5 Fantasy Cliches I’m NOT Using

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This week I found myself researching and reading about the most common cliches found in YA fiction (especially fantasy). As a writer, I like to think that I have some original ideas, but I was beginning to feel like everything I wrote lately has been done before. The more I researched, the more I realized that I wasn’t using ANY of the YA/fantasy cliches I read about, and that made me wonder if I can even claim to be writing a “proper fantasy!”

The main fantasy element in my current story is a portal to another world and some amount of world building, but even that isn’t very much (I don’t like spending too much time on detail). Anyway, here are five cliches’ I am NOT using:

  1. The Chosen One: My protagonist happens to get lost playing manhunt, and falls into a glowing white pool which transports her to another world. But so far, she isn’t “chosen” to do anything (and likely won’t be). She just wants to find a way home. Now while I know the plot I’m using isn’t new, I am trying to make it happen in a different kind of way in the story telling. The land of Verdant isn’t on the verge of destruction anyway, although there are lots of other weird things going on…
  2. The Magical Artifact: Ok, so I wasn’t sure if trying to find a glowing white pool that is really a portal home counted. My characters aren’t trying to find this pool so they can have powers to save the world, so I think I’m in the clear. In my fantasy world, magic itself is almost non-existent. There may be a little, but certainly no magic system or magic weapons.
  3. The Love Triangle: I will admit, I did use this one before in my other novel. But it seemed to work then and I wasn’t really aware that it was a “standard YA” cliche. I have gone back and forth with adding romance in my current story and I think I won’t this time around. That doesn’t mean my characters won’t flirt with each other though…cause teenagers do that – A LOT.
  4. The Evil Villain: My story has a sorceress surrounded by rumors and superstition. But the sorceress (so far) really hasn’t done anything evil. I have some ideas about her and none of them include taking over the world. But initially, the characters do see her as a threat, and it isn’t like she couldn’t have some kind of evil plan if she wanted to…
  5. Medieval Setting: There are parts of the land of Verdant that feel European, but not really Medieval necessarily. I actually like the idea of Verdant having advanced technology and weapons development, so perhaps I’m mixing some sci-fi into the story. There is no kingdom, but there is a big city with a government, which has certainly been done before.

What are some more overused cliches I might have missed? Comment below!

Excerpt from White Tunnel: Ran’s Job

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As he approached the ravine, he dismounted a short distance from it and made the rest of the journey on foot. It was unnaturally quiet today. No breeze stirred the branches and the smaller, harmless wood creatures were still. Ran’s hands began to sweat. He might be used to clearing vermin, but it still got his blood pumping, every time he snuck up on one.

He approached the ravine and peered down. Mist covered the ground, making it impossible to tell how many of the vermin infested the place. Ran sighed. He pulled out his gun and tread cautiously to the edge. He lifted a large rock from the ground and tossed it down, then waited.

Come on you little nasties.

Nothing happened. The mist had enveloped the tossed rock without giving anything back. Ran’s grip on his weapon tightened.

“What the hell?” he muttered. Then he fired off a shot blindly into the clouded ravine.

The ground trembled.

Up out of the misted floor rose a shadow, slight at first, but then hulking and misshapen, rolling and roaring as it awoke from sleep.

Ran froze for a moment, astonished at the size of the vermin. But then instinct kicked in and Ran immediately lifted his weapon and began his attack. The first few shots smacked the monster hard, and sent pieces of it flying. Ran was surprised at how easily he managed to damage the beast. He moved in closer, using the advantage he’d created, firing continuously.

The enemy fell into the mist, which had already dispersed quite a bit so that the ground was visible beneath it. Ran stopped firing and waited for the beast to make its move again. It lay still for a moment. Then several spiders scurried toward him and he watched as the beast literally fell apart into a hoard of spider-like vermin, all moving quickly toward him.

Ran’s heart nearly punched a hole through his chest as he turned and raced back toward his bike. He needed to come up with a strategy fast, before the spiders could overtake him. They moved swiftly now, enraged by Ran’s attack. Driven to crush him in a wave of black poison.

Ran sped away from the ravine at first, but then turned abruptly, making a wide turn back in the direction of the threat. It wouldn’t do to lead the creatures back toward the village. His bike squashed several vermin as he made his path around the bulk of the hoard. Then one leapt from the ground and attached itself to Ran’s leg. The creature wasted no time inserting its poison into Ran. He winced and used the butt of his weapon to smack the black invader several times where he thought its head might be. It fell off just as Ran reached the incline of the ravine. He was already dizzy from the effect of the poison, as his overworked heart pumped it throughout his body.

Ran braced himself as he sped downward toward the bottom of the ravine, then opened the throttle on his bike and ascended the other side. He remembered there being an unused field nearby. A glance behind him showed that the spiders continued their chase, closer behind than expected.

Pain spiked in Ran’s head. He grabbed an antidote vial from a side pocket in his pack and gulped its contents as the deserted field came into view. Time and precision were essential now. Ran slowed as he approached the field, using one hand to unhook a blow-torch attachment from his bike. He stopped fully and connected this piece to his usual weapon.

The spiders were close now, but Ran wasn’t going to let his opportunity pass. He was moving again, already scorching his opponent, creating a blazing wall around the field. The vermin screeched in pain as Ran surrounded them in flames.

One last time, the enemy tried to merge, and for a moment rose as a fiery tower of a beast. But then crashed down again, falling apart as they did.

Ran stopped circling and watched the field burn, spotted with black lumps, no longer moving.

Someone’s gonna be mad.

Excerpt from White Tunnel: Ran’s Grief

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On the way home to his cabin, Ran’s mind drifted backward in time to a dingy two-bedroom rental in need of repair. The house was always dark these days. Without air conditioning, drawing the curtains was the only way to keep it cool. Once reasonably clean, everything was now covered in dust. Ran didn’t clean much since he started working full-time, and his mother had been bed-ridden for months.

She was gone now.

Ran saw himself enter the vacant house, removing his shoes and placing them by the front door. He passed through the living room, treading an eternally matted and very outdated carpet, and moved into the kitchen. He didn’t bother with the lights. The fridge was empty, but for a carton of orange juice and some bread. It’s not that they weren’t able to afford food – there just hadn’t been time to eat at home lately. Ran spent his days working and visiting his mother in the hospital. Oh, and sometimes he made an appearance at school. But since learning he would have to repeat twelfth grade, that was becoming less frequent.

Ran grabbed the orange juice and took a glass from the cabinet. He brought his beverage into the living room and sat on the couch to drink it. Mom had passed early that morning. Ran usually worked overnight, so he received the call from the hospital when he was still working. It was like a dream. She was alive yesterday, and now she wasn’t.

Ran rested his head back on the couch cushion and wept quietly. You don’t outgrow sorrow or grief. They visit you when they must, depriving your body and soul of strength while they hover over you like a shadow. They keep you company at least when you’re alone.

Like Ran was now.

White Tunnel: Prologue

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Cassidy stumbled in the dark forest, annoyed that her new cloth sneakers were most likely getting dirty. If she’d known they’d be playing manhunt tonight, she would have dressed more appropriately in black to better hide herself, and the dirt. Although right now, she had a bigger problem than the dirt on her new shoes – she was pretty sure she was lost.

To make matters worse, she felt weird, like she was dreaming. No, it wasn’t like dreaming exactly. She was nervous and paranoid all while feeling rather relaxed. The trees looked funny too, almost as if they were alive. Cassidy was beginning to suspect some of the party snacks were laced with something. However, having never been high before, she wasn’t sure.

Why did I go to this stupid party?

Cassidy had already sent out several text messages to her friends, letting them know she was lost. Unfortunately, she hadn’t received any responses and could see her phone seemed to be lagging. She figured this particular area of the woods had bad cell phone service. After all, she was in the middle of nowhere. She couldn’t even hear her friends’ shouts and laughs any longer.

The night was getting colder, uncommonly so for mid-August in Connecticut. The paranoid-yet-relaxed feeling, had subsided and she now felt merely dazed and very tired. Maybe a rest would help. Her legs ached and her feet had started to rub uncomfortably in the new sneakers.

It was already well past midnight. Thankfully, the moon had come out from behind the clouds, illuminating the woods. In fact, everything seemed unnaturally bright for some reason, as though actual light was coming from somewhere other than the moon. Cassidy followed the source of light until the trees separated into a small clearing surrounding a circular pool; although, it was unlike any water she’d ever encountered.

The pool was barely twenty feet across, but quite noticeable, because whatever substance filled it glowed bright white. It was mesmerizing. Instead of wondering exactly what type of liquid filled this small pond, Cassidy found herself drawn to it so that soon she was kneeling right at the edge of the pool. She passed her hand over the liquid, but didn’t try to touch it. The white substance pulsed in respond to her movement, almost welcoming her.

She sat there for a long time, gazing at the glowing liquid, forgetting she was lost. But at last, her phone buzzed rudely, disturbing her trance and reminding her she needed to get back to her friends.

Just as Cassidy pulled out her phone to check the message, she heard a rustling behind her that made her head pound and her nerves tense. She slowly turned, she watched a hulking black shape appear from behind the foliage and move toward her. Cassidy had heard of bear sightings several miles from her friend’s house, but didn’t expect to come across one now. She froze, her mind scrambling for a strategy to deal with this potentially deadly situation. The best thing she could think of was stay completely still, hoping the bear would turn around and leave.

The bear stopped too, watching her warily for a moment. Then suddenly, it charged toward her. Cassidy knew she shouldn’t run, but she couldn’t remember whether to try to intimidate the bear, or play dead. In her indecision, she lost her footing and fell backward into the glowing pool.

The world vanished, replaced by complete, pure white and a feeling of euphoria. Cassidy floated for several minutes, entirely overcome with the sensation. Her friends, cell phone, even the bear in the woods were all forgotten.

Then strangely, her feet landed. She was no longer falling or floating, but looking ahead into nothing but white all around her. She couldn’t seem to go back up, because she was no longer surrounded by the liquid substance. It wasn’t a pool at all, now that she was in it. It was more like a tunnel.

Cassidy felt compelled to keep moving, almost as if the tunnel itself beckoned her further. Like it was alive. The floor and walls were even warm and soft to the touch. She passed through the serene white, as if in a dream, but like all dreams, it was soon over. The tunnel abruptly ended and Cassidy tumbled out onto soft, cool grass. Then weariness overcame her and she fell asleep.