Fantasy stereotypes can be a tricky part of creating characters – after all, everyone thinks they know what a mermaid looks like. How do you break the expected image? Where should you draw the line between fantasy and reality?
Fantasy Stereotypes No. 1 – Long Haired Mermaids
Now, this one is such a romantic, long-standing piece of imagery…but complete fallacy. Tell me; when you go swimming, do you leave your hair unbound and trailing through the water after you? I can tell you after personal experience that tangling yourself up in your hair as you do front crawl is no fun at all. It makes much more sense for a creature that spends the majority of it’s time underwater to be hairless (I’ve never seen a hairy fish, have you?)
Luckily, the mermaids in Wave Singers are not classical sirens, but rather elementals that have taken on the mutable qualities of the water – they can shapeshift. They also practically tie their hair back or plait it, as they do spend time outside of the water frequently.
Get to know more about the mermaid shape shifters of Thera.
Fantasy Stereotypes No. 2 – Beast Hybrids
Ah. Werewolves. Tell me that’s not the creature that immediately popped into your head? There are (according to a quick Google) over 8.2 million species currently languishing on Earth and yet the endurance of the wolf-man is unequalled. I have yet to write any hybrid creatures, but I love the idea of breaking out new and rare human / animal hybrids like nagas, centaurs, sphinx, harpies and minotaur.
Fantasy Stereotypes No. 3 – Magic Equals Pain
This is a common magic stereotype and one I have always struggled with. I understand the concept – anything powerful enough to occur without work should require some sacrifice. After all, in reality if I want to lose weight I’ve got to put in the time and effort to stop eating cake and start working out more – but the whole point of fantasy is that it is an escape from reality! Why should fantasy be realistic? Isn’t that against the entire point of the genre?
I played about with this idea in Fire Dancer, eventually deciding that the flames the Titaians wield burn off their emotions. This seemed just as sinister as purposely causing themselves pain in order to turn it into magic. After all, if they use their magic too much they could either combust from emotion-overload or burn out into a living shell of a person.
What do you think? Should magical powers only come alongside great responsibility? Should we be getting more creative with our hybrid creatures, or are they classics for a reason? Should we introduce more bald mermaids? Let me know in the comments!