Twisting Epic Fantasy character tropes

There’s been a bit of a lull in-between posts as I’ve been hard at work on my latest epic fantasy manuscript – currently 23,000 words in!

I did quite a bit of additional planning (on top of what’s already on this blog), but decided not to publish my story outline as I didn’t want to risk spoiling the story for anyone who might eventually read it – there were quite a few spoilers in there!

New fantasy romanceTitle troubles

I still haven’t come up with a working title for this manuscript. Usually the names of my books come relatively easily to me – but this one is proving tricky. Most of the ones I end up brain-storming tend either already exist or seem banal and stereotypical. I think I need to dig a bit deeper into my story and see if I see inspiration there!

Unravelling archetypes

Speaking about stereotypes – I wanted to take a look at creating epic fantasy characters, without venturing into trope territory.

Of course, epic fantasy has its archetypes – that’s why lovers of this genre are so passionate about it. The trick is to take an archetype, and twist it to give readers what they want – but presented in a fresh way.

Here are the four most important characters of my novel, the archetype they represent, and the fresh approach I’m taking to them.


The Naive Hero: Lilia (twist: she’s female, and she suffers from panic attacks due to a crippling fear of death)

One thing I didn’t want was a Xena Warrior Princess-style character. I’ve just finished reading a highly popular fantasy romance series (which shall remain nameless), in which the heroine has super-human abilities, fights like a ninja, and is gloriously beautiful to boot!

Please, no. I don’t want to read another one of these. If you give me a badass female character that’s fine, but why do so many female leads in fantasy have to be Lara Croft? Give me George R.R. Martin’s Brianne of Tarth or Ayra Stark any day. They’re both tough – they’re both different. But, they’re both believable.

The warrior female heroine trope is a big one for me, as this novel is an epic fantasy romance – rather than traditional epic fantasy.

My female lead, Lilia, is someone other women can relate to. In the beginning, she’s fearful, reclusive and cripplingly insecure – and of course the story sees her develop into a strong, confident woman who finds love (and saves the world!). However, she holds no magical abilities, there’s nothing superhuman about her.

The Loyal Sidekick: Perrin (twist: he’s not just a sidekick, but the love interest)

I loved Samwise Gamgee’s character in the LOTR, and the way he develops during the last part of the story. However, I don’t really enjoy stories where the sidekick provides comic relief, or is simply a vehicle to the lead protagonist’s greatness. Perrin is much more than that – he has his own journey, and is a very different man by the end of the story.

The Wise Wizard: Robana (twist: she a damaged woman, an exiled mage, who doesn’t have any answers – just an indomitable will and a determination to find the truth)

Robana’s an outcast who lives in an isolated spot and chooses the life of a healer other than a witch. She is embittered, outwardly tough, but in reality soft-hearted. She chose her exile as a result of a broken-heart, twenty years’ earlier.

The Wildcard: Saul of Anthor (twist: he’s also the second ‘love-interest’ in the story).

Handsome, charming and mysterious – Saul isn’t your usual wildcard (like Gollum, for example). Yes, we’re not sure where his allegiances lie, or who he really serves, but our female lead, Lilia, begins the story infatuated with him. Who will she eventually choose, Saul or Perrin?


Character development is something I absolutely love. It’s one of the best aspects of writing.

It’s great fun bringing a character to life, fleshing them out and making them breathe on the page. If my readers get angry at, feel sorry for, cry over, or cheer on my characters – if they can elicit emotion – then I’ve succeeded.

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