Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #21: My Least Favourite Elements of Fantasy Fiction

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: my least favourite elements of fantasy fiction.

Yup, in this feature where I talk about how much I love fantasy I want to… discuss when exactly I don’t like it. There are some elements that seem to occur frequently within the genre that just bug me. I already shared my favourite elements in a previous post, so I figured why not share the bits I don’t like?

1. Cheesy names

So I get that making up a fantasy language is difficult, and that finding names to fit your new fantasy world can be hard. But some characters just have awful, ridiculous sounding names, and every time I read about them my experience of the book is ruined by the urge to giggle. Don’t forget those vowels, please.

2. ‘The Chosen One’ and the ‘Dark Lord’

Not so much the concept of them, but actually referring to them as that. It just feels lazy, it’s really overdone. If you’re going to go for that theme, then at least call them something else.

Shut it, Harry.

Shut it, Harry.

3. ‘Cookie cutter’ fantasy worlds

Basically any book that has pretty much copied the fantasy greats in creating their world. Elves live in the woods, they dislike dwarves, there’s a monarchy and nobility – any book that overuses typical fantasy elements. If you want it to be memorable, make something original.

4. A lack of female characters

There’s no reason for this. So your fantasy novel is based on medieval history, and you’re following the societal norms of the period? Yeah, well it’s not ACTUALLY set in the Middle Ages. There are plenty of fantasy novels based on medieval history with kickass women.

Brienne is AWESOME AND THERE'S NO DENYING IT.

Brienne is AWESOME AND THERE’S NO DENYING IT.

Are there any elements of fantasy that you dislike to read about? Do you agree with any of these?

37 thoughts on “Fantasy Friday #21: My Least Favourite Elements of Fantasy Fiction”

  1. I agree with most of these, I like it when fnatasy books are original. And terms like The Chosen One are just so overused. Concerning the cookie cutter fantasy words, I guess those stereotypes are on place for a reason, although it would be fun to read a book were dwarves and elves are just slightly different from the stereotypes, but if they go so far that elves are small, have beards and drink lots of beer, it would be weird.

    And I can’t stand weird names that I can’t remember. It’s so hard to keep remembering who’s who when you can’t even remember their names. I often think easy to remember names work best, although that might just differs from person to person.

    1. Yep, as I said the concept is okay, if also overused, but THE TERM. THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE PLEASEEEEEE.

      I mean, elves were originally tiny little creatures, I think it was Tolkien who made them tall. Something like that anyway. So they could be short too! I can’t imagine an elf with a beard though 😉

  2. When I read your comment about funny names I thought immediately about a book I recently read, and also enjoyed – Besieged, by Rowena Cory Daniells – where some names were really weird: they did not lack for vowels, granted, but sometimes there were far too many of them! And then one character had a name – Matxin – that seemed crafted to make your mind and/or tongue stumble, as if their proverbial feet kept tripping… 🙂

    If I were to name an element that I dislike it would have to be the trope of “young man living in obscurity (usually doing a menial job) who is destined save the world and lead its people”. Usually that’s enough to have me run in the opposite direction!

  3. I agree with Nathan – I would totally love a cheesey names list!

    I get you on the chosen one trope – we see it way too often! There can’t be THAT many chosen ones in all the worlds of fantasy cause come on – how many chosen ones do you see in REAL life? Not many LOL.

    As for names – I had crazy impossible to pronounce ones like U’gthr

    1. Maybe one day, haha 😉

      I think if someone pronounced themselves the ‘Chosen One’ in real life we’d all think they were insane.

      How on earth do you say that?? It kind of sounds like Agatha when I try and say it and I’m sure the author wasn’t aiming for that…

  4. Hahaha one of my first Fantasy Friday posts was all the terrible unpronounceable names I’d come across so I feel you on that one! I actually agree with all of these. I feel so happy when I read a fantasy book that has more than one woman and those women actually get to do stuff, you know, instead of just making out with the hero.

    1. Yes, I remember that one 😀

      I’m kind of surprised that we haven’t seen a fantasy series (or maybe there is and I haven’t heard of it) with a dominant matriarchal system.

      1. If you want a society with dominant female characters, try Martha Wells’s Raksurra series, starting with The Cloud Roads. Ever since I read these books, she’s on my auto-buy list.

      2. Do look up her books. I would try to describe them, but I tend to fall into incoherent squees when I try. 🙂

        (And yes, I did.)

  5. YES, the cheesy names! I’m definitely put off by names that I can’t pronounce and names that are just “unique” for the sake of being different. Something else in fantasy fiction that bugs me sometimes is the language, like if it’s too modern for its time or if the colloquialisms feel off.

    1. Names are SO important. I read a book recently where I really disliked the protagonist’s name (it just sounded tacky) and I kind of judged her for it…

      That’s a good point – but it’s also a tricky one, although if an author has based their world on medieval history, you’d expect them to adapt the language so that it fits, but is still readable to the modern day reader.

  6. Haha, cheesy names, yes. Sometimes I have NO idea how to pronounce it and I just make a creation of my own, but it just sounds silly. I love it when authors stray away from the ‘classic’ way of thinking.

    1. Sometimes I pronounce a name in my head, then I hear it pronounced and I’ve been saying it TOTALLY wrong, but the real pronounciation now seems wrong.

  7. Everything on this is list is true!

    I hate it when there are names I cannot pronounce, just because it may fit the story. Sometimes it makes the story less real and can be quite off-putting. It doesn’t help that my pronunciation changes each time. Also, it’s always refreshing when there is a female character that actually does something rather than minces about

    1. Haha yes, the changing pronunciation! Trying to get it right, and then eventually giving up and sticking with something that’s probably completely wrong 😛

  8. The names thing. It is hard to come up with new words and names but sometimes the combination of consonants and vowels just doesn’t work. Or sounds really lame when you say them out loud. Or you have no idea how to actually say them out loud. A bad name for the main character can totally put a dent in an otherwise good fantasy story.

    1. This suddenly seems like a really odd comment in light of my most recent post on my blog… maybe it serves as an example of how hard it is to do fantasy names well 🙂

      1. I imagine it’s hard! But sometimes they just seem so… odd :/ I guess for orc characters or things like goblins, you’re going to want a harsh, guttural name that might be more difficult to pronounce.

  9. I share all these peeves. With #3 I feel like you could get SOOO many cool settings by simply setting stories outside of what is essentially Europe :/
    This is partly why I found Akata Witch soooo refreshing and fun to read!

    And I have been issues with the whole “chosen one” premise anyway, not just the name… I feel like it’s such a massive trope that values just being lucky to be born privileged and important above the idea of doing a lot of hard work to overcome baddies *in spite of* not being predestined for greatness.

    I also think that even if a book is set in the ACTUAL middle ages, it’s not like women ceased to exist in that era….

    Speaking of the name game, it seems like there’s been a recent trend of giving women names that are traditionally masculine names and I wonder if (but hope it’s not!) a lazy way of *telling* the reader they are “strong” rather than showing that quality in them… Or maybe it’s just to be quirky (hrmmm….). Or both? Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

    1. Yes! Definitely!

      I prefer characters that work to get where they are, rather than having some special power that allows them to magically fix everything.

      That’s another good point. Makes you wonder how the generations continued if there were apparently no women around 😉

      Ooh I haven’t noticed that so much. What examples were you thinking of?

      1. The stories sounded pretty dismal so I didn’t bother to note what they were called, but in the space of a couple of hours I came across a female “Mike”, “Theo” and “Micah”. It just seemed all the same sort of thing: trying to make me think she’s quirky just by telling me she is and giving her an uncommon (for a girl) name, everyone underestimates her but not for long because she shows them blahblah… hmm.. And I can totally get into the story of an underdog’s success(!) but it all felt so…’hmm’.
        And I’m pretty sure they were all fantasy or sci-fi so I wondered if it was a new SFF trend?

      2. Theo and Micah, I can kind of see… but Mike? Just seems odd :/ I can’t say I’ve noticed that so much in SFF though. There’s the more ‘unusual’ names like Katniss etc, but I haven’t noticed girls with boys names.

  10. Female characters. FEMALE CHARACTERS! Sorry, I agree, passionately. Like you said, just because women were treated like cattle in the actual middle ages, doesn’t mean they need to be treated that way in your make believe world. You can literally do anything you want, writers. Make better female characters!

    And, I snorted at that Harry gif. 🙂

    1. There’s just not enough of them! Maybe I need to do a post on awesome female characters in fantasy…

      It was pretty perfect for the situation, huh? 😛

  11. Great list! One of the fantasy tropes I get tired of is the main character who has no idea what she is but turns out to be something that is way more powerful than everyone around her. Sort of in that “chosen one” theme. A good example is Kate Daniels but it just seems to come up again and again.

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