1. ghostwriter14
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    ghostwriter14 New Member

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    Clichés: Characters in the Fantasy/Historical Genre

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ghostwriter14, Jan 23, 2011.

    Interested in the Fantasy/Historical/Medieval genre? Hopefully..

    I've been thinking of resurrecting an old, old character of mines from a Fantasy RPG and to reconstruct him a little to make him the centre of a collection of short stories or a novella, but I was wondering how to polish the character off a little bit. The character is a Duke, and is supposed to be quite young and brash, but at the same time he's supposed to be the most praised noble in the country. Basically, the character got to be in such a position through a long series of events which made him appear something that he wasn't; most typically a hero. So, I was wondering what clichés you'd think that this character could or has fallen into? I'm thinking specifically for this genre, because, as you would know, different genres mean different clichés...

    I'm also wondering what other clichés you would find in this type of genre in general, and tips for avoiding them... I haven't decided on any other characters or anything yet, but if and when I finally get around to finding somewhere to start, I'll need to construct some other characters. I'm trying to write something that's not too typical of the genre, something that's a bit refreshing and new, so if there's any possibility, clichés will be avoided as much as possible.
     
  2. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    The main problem I have with fantasy is the royalty cliche. As an American I find the idea of royalty to be heinous since it's a main complaint of the Enlightenment and what the founding fathers found ridiculous about Britian, etc.

    The idea is that somehow "breeding" makes more noble people with overall better qualities. Guys like Ben Franklin who was a genius was very limited in his ability to do anything while some royal moron had all the advantages. The bottom line is that breeding doesn't work and is Nazish. So, I like fantasy characters who are regular people like soldiers, wizards, and people who have great qualities based on their personalities.
     
  3. ghostwriter14
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    ghostwriter14 New Member

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    That's a fair point to make, but I have to say that I have a different opinion in regards to fantasy characters. I don't think that it's a characters class and position in society that makes them clichéd or dull. The fact is that such people have existed, therefore you cannot simply disregard them as being important or perhaps even main characters in the fantasy genre; especially if you're -like myself- trying to create a piece of literature which the reader can believe in. Something that can incorporate the strange and brilliant ideas of the fantasy genre into a story that readers will be able to imagine themselves in. If making your main character a peasant or a soldier or a wizard -or just someone who does not have a high rank- makes that feat more achievable (considering that most of us don't have a high rank in regards to our respective nation) then that's fair enough. Maybe we will be able to relate more to the life of a peasant or a soldier (etc) who has to endure hardships and so on, but the fact still remains that people of high rank still exist; why can't we relate to their hardships? Why can't they be the focus of a story that's interesting, entertaining and also believable to a sustainable degree?

    I have to say that for me, position or rank doesn't make a cliché. It's really more about who the character actually is, regarding personality and looks as the main features to look at. I'm more interested in clichés that are more often related to fantasy stories, of characters with high and low ranks. The cliché I'm particularly worried about lies with the fact that he's of high rank and is generally extremely popular with his people. Then again, on the other side, there's always the cliché of a tyrannical leader. The spin that I've put on it is the fact that he's not so different from the 'everyman' type character - his 'achievements' are not real, people have simply exaggerated stories about the man because they admire him so much, just like rumours in the real world grow until they amount to something that doesn't fit the body of the real thing. I'm interested in taking a character that is normally a cliché, and turning it on its head or putting an unusual spin on things, taking me back to the point of making a story (or collection of stories) that are refreshing in terms of the genre...
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me the story makes the characters - mine are royalty they have to be that level of corruption wouldn't work in another setting lol

    Often cliche is cliche because it can be written exceptionally well.

    Not sure how cliche my characters are to be honest, I just tell the story through them and let their personality be the thing that makes them not cliche.
     
  5. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    Yes, but the cliche is that royalty are born heroes and that why they have the position they do. That's complete nonsense because it doesn't reflect the reality of royalty who are just people and frequently worse due to inbreeding. Also, I think the royal hero is demoralizing to the average reader because they can never who to be royal and the tacit message is "racist" for lack of a better word.

    This type of character and story exists in more books than we can count I'm sure.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Of course, a Fantasy doesn't have to reflect reality. There's no reason, in a fantasy world, that you can't have on group of people (whether royalty, or outsiders, or whatever) who are in fact born 'superior' in many ways. Just a matter of what kind of story you want to write.
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or go the opposite and portray them as fairly normal human beings :) Beauty of fantasy is you are an adult in a make believe world that can be taken whichever way you want as long as you ground it in a context that works.
     
  8. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    Everything written reflects reality because a person is writing it.
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That's all well and good from a philosophical point of view, but it doesn't address the contention that a fantasy story has to reflect what really happened in human history on earth with respect to in-breeding, royalty, or how genetic fitness works.
     
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  10. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    I'm talking about subtext, not what happens on the surface of the story. The royalty focus of some fantasy is cliched and carries many negative messages from a classic American perspective. It's hard to argue this since the revolution was specifically anti-royal.

    So, not only is the cliche real, I greatly dislike the message.
     
  11. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Many fantasy writers are not American - this one is writing from a very British perspective.

    My royalty is more based on that in my religion's text than anything. Which oddly makes that bit more American oh well lol
     
  12. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    Do British people still believe the royal familiy is genetically and spiritually superior?

    I'm not sure what your last sentence means.
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I do think the 'royal' angle is used a lot in fantasy. Particularly in high fantasy. Even the pig farmer turns out to really be a prince, by blood.

    That said, I do think there is room to do such a story well. I don't agree that you simply can't write a story about characters of royal lineage without falling into a cliche.

    I do like fantasy of the sort written by Joe Abercrombia, KJ Parker, Glen Cook, Steven Erikson, and others, where you have many characters who come from less than privileged backgrounds.

    But I'll read a story about royal characters if it is well done.
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    nope but then not sure why we need to write a monarchy as genetically and spiritually superior ? Merely as leaders. I certainly like having the monarchy in place and wouldn't be about to campaign for its change in anyway. Mine is a pretty normal teenage boy pushed into the position of King because his father is dead at the hands of sister and his brother abdicated to live with a boyfriend. He has some magical ability but so does everyone else on the Island he probably has less than most.

    I'm a Mormon the royalty within in my books has more echoes of that than the UK monarchy. Means it has more of a basis in American mytholgy than British though.
     
  15. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Here are some cliches that annoy me when reading fantasy:

    1. When the fantasy world is a complete ripoff of Tolkein with orcs, elves, rings of power etc. LOTR was awesome but it's been written already. Move on. Be original.

    2. The "chosen one" aspect; when the MC is in a position to fight the bad guy because he/she was predestined to do it before birth. It's Mary Sue-ish, and I prefer MCs who stand up and fight because they choose to, because they have something at stake. Not because they're fulfilling a prophecy that's been laid out.

    3. Characters who have "gut instincts" that are always right, telepathy, telekineisis (sp?), or other powers that allow them to magically overpower challenges without effort. If they have to defeat a major obstacle, give them a battle, and if you give them a battle, give them some scars to show for it.

    4. Archaicness. This goes for both fantasy and historical stuff. It's okay to have something take place in the 1700s, but don't use an overly wordy, archaic sounding tone that's going to be hard to read. This also goes for dialogue.

    That's all I've got...I like strong female characters and unique plots/settings. To me those are the most important things in a fantasy.
     
  16. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    The pig farmer is a good example. It says that such a guy going anything good is laughable until, oh wait, he's got genetic superiority.

    I certainly wouldn't turn down a great book with a royal character because it's not that important to me, but I do avoid them because of the reasons stated. I also like the authors you mentioned because of their regular person characters. Erikson got me back to reading and enjoying fantasy partly because of his non-royal characters.
     
  17. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    I see.

    However, to avoid the idea that some god makes people kings because they're so special you'd have to make sure that some system was explained to justify why a person should be king. For instance, I recall this group in an Erikson novel that fought all the time. If you can't win, you can't be leader.

    With the king's son, if he justifies becoming king then he's a "chip off the old block" which means that due to genetics he's proven his worth. With that we have the classic nonsense that justifed oppression.

    One of these days I'd like to write a story where characters in some fantasy setting fight for democracy.
     
  18. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    Holy crap! I hate the messiah cliche with a passion. For whatever reason, that's used in movies all the time.

    Edit: I'm sure they have a clique too.
     
  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Have you ever read "Villains by Necessity," by Eve Forward?

    It isn't people fighting for democracy, but the premise is that it is after your typical Lord of the Rings style high fantasy, where good has triumphed over evil. All of the "good" who won that battle against evil now rule everything, and it has become sort of oppressive, as the good guys keep tight controls on society in many ways. So the main characters set about trying to reintroduce an element of evil into the world because they've decided that unchecked "goodness" (as decided by the "good" rulers) isn't exactly what it was cracked up to be.

    Interesting book.
     
  20. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I thought the benign dictator was supposed to be the ideal system of government. In my case the story wouldn't work without the Royal Family -they were a Royal Family before it became a fantasy - I just moved them to a new world.

    I have actually devised a reason why there has to be a Monarch and an Abbot responsible for each element. To the point where in one of my stories the democratic Scotia with nominal monarch actually had the parliament voluntarily step aside in favour of the monarch and the abbot. The consequences of having them not in place are dire. There is a check which prevents the baddy or less than competent one obtaining the full power involved.

    In effect the monarch and the abbot are the good bacteria in the gut of the Universal Father without them in place he gets indigestion for starters. The Abbot has to be from a certain lineage, the monarch can be from any.

    Actually in the case of my book his father was weak and his grandfather got my MCs sister pregnant at 14, not a nice bloke.
     
  21. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    Wow, sounds clever!

    I'll look it up.
     
  22. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Reminds me of what to me remains the scariest Dr Who episode called the Happiness Patrol think it is online.
     
  23. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or read "His Dark Materials". They made Philip Pullman one of my personal heroes for turning established world views upside down.
     

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