The falcon soared on the morning wind. It spied two figures around a fire and dove. It circled the pair of men talking about their fire.
An old man stirred the pot that hung over the fire. “When we reach the city we can find help and re-gain your kingdom.”
The young man scratched his head. “Funny to think a poor orphan like me is heir to a kingdom.”
The bird of prey alighted on a branch and cocked it’s head. “A common trope lingering in this wilderness? I must hear more!”
The orphan-prince and others are common in fantasy. From Tolkien onward it’s almost prerequisite to use the trope in epic fantasy – so much so that many readers are turned off by it. Many have fled to gray fantasy were there are no clear delineations between good and evil, right and wrong.
But why is the notion and others like it used so often? A missing heir or one who was usurped is excellent for conflict. Likewise, the orphan elicits sympathy through perceived weakness. It likely roots much further back in history to many tales of fallen nations and city-states. One such example is that of the Princes in the Tower during the Wars of the Roses.
This plot element has some basic uses for writing in fantasy the main one being conflict. The political or ethical conflict behind this trope and others like it are the grist of many a fantasy. These constructs have ready-made rivalries so it’s easy to use when writing.
Is the average tale of winning back the kingdom for the old family’s sake worth telling? In my opinion yes – but only as necessary. I think a writer must ask themselves the question, “Can it be told differently?” If the answer is no then the author should use this trope – or any other common one.
However, to use a common trope, one must do so with care or risk turning off readers. Some twisting is necessary so be inventive. If I want a well-worn path for my reading, I’ll just pick up my copy of Tolkien.
But if the answer to the question above is yes, then start re-plotting your outline. What the story can bear in being unique in the marketplace is most important.
Whichever way you go consider your presentation. Don’t follow in someone else’s footprints. Forge off the beaten path – trope or not.
The young man lifted his arm and balled his hand. “I’ll win back the kingdom!” His sleeve slid and revealed his forearm.
The old man leaned forward and squinted. “Your arm – there’s no mark.”
“Of course not. What are you talking about?”
The elderly fellow commenced packing his things. “You’re not the one.”
“What do you mean? You said I was.”
“I was wrong.”
The falcon screeched. “Looks like they have a twist. How far will it go.”
The old man hefted his pack and marched away.
“Wait! What will I do now? What does this mark look like?” The poor orphan grabbed the old man. “Maybe we can do this anyway.”
Just because the trope has been used is no reason not to use it. While readers may assume much based on the trope and reject the book out of hand there is no edict against using the basic concept of a common trope – just use it well and communicate with your blurb that you usage is different.
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