Ever notice how fantasy characters have the same habits in a lot of books? I have, and I made a list. Because I like lists.
Note: please don’t take this post too seriously. I don’t mind these things that much. I think it’s amusing more than anything else (except for #1, #2, and #10. Those need to stop).
#1 Sensing things
The classic “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” scenario. George Lucas isn’t the only perpetrator. These characters sense everything three paragraphs before it happens. Meanwhile, I’m lucky if I sense my alarm going off in the morning.
#2 Eating bread, cheese, and apples
I get it. There aren’t a lot of foods that keep well during a long journey. But still…give the poor guy a bag of trail mix, at least (also…bread doesn’t stay fresh very long. And wouldn’t cheese stink up the whole travel pack?).
#3 Setting a watch at night
If you’ve got an assassin on your tail, setting a watch makes perfect sense. But fantasy travel buddies often “volunteer to take first watch” regardless of the danger level. Someone’s gotta keep the bears away, right? Should’ve kept the cheese in a tupperware…
#4 Drawing swords
If I had a dollar for every time a character “drew his sword” I’d quit one of my part-time jobs. I get it, okay? Drawing your sword makes you feel cool and threatening. Suggestion: save yourself the time and just punch the guy.
#5 Avoiding roads
Unless you’ve got Ringwraiths hunting you down, what’s the worst that could happen? A toll booth? Is dodging hypothetical bandits really worth all the briars and wet feet? Come on. If you do run into bandits, just draw your sword. Or punch. You should have set that watch, Jimmy.
#6 Running into bandits
Sorry. But there’s gotta be more ways to give your hero trouble before the real action starts. Have you tried bears? Bears are stinking terrifying. I’ll take bandits over bears any day of the week.
#7 Blasting things
I don’t like obscenities in fiction. Honestly, it just cheapens the prose for me. On the other hand, substituting every single moment of explicit frustration for ‘blast it!’ doesn’t really work either. Unless it involves bears and dynamite. In that case, by all means, blast them.
#8 Scanning treelines (or other landscape features)
He scanned the treeline. He scanned the ridge. She scanned the beach. They scanned the road. He scanned his passport. Seriously, can you stop that? Blast your scanning! There are easier ways to find bears.
#9 Holding council meetings
Because that’s the best way to make urgent decisions (bonus points if it takes an agonizingly long chapter of dialog). Once I even read a chapter about a council of bears. Not even joking. (The book was Father of Dragons, by L.B. Graham. A council of bears! Bless that man.)
#10 Speed-learning skills
Whether your protagonist has to learn how to ride a horse, fight with a sword, punch bandits, scan treelines, or blast bears and their councils, she’ll probably do it on the road (or off it, because bandits and bears), under the sage guidance of some old fart, and it’ll only take her a week or two to master the practice.
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