Follow TV Tropes

Following

Blog / Limyaael's Fantasy Rants

Go To

Limyaael, also known as Lightning on the Wave for her online fiction, was an English graduate student studying for her Ph.D. In 2003, she decided to express her views on fantasy literature in a rant entitled Why I get impatient with clichéd fantasy. Since then, she has written more rants on her online journal.

Despite the name, Limyaael's rants are not just for fantasy writers. She also has covered topics that are not limited to fantasy, like dialogue and romance, as well as more general topics like plotting and characterization. One of the features of the journal format is that Limyaael’s commenters also have much to say, from additional facts to opposing viewpoints.

Advertisement:

The Rants used to be posted on LiveJournal, but Limyaael has moved to InsaneJournal. The Rants originally posted on LJ can still be accessed there, though.

Limyaael's Fantasy Rants were updated here. The archive of Rants can be accessed here, and here.

A repository was created here to collect the scattered articles, but take note that the comments (not found here) are an important part of the original message.

Limyaael's rants were scarcely updated for a while starting around April 2008. In this post she explained the reasons, and the Rants were not updated until she had more free time. They started back up for a little while, then stopped again in May 2010.

It was mentioned early in 2013, on her Facebook Fan page, that she is doing well and that whilst she does appreciate her fans and their support over the years, she has put her online literary life behind her.

Advertisement:


Tropes Limyaael has specifically ranted about:

  • Camp Gay: Criticized in point 4 of Gay and lesbian characters, in particular how gay characters are always portrayed as being interested in fashion even when it is impractical or doesn't make sense given the setting.
Advertisement:
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: In the Viewpoint errors rant. She is fine with this trope if there is a real reason the main character can't be the narrator (like knowing too much or too little about what's going on), but if there is no such reason she suggests the most important and interesting character should be the narrator.
  • Gambit Pileup: Handling Byzantine plots. A genuine example of this trope is encouraged in contrast to a supposedly complex string of gambits that is really all just one strand leading to a single villain. As an example:
    Person A tries to introduce poison into Person B’s food, because Person B was indirectly responsible for the death of Person A’s youngest sister. Person A fails, instead causing Person B to have a minor choking spasm. Person C notes the choking spasm and a touch of blue around Person B’s lips, a well-known sign of the poison chyrdis, and goes researching to try and figure out if that’s what it is, and who would put it in Person B’s food, or if Person B, a well-known attention whore, did it to herself. Meanwhile, Person D, who is watching Person C for Person E, notes Person C’s burst of activity and snooping about and thinks it may mean that she’s been discovered. She hurries to Person E to give a full report, and is spotted on the way by Person F, who thinks it’s awfully weird that she’s hurrying up to Person E’s tower when Person E doesn’t give a shit about anyone…
  • Gay Aesop: In point 7 of her rant on gay and lesbian characters, she advises against writing "gay message fantasy", largely because it's frequently quite heavy-handed. She feels this increases the distance between LGBT and straight characters mostly, with a better way being to simply portray them as people like everyone else, not focusing too much on their sexual orientations or having problems so much about that. She admits however that Mercedes Lackey (who's criticized for this in her rant) was progressive to write pro-LGBT stories at all in the 1980s/early 1990s.
  • Gayngst: She criticizes the overuse of this in point 2 of her Rant on gay and lesbian characters, particularly when it makes little sense (or none) within the fantasy world (where same-sex relationships have been portrayed as mostly accepted, for instance). Limyaael finds it particularly annoying if the narrative goes out of its way to make many LGBT characters suffer, often losing their lovers far more often than their straight counterparts for instance. Having them kill themselves draws even more ire from her. She even notes that many societies with bisexuality as the norm and have complete gender equality do not escape this either. Even then bisexual characters have to struggle.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: It's discussed how most fictional mercenaries are this rather than people who are, well, killing people for money.
  • Only in It for the Money: Greed & money. In particular, about how this motivation is either ignored when is should be a factor or treated as such a complete evil that even obviously worse motivations like doing something for the thrill of killing are treated as more sympathetic.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Criticized in point 6 of the Hero's childhood rant as a cheap source of angst when the protagonist is an orphan and no one else is (rather than it being a setting where so many people die that it's common). Limyaael also thinks the protagonist having dead parents is overused in general, and there's no reason why it should be so uncommon for protagonists to have two living parents.
  • Single-Issue Psychology: In the Abused characters rant, Limyaael discusses how some characters' whole psychology seems to revolve around one traumatic event as if it just happened, even years later. She says this could be interesting if it's presented as a sign of deep psychological wounds and the story is largely about recovering from them in a realistic manner, but in most books it is presented unrealistically with no real explanation why their journey in the book helps them recover when nothing else had worked for years or decades.

Tropes that have been mentioned or discussed on the side while ranting about any of the above topics:

  • Acceptable Feminine Goals and Traits: In the In Praise of Selfish Characters rant, Limyaael discusses how there should be more heroines who have selfish goals that don't evaporate in favor of doing everything for a male hero.
    Not all women have love as their first priority. Really. (This becomes even less true in worlds where the gender roles are supposed to be indistinguishable). Not every woman feels a maternal urge, or the urge to be taken care of. Really. (You’re reading the words of one). And not every woman will be willing to give up what she wants just to place the hero’s desires first. Really. And no, I don’t think it’s better if a woman sacrifices what she wants just so that her children or her lover or her parents can have an easier time of it, either. It’s still the same trap: sacrifice is required of her because she’s female. It’s fine for men to have their own desires, because they’re male. It’s fine for children to have their own desires, because they’re children. It’s fine for parents to have their own desires, because they did the work of raising the children. But a selfish adult woman? Gasp shock horror!
  • Alternate History: She gave a couple small ideas in "More things Limyaael thinks would be really cool," with some questions to ponder when answering "what if the South had won the Civil War?"
  • Bastard Angst: In the Hero's childhood rant, it's noted that a lot of characters have a Disappeared Dad to facilitate this, even when no one else in the story seems to care about the angst.
  • Because Destiny Says So: One of Limyaael's pet peeves. She feels that if there must be a prophecy or destiny, the story should also show why the hero is admirable and successful, and why things happen as they do, independently of the destiny aspect.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Though she didn't use the term, her rant on subtle foreshadowing favors elements that aren't supposed to be noticed the first time around. She especially encourages this for long series, to avoid adding lots of unnecessary details even late into the game that never get followed up upon.
  • Commonality Connection: In the Less Represented Relationships rant, Limyaael argues that relationships between characters who have things in common can be more entertaining and believable to read about than characters who are complete opposites.
  • Concepts Are Cheap: In the In Praise of Selfish Characters rant, Limyaael gets annoyed with protagonists who just suddenly decide they want to care for "a great amorphous mass she might call “the Wheel” (Jordan) or “the unborn” (Goodkind) or “the world” (lots of other people)" as opposed to concrete things like themselves, their friends, their home, their profession, etc.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Limyaael's rant on dragons notes that if your dragon can breathe fire hot enough to melt solid rock, it's probably going to do more than just "make a hero's jacket smolder" in the process.
  • Decadent Court: Discussed in Handling Byzantine plots. In particular, how a lot of authors say their courts are this way, but don't really back it up. She considers it a Favorite Trope of hers when done properly.
  • Death by Childbirth: Listed as an overused cliche in books that start with the hero's birth. She acknowledges that this was common in Real Life premodern times, but that when the main character's mother is the only one this happens to, it just seems like a Deus Angst Machina.
  • Determined Defeatist: Limyaael says that she thinks authors should write more of their cynical characters like this rather than ones who are constantly complaining about how they think their efforts are doomed.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Suggested as one of the ways a hero could not get something he wants even though he still saves the world in the end - as long as it isn't immediately followed by revealing that the girl was a horrible person anyway.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Mentioned as overdramatic.
    Two characters who are in love and on the opposite sides of a war, though an overused conflict, is one that can still be made fresh (as long as you don’t have them dying in each other’s arms, which tilts it towards pathos).
  • Diseased Name: In her rant on names, Limyaael mentions that she named one of her characters in her 2003 story Golden Heresy "Teridona", unaware of its meaning, and that a reader who spoke Greek helpfully informed her that it's Greek for "tooth decay". Whoops.
  • Disappeared Dad: Limyaael writes about how all protagonist's dads seem to be either this or dead via Heroic Sacrifice, rather than having ever died of a mundane cause like an accident or disease or just being alive and present in their child's life.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Suggested as something that should happen to heroes rather than just villains - if the hero treats someone necessary for their goal horribly throughout the story, let that person turn on them and have the hero face the consequences.
  • Eternal English: It's suggested that if there is a collapsed empire in your world's backstory and the collapse happened centuries ago, the former parts of the empire should split apart in language over time (as happened with Latin in Real Life), rather than everyone somehow still speaking the same language.
  • Final Speech: Discouraged, since in real life people will usually either be killed/incapacitated too quickly by a deadly wound or be in too much pain (in the case of ones that don't kill quickly) to give a long final speech.
  • Freudian Excuse: In the complex plots rant, Limyaael talks about minor villains with no motivation, and how either they will go completely unexplained or the author will throw in a rushed, tacked-in explanation about their abusive childhood or something at the end.
  • Gallows Humor: Limyaael criticizes how this seems to be the only contexts in which authors let their characters be humorous and witty.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Limyaael's rant on D&D gameplay mechanics has her claiming that while many of those rules made perfect sense in a gaming environment, they don't translate well into a narrative environment, if at all.
  • General Failure: It's suggested that you can use Hollywood Tactics as something that a character like this does rather than giving them to the ones who are supposed to be competent.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: Limyaael discusses a scenario where a Hero Antagonist on the villain's side is seeking vengeance on a high-ranking member of the "good" side for a completely justified reason, and the moral dilemma this could create.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Limyaael notes that being trained in archery actually takes a long time, and characters shouldn't be able to shoot perfectly with no training just based on natural talent.
  • Hero Antagonist: Limyaael would like to see more characters seeking vengeance on the heroes who are actually completely justified in it rather than just straight villains or mistaken.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Limyaael advises that you shouldn't base your characters' military tactics on what you see in movies, noting that the charge of the Rohirrim in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers should have led to them getting slaughtered by the orcs' spears. She does suggest these sort of tactics could be used for someone who is supposed to be a General Failure in story.
  • Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action/Shapeshifting Squick: During her rant about half-human heroes, she says that as much as an author wants to just say "Don't think about it" when asked how the "mechanics" of it work, the author is the one person who should be putting more thought into it than anyone else.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Almost any rant about elves, demi-humans, non-humans, etc. will invoke a comparison of the non-human species being in complete and utter harmony with their environment while the humans are hell-bent on destroying it.
  • Hypocrite: Though Limyaael personally gets annoyed by reading about hypocrites, she thinks it's okay to write characters with hypocritical views as long as the author themselves are aware of it.
  • Immortal Hero: Limyaael criticized Robert Jordan for never letting any of his heroes get killed without getting resurrected, even over the vast length of his books.
  • Improperly Paranoid: Suggested as a flaw for the hero that could lead to them getting someone killed in a way that really is somewhat their fault, and not just completely excused. The hero could loudly denounce someone who they disagree with due to their paranoia, and if that person gets killed immediately afterwards the hero would have some blame for it.
  • Karma Houdini: Limyaael encourages writers to resist the temptation to let every villain, even the minor ones, get punished even if it is out of character or contrived.
  • Language Equals Thought: In her rants on conlangs, she makes her opinion clear: language influences thought, but doesn't equal thought.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: It's mentioned how the charge of the Rohirrim in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was really suicidal and reckless, and that you shouldn't write such tactics unless you want a general to come off like this.
  • Lost Orphaned Royalty: Limyaael states that this is perhaps her least favorite trope in all of fantasy, due to a combination of it being overused, the troubling implications that peasants are genetically inferior and could never be heroes without having secret royal blood, and the Fridge Logic of how a character with no experience of how the world and politics works could be a successful ruler, the excessive angst it often results in, and how it makes the villains look unintentionally incompetent for not being able to kill the whole royal family.
  • Love Redeems: Mentioned as an example of bad writing, where a minor villain takes an arrow aimed for the hero because she was in love with him all along, with no foreshadowing whatsoever.
  • Magitek: Her limitations on magic rant says that this would be the natural consequence in a setting with cheap magic. "If the world has magic, why isn't it that world's technology?"
  • Mark of the Supernatural: Criticized in the context of heroes who are born with one.
    "A squalling baby has zero personality to separate it from other squalling babies, and I don’t see why I should care that this particular one has golden eyes or a caul or a prophetic glow hanging about it"
  • Mental Health Recovery Arc: The "abused characters" rant encourages this if it is done realistically and not in a contrived or improbable way.
  • Moral Luck: Limyaael doesn't like when characters who aren't the hero are punished by the narrative for doing something wrong when they couldn't have possibly known the problems with what they were doing.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution In Handling Byzantine plots, Limyaael complains about books where characters threaten to murder someone in every possible scenario, even if it doesn't make sense, rather than getting creative.
  • No Periods, Period: When discussing full-moon-bound werewolves, Limyaael notes that even a woman's monthly period gets better care than full moon werewolf angst. Assuming the author even bothered to think about that, of course.
  • Poor Communication Kills: One of Limyaael's pet peeves.
  • Pride: This is the fourth suggestion for how to let the hero suffer for their flaws and mistakes in the Putting characters through Hell rant. She points out that this pride that makes the hero dismiss others doesn't have to make him completely unlikable, and the characters who oppose him can still be the ones who are most "wrong", but the results of the hero's pride should still be things that he should have prevented.
  • Purple Prose: Criticized, because most authors do it to imitate Tolkien while ignoring the context of Tolkien knowing the English countryside he was describing well and because it was an important part of his personal style, and doing it even when the limited narrator couldn't possibly notice all those details.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Encouraged to be included on both sides of a war, rather than just the "evil" army - historically, the motivations of an army for a war has nothing to do with how likely they are to commit war crimes like this.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Discussed and ultimately averted. invoked
    I prefer strong female characters anyway, by which I mean “female characters who have their own minds and do not spend the whole time obsessed with men, either pining for them or putting them down.” They don’t have to be warriors for me to empathize with them. They can certainly be mothers who love their children fiercely. The most important relationships in their lives can certainly be with men.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Discouraged when it is used as a cheap way to get rid of a villain rather than let them get away with their crimes, even though the redemption is completely unforeshadowed and out-of-character.
  • Said Bookism: Discussed in the third grammar rant. She especially has a problem with tags that don't make sense, like "smiled" and "nodded".
  • Show, Don't Tell: Limyaael talks about how most Decadent Courts are really not that dangerous and just consist of idiots spouting cliched dialogue, it's just the the author is constantly telling us how subtle and dangerous everyone is.
  • Spinoff Babies: Mocked thoroughly.
    This is the belief that a story MUST have a sequel, it simply MUST, because you haven’t told the story of the main couple’s children yet, or the second time they defeated the Grand Evil, or the time their second cousin’s mother-in-law’s best friend’s dog ran away.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: The plot of two characters who are in love and on the opposite sides of a war is discussed - Limyaael thinks it is overused but still has the potential to be written well.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: The limitations on magic rant explains what it really takes for magic to be called scientific.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: Discouraged.
    Another common fantasy trope is to force the hero to choose between two people or two ethical positions. He’s in agony, writhing, and then he chooses. Almost at once, the author reveals that the person he didn’t choose was false, or that the ethical position he didn’t choose was morally untenable anyway.
  • Tail Slap: When discussing dragons, Limyaael notes that the whip of a crocodile's tail packs enough brute force to kill an average human being. So what would a dragon's tail do? "Probably not cause light wounds."
  • Taking the Bullet: When giving an example of villains being given a contrived Redemption Equals Death treatment just to get them out of the way, Limyaael describes a minor villain who jumps in front of an arrow aimed for the hero because she was in love with him all along.
  • Third-Act Misunderstanding: She tends to call it the "Great Misunderstanding Plot."
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Criticized in the Death and weapons rant.
  • Troubled Abuser: Limyaael criticizes how abusive characters in fiction are, unlike in real life, almost never this, and instead are just being abusive out of one-dimensional jealousy and hatred.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: During her rant about "telcoms", Limyaael wonders how a character can just waltz into a town with a telepathic wolf/dragon/whatever by their side and nobody even bats an eye at it, much less try to chase it out of town or kill it. Especially when the creature being a telepathic companion is kept secret, and "the hunters have no reason not to shoot a dangerous beast who shows little fear of humans and is lurking around the village."
  • Voodoo Shark: Limyaael points out that while you can justify Eternal English with magical travel or long-distance communication being available in your fantasy world, this could raise the question of why the "backwater" your hero comes from is still so isolated.
  • Waif Prophet: Limyaael tends to dislike children who give prophecies because they are usually flat characters with no personality besides their ability to give prophecies.
  • War Is Hell: Encouraged. In the Death and weapons rant, Limyaael notes how battlefields smell, the bodies can contaminate water, and there will rarely be opportunity for individual rather than mass burials.
  • You Did Everything You Could: Limyaael argues against the idea. While conceding that characters expressing this sentiment to another character to cheer them up or comfort them is fine, if an author constantly makes it so that the protagonist's failures have no consequence ("It doesn't matter that you couldn't/didn't save him from the housefire, he would have died that day from Lethal Disease #9567 anyway!"), the story loses realism and depth.
  • You Know What You Did: Listed as an example of angst in the Angst vs. tragedy rant. It usually isn't a result of the characters' own flaws and insecurities, just an excuse for drama rather than normal communication between the characters.


Tropes that manifest in the rants themselves

  • Caustic Critic: Not as much as some other examples of the trope (it would probably be worse if it was, given that writing advice is the primary goal here), but definitely there.
  • Deconstruction: Limyaael goes into a lot of detail about the reasons why she despises certain tropes, such as what kind of logical consequences and implications a trope should have on its setting (but doesn't).

Top