Common Fantasy Cliches

Common Fantasy Cliches

This list outlines some cliches I commonly see in modern fantasy novels. Worth noting that this is just for fun. You can write as many cliches as you want! I enjoy some of the things on this list.



Species Monolith

All goblins are mean and yappy. All orcs are brutish and evil. Humans (and dogs) are granted the gift of diversity, but all the fantasy races/species are pretty homogenous.


The Great War

100 years ago, there was a Great War against The Dark Lord. He was vanquished (or was he...?) but people still speak of this war with reverence. It’s usually pretty vague what they were fighting for (besides “defeat Dark Lord”) and who exactly was doing the fighting.


Killable Minions

All the villain’s guards and minions are easier to kill than ants, and don’t do much damage to the heroes other than a light flesh wound.


All Adults Are Dumb

A group of ragtag teens have to save the world because every adult they encounter is either a bumbling idiot or a vessel of pure evil.



Everything is Medieval Europe...ish

All the countries in the fantasy kingdom vaguely resemble European countries (e.g. a rainy, imperialistic island and a giant winter country with onion-domed churches) but they’re given different names. There may also be a faraway land that’s a mishmash of 3+ different countries, usually from East Asia.

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Doorframe-Leaning Apple-Chomper

This guy eats an apple with a knife and leans against the doorframe with a smirk. He gestures to things with his designated apple-knife and calls people pet names in a way that’s both affectionate and condescending.

When in combat, he will quip. He can handle a drink, and he always cheats at cards. He’s prone to raising a “wry eyebrow”.


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Plain Sister

The female protagonist has a hot sister and feels plain in comparison. All the boys want her hot sister, but the protagonist is too scrawny/voluptuous, and her hair is too unruly/limp/dishwater brown.


Each Chapter Starts With a Quote

...usually from a fictional historical document dropping worldbuilding lore, or from the diary of someone important. Personally I enjoy this one. It adds some lore and history to the world, if the author pulls it off in a fresh way.


Every Character is an Encyclopaedia

Every character, regardless of how much or little they care about history/politics, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of world history so they can drop exposition. 

A character could be established as someone who hates learning and loves to sleep during class, but for some reason they can name minor royals and talk about wars fought centuries ago.


Magic Gives You Cool Tattoos

Or red/violet eyes. Sometimes silver hair. Specifically these colours. It never makes you brunette or anything.

To hear me discuss and rank 44 fantasy cliches, check out Writing Club by School of Plot, my writing podcast. It's available on:



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