Welcome back everyone! Today we’re looking at the fish out of water trope.
This is a classic trope, especially in fantasy, and it’s not hard to see why. Introducing a whole new world becomes much easier when the hero is just as confused as the reader. This makes the fish out of water relatable and sympathetic all at once.
The defining conflict of the Fish Out of Water is, of course, the land. The surreal world unlike anything they’ve ever seen. They must adapt quickly to different laws and principals in order to survive, usually struggling to keep up with their fellow characters.
Take Harry Potter for example (who I know we used in the last example but, hey, he fits more than one trope), a boy who doesn’t know he’s a wizard until a half giant comes knocking on his door. and tells him so.
Suddenly he’s thrown in the wizarding world of which he knows nothing about. Of his two best friends, one is a pureblood wizard and the other is muggle born but also a genius who knows everything there is to know already. This was a brilliant move on Rowling’s part because not only is Harry lost in this new world, he also has people around him to guide him and answer his—and the reader’s—questions.
This is the thrust behind portal fantasies as well, in which someone from the real world is sucked into another dimension. Take the Chronicles of Narnia or Vision of Escaflowne.
If done poorly, this hero can come across as cliché, boring or a cheap way to make world building easier. But if done well, it can be a lot of fun, especially in young adult. High school, college and the prospect of adulthood is confusing and scary. Everyone at that age feels at least a little stranded on land. It’s nice to have someone in a fictional world that feels the same.