E is for Evil Overlords – and other clichés

AtoZ2019EEvil Overlord or Dark Lord: is often used to refer to a powerful villain or antagonist with evil henchmen. In particular, it is used as a moniker in fictional worlds where it is thought that pronouncing the villain’s real name will bring bad luck or represents a bad omen. Such a villain usually seeks to rule or destroy the people around them.

 

E

 

veryone enjoys a story with a good antagonist, the one that makes you feel worried for the hero, or that makes you switch sides and hope that they get away with their plans. Sadly, many stories have none of them. Here, I will discuss many of my personall tropes, why and how I´m trying to get rid of them in my story.

The Evil Overlord: he/she was just born evil. They don´t care that the world is a great place to live in. They hate everyone and they want to make it explode. Or to rule the world. Why? Are they planning to make from the continents a unique country? Are they planning to ask the entire world for taxes? This is the way my antagonists were initially thought, and I´m planning to make a real backstory for them. Wait, not just one? If my heroes are not alone, why would my antagonist be? There should be always supporting the evil, or not so evil schemes of them, a sideck, minion, their significant other. Either a lonely hero or a lonely villain are boring.

The Cinderella / the Lady and the Tramp: the all times favorites in romance. A couple from different backgrounds meet at an impossible place, it´s love at first sight. Everything plays against their odds, but they end up together and live happily ever after. I´m guilty of having one of these in my side characters´s stories. I hope the way I modified their story becomes more interesting.

Lady and the tramp
*Image: (J. Cuchy) example of Lady and the Tramp

The chosen one: the protagonist has been marked since birth as the one who is going to defeat the villain at the last chapter of the book. They might not know until the middle of the story, when they refuse to yield to their fate, until they realize it has been foretold. Then, they meekly follow the script and save the day. Variants of these are the lost prince/princess, and the hero that discovers some hidden powers just in time to save the day. Usually they save the day in a hand-to-hand combat with the evil overlord.

 

Maybe for Harry Potter it had ended well, but many heroes are boring and predictable. There are a couple of chosen ones in my story. If they ever succeed or not saving the world, that´s for the reader to find out.

The Monologue: this is my personal pet peeve, the epic moment of every battle: the hero feels defeated, his/her army is falling under the antagonist´s hordes. And their best friend lies on the floor wounded and asks if this is the end. Then the hero hugs them, or rises, the skies open and a sunbeams fall over them: the armour shines and caughts everyone´s attention. The protagonist then talks about how they will never be defeated while there still remains a bit of love in this world. They are fighting for love, for faith, for peace, for puppies, for lemon pie if you like it, and then everyone cheers and although they´re outnumbered 10 to 1, they win the battle.

This is the moment that makes me want to throw a book at the tv. Why is it there that no one dies during the monologue? Are the enemies listening carefully, too? Do they have orders not to kill anyone who has no sword? Have they lost their bloodlust just because the hero has a silver tongue? I can neither read nor see monologues, so I´m not writing any in my story, at least that I´m aware of.

The Orphan: why are the parents absent in every story? Perhaps because if they knew that their sweet baby is going on a mission to kill the most powerful wizard-dragon-ogre-zombie of all times, they would send them to bed and submit them to piano lessons in order to spend their time in a more productive and less deadly way!

I´m a cheater at heart, instead of making my characters to place a pillow in their bed and escape in the dead of the night, a whole pack of them are being borrowed from the orphanage of the Holy Mercy. Although, they´ll have to attend clases. I need children to know to read, write and do their aritmethic if they want to become apprentices of my wise old mentor and have their own adventures someday.

The Wise Old Mentor: he/she is just too old and introvert to go out and save the day by himself. They train the chosen one to fullfill their duty and save the world. Yep, I have one. Does he care for saving the day, or is he too busy inventing drones? You´ll see!

The Prophecy: you just love it or hate it! The gods use them to tell those puny creatures what should they do to save the day. Are they too lazy to fix the mess by themselves? I´d say yes! They prefer to delegate the fixing of the world in the hands of the living beings. The Abess of the Sacred Mercy is the only one who gets the divine e-mails. It´s her duty to tell the entire world what do the Goddesses want for their beloved children. And they´ll better obey, or else…

The lady in distress: No matter what, the princess is smart and curious, but the moment she is in danger, she becomes a pile of trembling limbs, and she needs her knight in shiny armour to come and help her. One of my side characters, Rhona, was born this way: the perfect Sansa Stark. Prim, ladylike, but totaly defenseless. Silently suffering about her fate. As I noted the likeness, I disliked my character and chose three paths for her: a memorable death to teach her a lesson; to erase her from my story; or to work on her differently: a different story and make her grow a spine. She won´t be seen as a main character ever, but her new story, and the group she joins later is more interesting to read.

 

Lady in distress
*Image: (J. Cuchy) example of Lady in distress

Deus ex Machina: the gods intervene to save the day. The hero is trapped, he/she fell in the evil schemes of the antagonist. Totally defeated, their weapons are gone, the dungeon is full of rising water, and a hungry dragon is about to make a hero sandwich for breakfast. And then, out of nowhere, a generic wizard we saw on chapter 2 selling turnips and doing card tricks becomes a demigod who turns the dragon into a chameleon, and appears the all mighty excalibur in the hand of the hero. Why? How? And the most important: really? Even in a world ruled by three Goddesses and a whole bunch of demigods, I can´t have my heroes saved time and again by divinities anytime there´s a plot hole the size of a moosephant in the story. They need to figure out a way to escape, or else, they aren´t of much use to the story.

The magic object: there´s a magic sword somewhere. But I´m too bad at storing important stuff. Sorry, I lost it somewhere in the plot. The hero might need to save the day without it, unless I find it just in time to make some sense in the story.

 

As the story developes itself, many cliches have come and gone. Some have dissapeared with chunks of the story, some went away moodily and swore vengeance like a rejected maiden. Only time will tell what would happen in a world without them.

 

*Which is the cliche you are tired to see in every story? Do you have a favorite cliché? I hope you liked it, because my quesadilla died burned while I uploaded this post. Follow me tomorrow to the next post: F is for Furreeball and G is for Gizma.

If you missed the former posts, you can find them here:

  1. A is for Auto-da-Fé
  2. B is for Bestiary and Anthropomorphic creatures
  3. C is for Cyborgs
  4. D is for Dystopia or Utopia?

 

*Here you can go to the Linky to the #BlogchatterA2Z post´s for the letter E

I´d love to hear from you. if you have any comment, or want to know more about this story, you can post a comment. Also, if you are doing the #AtoZChallenge, please drop here your link, I´d be happy to read your blog posts. 😀

11 thoughts on “E is for Evil Overlords – and other clichés

  1. I could give a nod to all the cliches you listed. The chosen one is one of the most annoying ones, followed by the prophecy. I don’t mind a subverted trope or even fun use of them, but most mediocre books don’t add anything fresh to it.

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  2. I don’t mind the chosen one cliché as done well, that can be so different to the norm. The rest bother me no end and for the most part, are just lazy writing
    Debbie

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    1. Right? I think it really depends on the approach we give to any given cliché. If we just follow the rule without putting an effort, we only have a copy of every princess rescued from a high tower by a pretty prince, nothing new.

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    1. Hi, thanks for caring, and sorry for answering so late. Indeed, fibromialgia and migraine came to stay for a while. This comes and goes for weeks at a time, but finally last May I got a diagnosis and a treatment that finally worked. This month it came again due to stress, but not so strong. I´m taking things easier to avoid another spell like last year´s. I hope you are OK, too, and looking forward for AtoZ next April. 🙂

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  3. I think it’s really cool that you’re so self-aware and willing to call yourself out on things that you want to improve about your writing. Personally, I don’t think any of these tropes are necessarily “bad,” but if you think it would make you a better writer to get rid of them, then godspeed! It’s refreshing to see an author who doesn’t display a ****-ton of Author Hubris.

    https://operationawesome6.blogspot.com/

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    1. thank you, and sorry for seeing your post so late. Indeed, there´s still a lot of room for improvement, but Rome wasn´t built in a day, and if I aim to have a well written story, I´ll need to start by creating a plot that´s not so predictable, but at the same time enjoyable.

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  4. I have the prophecy and chosen on cliche but I hope I’ve approached it a bit differently. My MC doesn’t care about either and will not change his opinion either. Even by the final act things play out differently then the reader will expect (I hope). I did set out aiming not to use these clichés but the story led to them. One of the others is the monologue you talked about. I hate them to. Specially when it’s one dude talking to his army of 1000s and they all cheer like anyone a few rows back could actually hear him (Lord of the Rings movies is guilty of this). I refuse to put anything like that in mine unless I’m writing a comedic scene and it’s from pov of the guys at the back who can’t hear.

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    1. Thank you Diego, I´m guilty myself about the Prophecy and Lady in disstress ones, too. It´s really difficult to write taking out one cliché or other, maybe the importance is, as you said, to surprise the reader with the way we change things. Enjoy your writing, and surprise your Chosen one for me, too.

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