Scifi/Fantasy Scenes I Can Never Get Enough Of

This post came to me when I woke up at the crack of dawn to type out a scene for a WIP so apologies if I get a little rambly–short and sweet isn’t something I can achieve at 5 AM (or ever). But yeah, the title says it all! These are scenes that get me swooning every time I encounter them in SFF (though you can obviously find them in other genres too).

I’ve gotten used to doing lists of five with Top 5 Wednesday, so I’ll list five for now and save the rest for a part 2! (So she says)


Competence Porn


I have no idea if this is the official name for the trope, but I saw it in an article years ago so that’s what I’ve been calling it ever since. It basically describes the rush of pleasure we get when we see or read about characters doing the things that they’re experts at. It’s something we see in superhero and heist films all the time.

With books, I find the effect most potent when the character does their expert thing in front of an audience:

An investigator moving through a crime scene–eyes bright, brain whirling–and describing step by step, in lurid detail, what’s transpired in the room.

A new recruit stepping into the sparring circle and demonstrating to a gaggle of sneering, catcalling soldiers what real swordplay looks like.

Our brains think competence is super sexy and I can’t say that I disagree.


The Unmasked Hero


That moment when the secret princess/prince/person of important personage who’s been hiding their identity for multiple books finally rips their mask off to the world and goes, “Yes, I am that person of important personage. Quake, you tiny mortals” (in those exact words, yes).

It’s deliciously validating and sets shivers down my spine every time.


A Moment of Respite

Out of all the moments in the Realm of the Elderlings books–ones with dragons and intrigue and horrific raiders and heart-pounding battles–there’s one that is an absolute favourite of mine. And it’s a scene where the characters do a bunch of chores together.

There’s no action. No intrigue. No talking about what they have to do next. Just three characters basking in each other’s friendship, telling stories, lazying around, and living moment to moment.

In terms of plot, it’s a useless scene.

And it’s also a brilliant scene. Because while inconsequential to the plot, it’s 100% percent consequential to the characters, and the book–the series–can’t exist without it.

And we see it in video games all the time. Remember the guitar scene in Bioshock: Infinite? Completely unnecessary. Completely optional. The entirety of Mass Effect‘s Citadel DLC? Wholly skippable. And yet also not.

I love, love seeing characters take a break from the saving-the-world business to do mundane things and talk about mundane things, because though they may not know what tomorrow will bring–what horrors they’ll face–today they’re here and alive and together. And in that brief moment they’re no heroes tasked with slaying dragons. They’re just people having a good time.

And later, when everything goes to shit, it’s these moments that the characters and you, the reader, remember the most.


Two enemies forced to work together

marko and robot

This relates to the enemies-to-lovers trope as they’re both basically about sticking two characters in one room and seeing what kind of sparks will fly. It doesn’t matter the situation. Maybe they’re literally stuck in a room and have to work together to get themselves out. Maybe a bigger, badder baddie has entered the picture so they reluctantly agree to pool resources because the enemy of my enemy and all that. However it happens, I love the banter that comes out it and I love seeing them grudgingly save each other’s hides all the while slinging insults. And if by the end of it they realize that they actually work really well together? Even better.


Protagonist and Antagonist having a nice drawn-out conversation


I feel like we see this in manga/anime/light novels more often than in western media and I always use Fate/Zero as an example. The show dedicates the entirety of one episode to setting three enemy characters down in a circle and having them engage in a debate on what it means to be a good king. Opinions clash. Harsh words are exchanged. Beliefs get shaken. And you glean more about the characters in those 20 minutes than you do in all previous episodes combined.

And what’s even more interesting is what happens after such a conversation.

Maybe the protagonist spirals into a crisis of faith, but after some intensive soul-searching, emerges with a stronger, more comfortable hold on their ideals. Or maybe not–maybe they start crumbling under the weight of their newfound doubt which gets their goals skidding in wild directions. Maybe both characters come away from the exchange rattled and holding pieces of one another that they never wanted in the first place.

There are few things I love more than seeing two enemy characters challenge each other intellectually and spiritually, and this one conversation can take the story in an infinite number of fascinating directions.

Plus I just want something a little more stimulating than an antagonist monologuing for three pages with the protagonist quipping at the end with a “Fuck you.” (Unless the former is arguing the merits of murdering puppies and small children and suggesting the protagonist join them in this endeavour. Then yes, a hearty “FU” would be the preferred response.)


What do you think about these? Any of your favourites that you’d like to share?

35 thoughts on “Scifi/Fantasy Scenes I Can Never Get Enough Of

  1. Norrie says:

    Oh i love this!
    Competence porn sounds accurate, haha πŸ˜€
    I also enjoy those moments when the characters do normal people things, or things that have nothing to do with solving the murder/ saving the world, etc. It just makes me connect to them more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bookbeachbunny says:

    Particular fan of enemies working together and the protagonist/antagonist having conversations. Joker/Batman in the Dark Knight Rises and Thanos/Tony in Avengers come to mind as recent favorites. But I love all five as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight says:

    I didn’t even know competence porn was a thing or that I liked it until you pointed it out! It is nice in intense series to just see the characters relaxing, smiling, having fun. And yes, enemies working together is one of my faves too! I was so excited when that volume of Saga ended like that, haha.


  4. Greg says:

    Competence porn- love that. πŸ™‚ That Avengers scene is a keeper for that reason. Or even the frist Avengers movie where it pans throughout the city and we just see them transitioning from scene to scene kicking butt!

    The Unmaksed Hero too- if done right it can be such a fist pumping moment! And I LOVE seeing the mundane tasks, or moments of respite- those are the best! Awesome post.


  5. auroralibrialis says:

    Wonderful post, Kathy 😊 This is such an interesting topic. As much as I dislike the lost princess/prince trope, I can deny that the unmasking moments are always super satisfying! And I love those little moments of respite in epic SFF books, not only are they lovely to read – but I think they also remind you what kind of world the characters are fighting for, if that makes any sense?


  6. Sahi says:

    Wow such a brilliantly written post… I agree with everything that you’ve said but I would have never been able to articulate it so well.. πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

    Liked by 1 person

  7. PerfectlyTolerable says:

    I have never heard “COMPETENCE PORN” or even what it means, described before. But you are totally right! I love those moments when they get to show off! Especially when noone expects them to be good at it and them *BAM* they are amazing ❀ ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Nicole Evans says:

    Okay, so I love this post. LOVED IT. I also think your blog might be one of my favorites, um, ever, because your posts are wonderful and your voice is just great?! *fangirls un-embarrassingly* But I love all of these, too, no question (plus, that Saga example was so spot on, I desperately need to get caught up because I am SO BEHIND). Also also, I didn’t know you were a gamer!? *cue more fangirlish screams*

    Liked by 1 person

      • Nicole Evans says:

        I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE WELCOME (also, you’re not forever alone; you’re just someone’s perfect special someone who is worth waiting for!). Ohmygosh, can you PLEASE!? I would read all of them and then bombard your comments with so many thoughts, because there are certain games that make me feel FEELINGS, but I wrote all my video game ranting posts before anyone ever truly started reading this blog, so I still need people to talk about it with. *facepalm* πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

        Aww, a thousand bone-crushing Krogan hugs for you! πŸ˜€ And OKAY you convinced me. I’ll do a little mention of video games I played each month in my wrap-up posts! And I think I might write up a indies recommendations post?? (Hopefully it won’t take me a year to finish) I need more people in the blogsverse to gush about games with too. πŸ˜›


      • Nicole Evans says:

        *hugs back* YES, I am so excited you’re going to do this! Though, seriously, no pressure if you’re like, “Actually, this isn’t for me.” But if you *do* decide to do it, I will be SO HERE for it. I’d be really intrigued by an indies recommendation post, too. I don’t think I know any of those games? So I’d be curious!


  9. shardsofetheria says:

    Great post. I have to say I’m a big fan of most of these as well. It usually takes a very competent writer to achieve any o.o f them nicely and the mark of these trips being well used is that they are built to and are all the sweater for the wait.


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