Understanding Fantasy Tropes: An Article by Aestreia Sun.

Despite the stigma towards the usage of tropes in our own writing quests whilst creating original stories, there's a reason why these clichés have existed for centuries of storytelling. The patterns exhibited in literature's most famous and beloved stories exist for a reason--because they provide emotional resonance with readers, viewers, and listeners of all these tales.

But what is it about these storytelling staples that capture hearts so easily? What makes them classics in story construction, or so readily favored--or hated--whenever they present themselves in the stories we consume?

The following list is a personal attempt at examining common fantasy tropes--the genre that I write the most in--from an objective stance, although all opinions on the tropes below, of course, are valid when interpreting their use and enjoyment.


#1 The Chosen One

To begin with the kingpin of classics, the Chosen One trope has continued to resurrect itself in countless stories, from the olden tales of Beowulf and King Arthur to the modern wizard wonder, Harry Potter.

So we should think to ourselves.

Why is it so popular?

From a storytelling perspective, it makes sense. Though debatable, most stories center around a protagonist that is most relevant to the core conflict of the story the creator wishes to tell. The reasoning behind this can be explained by this simple idea:

Why are you telling the story with this character?

For those who wish to write fantastical stories, with sorcery, swords, and soul-binding prophecies, Chosen ones are merely a distinguishing factor that answers the above question. Although more classical usages of this trope directly tie in prophecies or other obvious showcases in the story to mark their chosen character as, well, chosen, many POV characters we read the story through are chosen in their own way, for they are different than their peers.

And really, it is only human, to crave distinction from our fellow man. For having that urge to be different than everyone else, for it is an inadvertent answer to a hidden question we have all experienced in life:

Our reason for existing, when we are burdened with realization of our differences to those around us.

#2 Magical Trials

The idea of challenge and conflict presented in more blatant form, exists in the popularity of magical trials. A story does not grip if it has no tension or stakes, because hooks are important to capturing the attention of readers and viewers of your story, especially if you want them to care about the characters you're writing about.

And magical trials are an easy way to highlight many things. Challenges that your characters must conquer, worldbuilding--in the design of the trials, from their existence to the magic used within them--that can be weaved in as opposed to simple info dumping, and a quick way to showcase your protagonists' badassery and skill on the page.

And also, because they're gloriously fun to write, especially when you have such beautiful visuals inside your head.

#3 Enemies to Lovers

A transitioning of stages that exhibits the fine line between love and hate, the Enemies to Lovers trope is tension, romance, and character exploration all in one delightful display. There is a similar rush, personal in nature,

People crave bonds they can feel. Bonds that are shown where people transition from loathing to love, because of how we as beings crave intensity. Modern media often times romanticizes the extremities in the most popular movies and media we have grown up seeing.

And it is, perhaps, this nature of having witnessed such drama, that compels us to being drawn to the tension that is found with those with a once antagonistic relationship, now working so well as partners.

#4 Love Triangles

Often found in early YA fantasy, but not only restrained to the magical genre, love triangles have often served as both bane and guilty pleasure to a plethora of readers, when unveiled to the audiences consuming the tale at hand.

But their existence has created strong debate on both sides, each with their own rationale to back one's reasonings for loving/despising this trope. Love triangles are hated by many because they are predictable (the most common formula following a heterosexual female protagonist having to choose between two straight males), but are loved by other because they provide uncertainty and tension.

Although, arguably, love triangles have a tendency to dominate over the plot and other character developments with their presence, that isn't to say they couldn't be done well.

#5 Found Family

A wholesome trope that--perhaps--is inevitable with the existence of large fantasy casts, found family establishes the bond between the characters of the stories we follow the journey of those united by insurmountable odds and have laid soul and hearts bare to those who have accompanied them throughout the story.

It is a showcase of how love and acceptance can be found with others that do not share your blood, proving the adage "blood is thicker than water" false and empowering those who may feel less connected to those who they spent their lives before the story feeling alienated from everyone else around them. Or, alternatively, never having the luxury of establishing healthy bonds they truly cherished.

It echoes the human desire to belong somewhere, that is wholly decided on personal terms, in order to maximize the full contentment and happiness one could fully experience.


The above are merely observed patterns in the genre I write, and by no means are standards in which one should hold their own writing to, or as something meant to dissuade someone from using them. Rather, consider my musings as an alternative perspective in understanding why these tropes tend to be so popular.

And if you love a trope?

Make it yours.


Follow Aestreia Sun on Instagram: @astrawrites

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