, how in the world would the damsel in distress be able to kill 20 dragons? Ok, maybe she got a super railgun from a friendly wizard and she start shooting them out of the sky.
Doesn’t that sounds Deus Ex Machina (or as someone wrote earlier, “the eagles”) though?
Now, that is definitely THE cliché to be avoided.
Your story should make sense.
Don’t cheat your reader by building tension for five chapters and then have the conflict solved magically in three lines.
It makes much more sense for a super knight to come around and kill the dragon then for the damsel to develop ninja skills out of nothing.
But what if this knight is just be the girl’s oldest friend, rather than a love interest? Or maybe it just a guy who want to kill the dragon for a bounty and he leaves the damsel in the tower to rot (then the princess has to find her own way out).
What if the knight kills the dragon with an arrow but he accidentally kills the damsel when the dragon fall into the tower? And why not create a story where the damsel in distress is actually the evil incarnate, and the dragon was the only thing in the world that kept the evil at bay?
In my case, I intend to make my hidden princess a “actor” in the world.
Not someone who goes around killing dragons with a flick of her wrist, but someone who can shift the board around, especially with her intelligence.
She will grown as a character, until she discover she is a princess, and rather than this being a boom, she will be crippled.
From an actor in the backstage, she will be relegated to a puppet in the spotlight, and she will have to deal with this new situation.
Eventually, she will run away from her new home so she can deal with the main conflict on her own terms where she has liberty to do so.
I don’t think this is exactly original, but its better than her becoming a princess with all splendor and living happily ever after.
I believe that I can score points of originality in other ways.
More importantly, the MC will be moving forward in the story, unraveling truths, creating more conflicts and more character development.

Back in the late 90’s, I attended a talk given by Philip Pullman.
When I went into that room, I’d barely heard of him.
When I left, I was already a fan, and I started reading his books the next day.
He pointed out that Tolkien wrote a quest narrative.
On a quest, there is a mission to be accomplished, it has to be difficult, and there must be a lot at stake.
The most common form of quest narrative is about trying to attain an object – for example, the Holy Grail – but Tolkien reversed that – his quest was to destroy an object.
And since then, said Pullman, fantasy writers have written Quest, Quest, Quest.
So, Pullman decided to write a Fall narrative.
He then proceeded to explain that the story of Adam and Eve and Cinderella are both Fall narratives, but told from a different perspective.
Eve/Cinderella pass from the world of childhood with the help of a supernatural figure, the Serpent/Fairy Godmother.
The knowledge that separates the innocent child from the adult is either a blessing or a curse.
This resonated with me, because The Lord of the Rings was one of my favourite books, but I’d grown frustrated with the fantasy genre.
I’d grown to feel that a genre that should offer writers the maximum amount of freedom had become the most stale, repetitive drama.
Every book was promoted as “The best since Tolkien”, and every book seemed like a pale imitation.
Now, I don’t doubt that there were many great fantasy books that weren’t mere imitations of Tolkien before Pullman came along, but I hadn’t read them because, frankly, I’d given up on the genre – I’d started to consider fantasy books too “infra dig” for adults.
Pullman’s talk made me realize that there were new things that could be done with the genre, and that he was one of the people doing it.
I’m sure I could have heard talks given by other writers that would have made just as strong an impression on me, but I happened to hear this talk by Philip Pullman, and its the one time in my life that I’ve felt that I had a direct glimpse into the working of a great writer of fantasy fiction.
I’m not doing justice to just how dazzling his talk was.
I should explain that he was speaking to the C.
S.
Lewis Society, and that his whole talk was a condemnation of Lewis – the atmosphere was electric.
I know that there are plenty of theories about basic plot structures, and I’m not clear where Pullman got his list from.
Nor do I think it matters.
What matters is how he used whatever theory he’d found as a way of writing something new and fresh.
I should also say that he didn’t present writing as a technical exercise.
On one point, he did agree with Lewis: writing starts with pictures that come into the mind, from deep in the imagination.
His Dark Materials began with an image of a young girl and a polar bear, and he had to find out who she was and where she came from.
A final piece of advice from the master: “Read like a butterfly, write like a bee.
” He reads a huge amount, absorbs ideas, and remembers it incorrectly.
Since he was discussing C.
S.
Lewis, this led into a discussion of Christian theology, and he got his basic facts completely mixed up.
(For example, he thought that Irenaeus defended gnosticism against heretics, and hence that gnosticism is a form of orthodox Christianity).
He was very relaxed when people pointed out these errors – he’d read a lot about gnosticism, but wasn’t interested in trying to remember accurately what he read.
What mattered was it provided raw material for his imagination.
Don’t forget to write like a bee.
Post Script
Nate Townsend asked whether there is a transcript of this talk.
I think someone asked if they could make a recording, and were allowed to on condition that the recording was not for publication.
The talk took place at a meeting of the C.
S.
Lewis Society of Oxford University, at Pusey House.
However, I do know that Philip Pullman has published a lot of the ideas that he used in that talk in interviews and articles.
Try searching for his name in The Guardian’s website.

Book series with at least 5 books.
Harry Potter started a horrible trend where authors feel like they need to continue writing and writing and create some large universe to immerse readers.
This trend is popular with fantasy novels.
Enormous fantasy series are stocked with the at least 5 books in the main series, a spin off series, a spell book of some old wizard or witch, and unknown backstories of semi-relevant characters.
If you actually do have a plan to make your book into a large series, do it.
However, do not force your book to be larger or longer.
Alternative: Use quality over quantity when writing.
Predictable storyline structure: “hero goes on mission.
Hero fails.
Hero comes back and wins.
(I love Disney, but I swear this is the plot structure for 90% of their movies, especially the recent ones).
Don't just make the hero randomly fail to possibly pull a tear jerker for the reader.
If you are to make them fail at some point in your book, make it purposeful.
Alternative: Don't be afraid to think outside the box.
Maybe your protagonist can't win, but they do learn to accept their loss and carry on.
Normal or unpopular protagonist who discovers they have magical powers at the age of X.
I find a lot of fantasy stories have this in common when it comes to the main character.
Alternative: Maybe the main character isn't magical, but their sister is.
Using Harry Potter series as framework.
The Harry Potter books are not cliché fantasy books.
They created the standards of a cliché fantasy book.
When a book becomes popular, other authors jump on the bandwagon to create something that appeals to the readers of the popular book.
It's okay to be inspired by Harry Potter, but to mimic Harry Potter’s qualities, characters, and events is a cliché done over and over again.
Alternative: As I said earlier, it's not bad to be inspired by Harry Potter or other popular novels.
To avoid flat out plagiarism, think about, what do I want my readers to remember? What's the theme? What are my characters’ strengths and weaknesses? What is the goal of my book?
Really boring characters.
The heroine is a girl with mousy brown hair.
She's not super pretty.
She's kinda a snot.
The hero is pretty much the same thing as the heroine.
Alternative: Develop depth in characters.
What's unique about them? If they have a tragic flaw, is there a reason why they have it?

Therein lies a great challenge.
Fantasy is a genre that is certainly mired in cliches.
What's more the genre is so popular and the desire to avoid cliches so strong that many subversions become cliche themselves.
I’ve listed below some major cliches and some possible subversions but I encourage you to try to come up with your own solutions.
Think about the problem for a while, find an alternative, then if it's been done either find a new one or think of a way to do things differently.
That's what I did while writing this and I've already come away with two or three ideas I don't even want to share because I now want to write them myself.
You’ll note many of these appear in the Lord of the Rings.
I must preface this by saying I adore Tolkien.
His works were revolutionary for their time.
The problem is there are so many modern imitators now.
These are done to death and usually terrible.
The very word makes people cringe.
They have roots in real world legends and religious beliefs but in most stories they become excuses to force bland protagonists through a story.
Need a supporting character who doesn't like the protagonist to work with him? He’s the chosen one! Need to turn a novice into a master swordsman? He’s the chosen one! Need him to somehow win when it makes no sense? He’s the chosen one!
The prophecy itself is also typically very vague.
Who exactly “chose” the chosen one is rarely even addressed.
In real savior prophecies there are usually specific signs that prove who the savior is but in fantasy this is rarely ever the case.
One way of subverting this is to have the prophecy turn out to be a lie, but even that is becoming a cliche in its own right.
One thing I haven't seen is a story where the protagonist and audience know from the very beginning that the prophecy is bullshit and there is no chosen one.
Another common twist is the chosen one turns out to not be what people thought (for example Neo in the Matrix learns he isn't supposed to free anyone but in fact take a handful of survivors to preserve the human race and rebuild Zion).
This one I don’t have a fresh take on.
It's another cliche.
2.
The Cavalry Saves the Day
Your heroes are besieged.
Their only hope is to hold out until the cavalry gets there.
Then just as the last door is about to breach a light shines on a hill and down they come! It’s dramatic and exciting the first time you see it, and that's it.
Recently Game of Thrones has found ways to make this more interesting thanks to the deeper intrigue that underscores the battle and the arrival of the relief forces.
At the Battle of Blackwater we first of all don't quite know who to root for.
We want to see loathsome Joffrey get what’s coming to him yet the more sympathetic Bron, Tyrion and Sansa are caught in the middle.
The relief forces are not entirely a boon to the defenders as Tyrion is nearly killed by mistake and it sets up for the Tyrel-Lannister conflict.
Finally the destruction of Stannis’s army is the direct result of his actions.
He chose to help assassinate Renly and the defection of Lorris’ forces is a direct consequence of that.
At the Battle of the Bastards the knights of the Vale may save the day but they also indicate that Sansa was forced to make a deal with Little Finger.
There is no telling what betrayals may arise from this in the future.
Anothet subversion is to have the protagonists BE the cavalry.
The challenge is for them to arrive before the besieged are overwhelmed.
This however has a cliche of its own.
Don't have the heroes arrive to find everyone slaughtered and then learn they now have to defend the same holdfast against the next wave.
3.
The Dark Lord of the Dark Land with his Army of Darkness
Ah nothing like a morally simplistic conflict.
Tolkien did it better then most because he managed to create nuance in the societies of Middle Earth and wove more complex moral conundrums into the actions of the protagonists.
Furthermore he put real thought into the nature of evil and the mind of Sauron.
Many modern writers just make it Utopia vs Dystopia.
A rather obvious solution is to have it turn out that the bad guys aren't really pure evil.
Since this one’s obvious it's been done a lot.
One thing that would be a clever take on things would be to focus on a nation that is not necessarily evil yet is allied with the dark lord.
In the Lord of the Rings human civilizations like the Haradrim, Easterlings and wild men of Dunland are allied with Sauron.
In Ithilian Sam sees a slain Haradrim and wonders about him, if he was evil at heart or in fact was a decent person drawn to war by lies and threats.
This could be the basis of an intriguing story.
What makes a nation ally with the Dark Lord? Will they change their minds? Will they be betrayed?
4.
The Seven Legendary Maguffins your heroes must collect
These are a pain.
They're rarely well thought out and the search tends to be repetitive.
Why there need to be more then one of these things rarely has an explanation.
Sometimes the items all relate to some classic concept of power like the four elements or the powers of certain gods.
Other times they’re just identical trinkets that do the same thing or make something epic happen when put together.
Harry Potter made it work to an extent because in the end it turned out several Horcruxes were already destroyed.
Still even this case has its flaws.
Why seven instead of 100? Why make them recognizable objects? The explanations like “seven is the most magically significant number” and “Voldemort is too proud to put his soul in a random piece of junk” are not especially satisfying.
The thing is these legendary maguffins are usually a device to get the heroes into some fun action set pieces.
Its an excuse to get them through a trap filled temple or to to sail a perilous ocean.
So a good way to avoid it is to find a better reason for them to do these things.
5.
The Big Four Races
Avoid creating a world with Men, Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs, all with the same basic cultural traits as they have in Lotr.
We’ve seen enough forrest loving hippy elves, stalwart metal working dwarves and bland boring men battling savage orcs.
One obvious solution is to use any other set of races.
Mythology is full of fun intelligent critters to base civilizations on.
How about some centaurs or naga? Maybe make your own races (but really make them your own, don't make pointy eared magical forrest dwellers called the Valerii).
If you do want to work with one or all of the big four change them up a bit.
Make unique subcultures.
Dragonlance had some interesting variations such as the Kanganesti, a more traditional tribe of elves that live in a manner similar to uncontacted people, which the more advanced elves look down upon as primative and savage.
In addition to all of this one piece of advice I can give for avoiding cliches is to expand your knowledge of mythology and history.
Read things like the Bibliotheca, the Aeneid, Proculus’ summary of the Trojan War, maybe some Arthurian legends, and Norse myths.
Study real world history as well.
There's no better inspiration for tales of intrigue or war then real human conflicts.
Don't stop with history either.
Look to current events as well (but don't be heavy handed about it.
Don't make an evil blond haired orange skinned wizard).
This is how Tolkien wrote.
He may have taken some inspiration from adventure novels of his time but he drew far more from his vast knowledge of history, major events of his time and even personal experiences (Many speculate the Dead Marshes are based on the trenches of WWI) The real world is the purest source of new ideas.
If you only focus on reading fantasy you will only be able to create a copy of a copy of a copy.

Some people here have already noted that the “Chosen One” cliche is something to avoid at all cost, and I generally agree with them.
The hero's arc have been explored thoroughly in a stupendous amount of stories, finding a creative approach to this arc, although no entirely impossible, is not very likely either.
With that being said, instead of entirely avoiding cliches you can twist them to an interesting concept.
I played Dark Souls 2 SoTFS a while back, and it gave me a pretty neat idea for a cool twist on the hero's arc.
Dark Souls 2 was my first Souls game, and although it has very very slim story (mostly relaying on lore) there was one peice of storytelling I found facinating:
Dark Souls is very much about you playing as a Chosen One, and fulfilling a task that will save the world, but there's a twist to the initial formula… There were many “Chosen Ones” before you, and they all failed! They all lost their humanity, they all went mad after dying countless of times! The people you meet aren't treating you like some foretold hero, for them you're just another one that will most likely fail, the only reason that you don't fail is because… it just happens to be you, out of pure chance.
This theme is reinforced through gameplay because you've condamned yourself to fail countless of times by even trying.
I had this bright idea that this theme of failure could be explored as a story and bring a nice twist to the Chosen One cliche.
My idea was as follows:
The main character, through a series of events (there's really no need to get into deatils here), meets a priestess that tells him he's the Chosen One for doing this and that, and our young hero, filled with a sense of purpose and naivity, begins his journey.
His journey starts with a series of successful events, which reinforces his confidence in his mission.
Half way through the story things begin to get worse, he experiences loss and suffers, but his mind is already set and he moves on, ignoring his doubts.
The story would end with the hero miraclously managing to get into the palace he was sent to by the priestess to kill this king (I know it's too similar to Dark Souls), but then he's caught and captured.
In his captivity the king he was meant to murder visits him himself, and he turns out to be a great dude.
Long story short, there had been many attempts by that priestess to assassinate the king, and the hero served as just another catpaw after the others have failed.
Everything he did was based on a lie, and he's given a choice – trick the priestess so she would be assassinated, or decline and be exacuted.
The story ends with the him tricking the priestess and commiting suicide shortly after.
This skeleton of a story of course lacks meat to it, but it's a good alternative to the Chosen One arc.
Instead of ignoring it altogether, it's possible to explore themes of blindess, naivity, purpose and lack of, failure, coating the fantastic nature with a grim take on reality.
Long story short, don't try to reinvent the wheel, just use it in unexplored ways.

I like reading and watching stuff in the sci-fi/fantasy category and if I chose things I’d like to see fixed:
Power Inflation
Typically there’s a set up of good guys versus some sort of bad guys.
Then the bad guys are defeated.
If you’re writing a one-shot deal, then you’re good but if you’ve got a longer sequence of books then what typically ends up happening is that the next bad guy is even more powerful than the last.
It’s done for dramatic reasons.
However, it’s silly.
Say originally you’re fighting vampires but then the last bad guy is the uber-vampire.
Okay good.
But then, next time around you think it’s not interesting to fight vampires again and they already defeated an uber-vampire.
So, now they have to fight the mega-alpha-vampire and then that leads up to the super-duper-mega-ultra-alpha-and-omega-vampire.
Then it just gets stupider from there.
The point is to make the journey, or the story, or the situation interesting rather than the enemy.
Then you don’t have to resort to power inflation.
Spaghettifying Factions
Another issue is that some authors like to continuously introduce spice to their story by introducing yet another unknown faction, or person, or character trait.
Character traits that don’t exist at the beginning of a novel should be earned.
A cowardly character learns to be brave.
I dislike novels in which a character is made more interesting by suddenly revealing they actually have witch powers but they were a normal before.
By the last chapter everybody and their mom secretly had a long ancient bloodline that gave them powers.
That just gets silly.
The other macro-version of this is the constant introduction of new factions.
Your characters face orcs.
Then they fight the orcs for a while.
Your war story goes nowhere.
Now you introduce dark elves.
That goes nowhere.
You introduce shadow ogres.
Before you know it, even you don’t know what factions you wrote up.
An Unnecessary Destiny or Prophecy
If you’ve got a good plot lined up, or a good premise (eg.
three factions are beset against one another and you follow the Byzantine politics of faction A) then don’t randomly throw in destiny or a prophecy.
It tends to be plot cancer that overrides all your other threads for no good reason.
Needlessly Attacking Cliches
Lastly, don’t needlessly throw away cliches because they are cliches.
Doing them well makes for a good plot.
Anyway, without knowing anything about the type of fantasy story you are writing, I can only give you my personal grievances of fantasy/sci-fi in the world.

You’ve already taken the first step.
You strongly dislike a particular trope — the damsel in distress — and want to turn it on its head.
Fine.
What’s stopping you? Just write the story already!
Here are some more clichés that you may want to avoid:
What are some of the most annoying movie clichés?
But really, there’s nothing wrong with following an occasional trope that some people don’t like, unless it’s that one where there’s immediate DANGER but no, the love interest has to stop and demand to know if the other person is sleeping with her best friend and she has to know right now and she will not move until she learns of this stupid thing.
Even though there’s Godzilla coming this way to squish her.
As if any woman would really do that.
I’d be like, sleep with whomever you want your penis doesn’t mean as much to me as my life and for that matter I hope Godzilla squishes you BYE!
If you spend all your time worrying about the pitfalls you might fall into, you’ll spend your writing time figuratively watching the ground.
You’re going to miss all the stuff that’s good to write about.
Think about it this way: the only way to ‘write a negative’ is to not write.
If you’re not writing about this or not writing about that or you want to write a teenager who doesn’t behave like a teenager, you’re not going to be actually writing anything.
But if you want to write about something, now you can write about that thing.
BTW there are loads of stories about damsels in distress who save themselves.
Not as many as I’d like, and I’d like to see loads more, but that fairytale has already been turned on its head by some accomplished writers.
I’m also seeing it more in movies and tv shows where the guys all show up to rescue the damsel, but she’s already extricated herself, thanks very much.
Also, famously, Black Widow in a couple of scenes in the Avengers movies appears to be vulnerable and in terrible danger, but nope, she was playing them.
Lovely! No wonder so many people love that character.

For every cliche you avoid, there is the danger of falling into the opposite cliche.

Cliche: Hero and sidekick(s).
Seriously? Why is the hero such a great guy who can do everything, and his sidekick some sycophant who follows him everywhere, carrying his pack, minding the horses, and acting only as a sounding board? Even hired servants get fed up after a while.
The antipodal cliche is the Team where everybody at some point has some skill than none of the others have, and is crucial at that particular point in the story.
Find the balance between the two.

Why not have a small group of characters who sometimes do the skillful/necessary thing, either by themselves, or in a sub-group while the rest just stand around watching.
Have a member of the group who really is useless to the overarching story.
Maybe they are just someone’s kid brother along for the adventure, or maybe they are the cook.
Not everyone in your team needs to be crucial to your story.
Maybe they realise part way through they need to hire a new guy to fill a role/skill previously unfilled.
Maybe they can drop a team member, or maybe someone just gets fed up and leaves – not because they die, or because they were captured, or they get homesick, or they lose faith in the quest, but they just decide they have better things to do, so they leave.
Let them have an argument as to how they will overcome an obstacle.
No Dues ex machina.
No miracle “Hey, I know this spell I read in an obscure book”, no magical being who has infinitely more talent than the others, and no Mary Sue who instantly knows the answer.
Have your characters be more “human” and fight with each other, be stubborn about their ideas, and have them try something that fails.
Hehehe – write a book where 3/4 the way through, they find themselves back at square one.
….
tired, grumpy, frustrated, yet wiser for the experience.

Here is the thing about cliches; No one seems to agree as to what they are.
The definition of a cliche is an idea that is boring, predictable, no longer interesting.
I’ll make an exception here for The dreaded Mary Sue, and other boring protagonists, but I don’t think that counts as a cliche so much as it is simply having poorly developed characters.
You’ll get a dozen people who say that they’re sick of love triangles with the mysterious loner and sweet child hood friend (myself included), only to have those stories sell like crazy because other people can’t get enough of them.
You can take the most overused elements and put your own spin on them in such a way that they become fresh and interesting.
You can invert tropes (I believe someone else has already answered with a link to the wonderful site TV tropes: Warning, It’s extremely addictive.
) Or take them as they are.
Build on them, blend them, give them complexity and texture.
Its all about execution.
The chosen one is a good example.
We’ve seen it a million times, and some iterations seem like cheap imitations and pointless plot devices, while others stand out in our mind as some of the most influetial stories ever told.
Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Matrix.
And there are many ways to mess around with it.
I believe Death Note was mentioned, ordinary teenager finds a notebook that gives him godlike powers, pretty chosen-oney.
Of course, the notebook gives him the power to kill anyone by writting their name in it, kicking off a intense psychological thriller as the protagonist metomorphises from an anti-hero into a full fledged villain with a god-complex, and everything goes to hell, not to mention he was basically chosen because a death god got bored and threw his notebook out the window to see whatever the poor sap who stumbled upon it would do(and this wasn’t the first time he’d done it either).
The point is, whats important is not so much that you avoid trpoes and cliches so much asyou keep the story interesting, fresh, and difficult to predict (by that I mean dont be like the Thor movie, where me and my dad took turns guessing what was going to happen next, and we were always right.
)
Best of Luck Writing!

Well, this applies to all stories, not just fantasy.
Its not so much a cliche, but a method to avoid many of the worst ones all-together.
Its actually what I’m doing in the fantasy story I’m writing now.
Make the whole plot character driven.

With the story I’m working on, if my characters weren’t doing anything, there would be no story at all.
There is no ancient evil.
There is no prophecy.
There is no chosen one.
There is no dark magical overlord.
Frankly, right now the plot revolves around what is effectively a duke trying to figure out how to avoid a succession war after he dies, since he has no sons, and he none of the junior lords are really up to the task.
So whatever your plot is, let it exist because the characters are being proactive, because they are doing something, not fighting to maintain the status quo.
Too many hero stories end up with the world basically the way it was when the story started.
That’s boring.
Let your heroes change the world forever.
Let your Hero be imperfect and learn.
From other stories I’ve written, I never have the hero be born perfect.
Sure, sometimes by the time the story starts, the hero has already completed training.
But that’s the key.
She HAS been trained.
He has weaknesses.
She makes mistakes.
Abilities do not define your character, flaws do.
One of my favorite characters of mine had a drug problem (mostly kicked), is an alcoholic, is very emotionally immature, and is utterly terrified of losing the people she cares about.
She makes stupid, impulsive decisions.
Yet she is still loving, and generous, rather than an annoying, dark, brooding, anti-hero.
Most of her actions, good or bad, focus around her trying to keep her people safe.
Let your Hero fail.
Sure, in the grand scheme of things, we want the hero to win.
But let her get her ass handed to her a few times.
Hell, let his teammates be legitimately better than him at things that matter to the plot.
Remember your Hero is a person.
Your hero is not a set of numbers you rolled up to kill goblins and get gold.
He is a real, breathing person, with goals, fears, and interests.
She must react in a human fashion to stimuli.
Sure, it can be on the extreme end of normal sometimes, but if she is always emotional or always logical, that just isn’t human.
Worse, its boring.
Write a story you want to read.

That’s the last, best, advice I have.
I write what I want to read.
If even you don’t like your story, probably nobody will.
But if you do like it, there’s a decent chance other people will too.
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