Sunday, June 13, 2010

Clichés Are Your Friend

I think every writing blog out there, every author and every professional in the literary movement will tell you to avoid clichés like the plague. I've seen it often enough. I've got a different view on the matter, however.

Embrace them! You must know your enemy to vanquish them.

I take a cliché, I happily apply it. Then I mess it up so bad you don't know which way is up or down. (Alright, I might be prone to exaggeration) I'll examplify, because I find general statements mostly unhelpful when it comes to actually doing something.

A young woman starts her new job. She's pretty, and so is her boss. The boss seem so many miles above her, but she falls in love. Boss-employée relationship ensue.

Everyone who recognise the plot, raise your hands.

So what now? You take the boss, make her female and 10 years older. Tada!

Let's try one about characters:

Sexy, social, laughing blonde enchants every guy around her and acts like a bitch towards every girl who comes close. The blonde is empty-headed, and obviously slept her way to her position. She wouldn't know a fresh opinion if it so sat on her pretty nose.

Seen it before? Oh, sorry, did I forget to tell you she's a rebel infiltrator, sabotaging the mission? My bad.

Clichés are fun. If you know them, it's so easy to trod all over them, to surprise people because readers EXPECT you to follow the clichés. Just be careful - they might throw your story down before they realise you aren't actually being cliché.

I now want your examples! Let me know how you took a cliché and wrought it to something original.


  1. I think I know what to do with my mermaid novel now!

    Okay, basic plot:
    Ancient wizard sees and interprets sign in the heavens that a child will be born to save the world. He finds child and raises child to destiny.


    So, I'm changing it as follows: wizard is now young and inexperienced. He adopts child of prophecy and completely ruins her, thereby dooming the world!


  2. Or, evil wizard adopts Child of Prophecy and ruins her, yet by mistake she ends up saving the world! :D (btw, read Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman)