Part 2:Most Overused Fantasy “concept”: “Darkness”

As mentioned in the previous post, I spent some time tediously adding up the word frequencies from the 2500 “Bestselling” fantasy book titles from Barnes and Noble to get aggregate scores for particular concepts, along with noticing a few other possibly-interesting facts as I did so. By the end of this post, you should have all of the information you need to make your own most remarkably generic fantasy titles. (An automated “Fantasy Title Generator” page based on this information may or may not be forthcoming at some relatively near point in the future…)

As you might guess from the last post, by far the highest-scoring “concept” was books and other words for written descriptions of things happening (i.e. “book”, “chronicle”, “trilogy”, etc.), at 1664. That suggests that almost 2/3 of the “titles” include some sort of explicit reference to being a book (and/or ChronicleSaga Trilogy or whatever).

Once you get past that, though, firmly in the lead behind that is any allusion to “darkness”. Adding up all words like “dark”, “darkness”, and words that suggest darkness like “night”, “black”, “shadow”, “shade”, etc. gave me a total of 308: about 12% of all book “titles” that showed up in the search felt the need to assure everyone how “dark” they were in some way, apparently.

The runner-up category to this with just barely more than half as many appearances (160) was “magic people”, which includes words like “witch”, “wizard”, “mage”, and so on.

Following this are words referring to individual stories (“story”, “tale”, any other word NOT meaning a collection like “book” or “saga”), references to variations of the word “dark” directly (dark/darkness and compound words with “dark” in them), all references to dragons, references to ruling nobility (“king”, “queen”, “lord”, “emperor”, etc.), direct and indirect references to dead or dying things (including “skull” and “bone” and “ghost” and so on), generic “magic” references (“magic”, “spell”, “cast”), generic words for human-type people (“man”, “woman”, “boy”, “girl”, “human”), references to the word “shadow” or “shade”, references to swords, blades, knives, etc, and things or people being rendered unwanted (“fallen”, “broken”, “exiled”, “cursed”, etc.)

Of course, there’s a lot more – here’s a list of the 35 most common “concepts” (of the ones I identified and counted), excluding individual words:

  1. References to written-down stuff:1664
  2. References to “dark” stuff:308
  3. magic people:160
  4. All words with “dark” in them:120
  5. all dragon/dragons:119
  6. ruling nobility:114
  7. all direct or indirect death references:110
  8. non-specific magic words:107
  9. generic “people” words:99
  10. references to shadows:95
  11. swords and knives and stuff:93
  12. do-not-wanted things:87
  13. vampire/vampires:74
  14. “spurned people” words (a subset of “do-not-wanted”):70
  15. direct references to death, dying, or killing:69
  16. night-time (night, evening, etc.):64
  17. monsters (not counting dragon/vampire):64
  18. fire/flame:60
  19. ice/cold:60
  20. generic words for girls/women:59
  21. passive death and dying but not killing:58
  22. references to witches:57
  23. singing and dancing:55
  24. “story” or “stories”:53
  25. battle references (excluding “warrior”):52
  26. outlaw-type people (violent professions plus theives):50
  27. variations of the word “war”:48
  28. demons and devils(subset of “monsters”):47
  29. bad weather (rain/storm/wind):47
  30. Variations of the word “blade”:46
  31. Protectors and “guardians”:43
  32. Buildings (tower/keep/etc.):42
  33. Angels:41
  34. Body Parts:41
  35. references to “souls”:40

I was going to finish it here, but there’s enough that I’ll put my observations and raw data links in a third post. Given the topic, making this a trilogy of posts seems appropriate anyway. (I’ll try to have the final post up late tonight or tomorrow.)

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