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I am creating a fantasy world that in some ways is rather typical. There are various races (species) living in a somewhat divided cohabitation. These include elves, gnomes, hobbits, humans, etc. There are magical creatures, magic, and other realms. I am trying to make it original and interesting.

What are some common tropes that I could avoid so that the world seems authentic? I am worried that this medieval fantasy world will be a little cliche.

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closed as too broad by dot_Sp0T, Pavel Janicek, AndreiROM, Zxyrra, Mołot Jan 24 '17 at 0:06

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Hey there @LoganKitchen and welcome to the site. Your question as of now is asking for an open list of things, thus it will be difficult to give good & concise answers; it will also be difficult to judge these answers, which is better: the one that only lists 8 things but listed them first, or the one listing 32 things but all of them have been in other answers? Please have a look at our tour and maybe the help center, as well as other questions to see how you can improve yours :) $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jan 23 '17 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ Also, about avoiding tropes/cliches: If you get the feeling that you're getting too cliche, start removing the things that make you feel that way; a work is not perfect if you cannot add anything anymore, but if you cannot remove anything more without making it something else. $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jan 23 '17 at 20:33
  • $\begingroup$ Despite the breadth of this question, I see two answers that are quite useful and IMHO good stuff. I'd rather give it a change, given the good answers so far. $\endgroup$ – Catalyst Jan 24 '17 at 0:17
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, I understand a little better now and gave the help center a better look through. However, I am still a little confused as to how I would go about changing the question to be appropriate. I am struggling to change it without making the existing answers sound out of place... $\endgroup$ – Logan Kitchen Jan 31 '17 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ @LoganKitchen if you invalidate any existing answer by clarifying your question then you should not feel bad about it. It was not your decision to prematurely answer a question that could obviously need some additional work. Just add the changes you feel are needed to still keep it being the same question but also fulfill the few requirements this site poses upon its users - then we can reevaluate and help you further. You can also always join the chat if you have further questions :) $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jan 31 '17 at 20:37
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First of all, writing a medieval (European) fantasy is in itself, a trope.

How do I know this? Well, as always, there's a TV Trope page on Medieval European Fantasy. Using the related page, some examples of common tropes within that are:

  • Adventure Friendly World
  • All Beer Is Ale (as opposed to lager)
  • Altar Diplomacy (using marriage to solve political problems etc.)
  • Animorphism (ability to turn into animals)

Ultimately, there are a few things to take from this:

TV tropes is ideal for looking up this sort of thing

There are lots of tropes (too many to easily list)

Tropes are neither good, nor bad - they are tools

If you want realism, then reading about medieval history and the middle ages is a pretty good start

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The main characteristics of the Medieval World which distinguish it from the Classical World before and the Modern World after are that

  1. A person's loyalty was to the person next higher up in the hierarchy (whereas in the Classical and Modern worlds a person was and is loyal to institutions).

    For example, in the Middle Ages a traitor was a traitor to the king, or to his lord, or to her husband; in the Classical and Modern worlds, a traitor is a traitor to the Crown or to their country, and it is nonsense to speak of a wife being a traitress to her husband.

    For another example, if one's lord took up arms against the king one was bound to follow him, because loyalty was to persons not institutions: this is why civil strife in the Middle Ages was much more frequent than in the Classical World or the Modern World.

  2. Religion had a very important role in personal life and in politics (in the Classical World, it was only important in personal life, in the Modern World it is irrelevant).

Get those right and you will avoid the most jarring mistakes.

Next on the list of distinguishing characteristics are the strong hierarchical aspect of society (everybody but the king has a lord to whom they must be loyal), the utter lack of any notion of nations as spiritual entities worthy of consideration, and the low to very low social mobility.

The Song of Ice and Fire is set in a medieval world (mostly). The Lord of the Rings is set in a world akin to the European Bronze Age, or early Iron Age.

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Agree with Mithrandir, If you want to avoid cliche, you would ultimately have to create your own fantasy creature, with their own realms and beginnings, languages, foods, etc. Most fantasy stories revolve around elves, orcs, goblins, humans, because these are creatures that already have a world created. They are familiar, if you say an orc, 9/10 fantasy readers will know exactly what it is and can visualize it. To avoid this while still being fantasy, you would have to do the work to create new beings which could run the risk of being too unfamiliar. If they struggle to relate to the species, if they struggle to comprehend them, you run into the risk of losing reader interest. That's why the typical set of creatures are found in all fantasy styles. They are established and proven to work. Each species has a personality that people can relate to. Orcs are your meathead warrior jocks. Elves are your refined, civilized species, hobbits are your party simpleton species. Goblins are your thieves. They all have a certain personality trait that people can relate to.

If you are looking for fictional medieval, you just need to create humans and create your own world not related to earthly locations like middle earth for example. If you want to start adding in goblins and orcs, it's going to be cliche and up to you on whether you want to do a typical romance style fantasy novel where a group of heroes fight against vast armies and come out victorious or apply some realism.

With that being said, to make it authentic or not would depend on the story/world you want to create. The types of creatures and species doesn't make it any more or less authentic because they are all a part of the authentic fantasy realm. Up to you to create the story with the said species and creatures to create the cliche story or create something from a different angle.

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In order to avoid using cliched tropes in medieval fantasy you should first build a world with these tropes then subvert them in some way.

Eg. You may have Dwarves that are not scruffy miners, instead they can be delicate artisans or diplomats. Elves can be the barbarian people that are war-driven. You may have humans be non-existent or an alien presence.

After subveting a trope you must work around it. How elven culture degenerated from highly intelligent forest people to barbarians, or how dwaves left the underground.

Climate and size of the planet are also factors to explore.

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