You know there are some. Let’s see what we can come up with.
- The Chosen One: I am not quite tired of this yet. I want more Chosen One stories with characters of colour. Or, a Chosen One who just happens to identify as trans. Maybe their personal struggles are being worked out alongside saving the world. Maybe they save the world and that’s that. There are so many ways this could go! I want to read them all!
- The Dark Lord: I like dark lords, but I like it more when their intentions are explicitly evil. Like, Libba Bray’s whistling baddie in The Diviners. *shudder* And Cassandra Clare’s Valentine with his basement of horrors, the near-scientific way he tortured people he saw as beneath him, his poisoning of his pregnant wife … explicit evil, see? Even if we are talking less megalomaniacal, look at Jack from The Graveyard Book, so singular in his obsession and so deliciously creepy. I yearn for a proper baddie and I will never tire of them when they are delivered.
- Forming a Resistance: Be it against the above mentioned Dark Lord or against the Capitol, it is so exciting to read when a resistance is formed against a dominant power. I mean, of course, everything will go to hell shortly after, but until then it’s quite fun to read!
- Call to Adventure: Sometimes when the protagonist resists their role, they get drawn back into the fantasy world in interesting/funny ways. I mean, I also like my curious protagonists who just go headlong into danger, but it could be really funny when they just want to stay home in their PJs and watch their Netflix queue.
- Familiars for Female Characters: On the one hand, we have Disney’s Snow White which makes me gag, but on the other hand we have an interesting take on this trope with Dany and her dragons from GoT. I would like to see more stuff like that.
- Dreams: Dreams always bring messages, be they from allies or enemies. I like dreams that convey the protagonist and her/his perception of people/the situation with the same peculiar mixture of clarity and obscurity that dreams in real life do. Not everything needs to be revealed, ever, of course, but I enjoy the sense of the character’s internal world and/or foreshadowing of events that dreams reveal.
- Special Weapons: When our hero picks up her sword, or bow, or knife, or garroting wire (just joking, if she used a garroting wire she would be evil and we would not root for her), it hums in her hands, or feels warm, or something along those lines happens to convey the essential right-ness that she should have this weapon, and the magical near-animation (and consummate loyalty) of this weapon.
- Cloaks: Swirling, warm, hooded, cloaks just spell out romance (in the sense of adventure and heroism, of course). Other suitably “exotic” clothing, such as tunics, embroidered dresses, surcoats, and leather belts from which swing small coin purses, are also awesome.
- Familiars and Animal Companions: I want one. Just saying.
- True-Hearted Companions: From Samwise Gamgee to Pol (The Thief), I can’t get enough of this sort of stalwart, faithful, pure-hearted, true to the death companion. These people aren’t single-minded or flat characters – Sam has his gardens, his shy attachment to Rose, and steady relationships with characters other than Frodo, and yet he generously sets everything aside to devote himself to taking care of “Master Frodo”, destroying the One Ring, and saving Middle Earth. He does all this, goes home, rescues the Shire, and becomes a loving husband and father. Whatever he does and whomever he cares for, he acts with a whole heart and unwavering loyalty.
- Characters like “Jack”: Janet mentioned the True-Hearted Companion – and I whole heartedly agree, Sam is my favourite character from LOTR. Yash talked about the truly evil bad guy, y’know the one that won’t just realize all the harm he’s done and ask for forgiveness as he dies, and I too enjoy that although I think it’s a trope that needs more exploration and is not tired or worn yet. For me – I love the scallywags! Gimme the backtalking, spitfire of a thief, who also has a heart of gold (but really hides it, and it’s kinda tarnished but we love him all the more for it). Han Solo, Jack from Blood Red Road, Captain Jack – you know, the Jack of all Trades master of getting readers and audiences to love them. I’d love to see more females take on this role.
- Mediaevalism: Because what is a fantasy novel without moats, ramparts, swords, the peasants and the rich. I think this can become tired because – well – I want there to be magic and elves and talking cats in my own time, why does it only belong in the past? I’m thinking David Eddings type setting, and LOTR of course. I enjoy it and I enjoy new twists on this trope as well – like time travelling, or completely ulterior settings that have mediavalesque features but is not totally set in that historical period – Steampunk for instance is making a come back as a twist on this setting.
- The Mystery: I love it. Usually the mystery is tied into the quest, where the MC doesn’t really know what their quest is, or doesn’t know the half of it and there is a big reveal. I love this because I like to try and figure it out before the hero and I am just delighted when I am TOTALLY wrong. A good mystery can make any book worth reading.
- Good vs. Evil: Ok, not exactly good versus evil, but clear sides. I like it when a writer can really pull off two different points of view or perspectives and delve into a characters motivation and background. I think, perhaps, that’s why so many “chosen one” stories start with a child or a child-like creature because, well, they haven’t really formed their perspectives and motivations all they know is what is not fair, or obviously not right.
- Magical Land: Usually forests that are scary because they have some secret magic in them – ie. Fangorn from LOTR (I’m also thinking of Plain Kate by Erin Bow or the Forbidden Forest of Harry Potter). I love the magic of the earth and the land and the sky. The way that the wilds can have a characters and play a role in the story. Oh landscape, <3
- Like Yash, I, too, have an enduring fondness for The Chosen One. Especially if said Chosen One is female – okay, only if the Chosen One is female. I have no time for male Chosen Ones.
- Strange and Wonderful Magical Powers. I love it when the Chosen One displays these powers (which, one could argue, is the entire reason she is the Chosen One but sometimes the author tries to be tricksy and gives the Chosen One no powers which is why she’s the One but I don’t like that.)
- Talking Animals as Familiars/Best Friend. Or, who am I kidding? Talking Cats. I love them. I love them a lot.
- High Stakes. The reason Lord of the Rings worked so well for me was because failure meant doom. Literally. I like that a lot.
- Non-melodramatic and Subtle Romance. I admit it. I like a little bit of romance spicing up the narrative but I only like a little bit of it. I don’t want it to be a central theme unless it adds something substantial to the narrative but if it’s there, I’ll appreciate it a lot.