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  1. Soprah
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    Soprah New Member

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    Aren't cliches what we truly want?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Soprah, Jan 8, 2016.

    Hello writers,

    This is my first post on this forum and I am glad to found other passionate writers to discuss with.

    Lately, I've been reading lots of articles which deal about common mistakes of beginners. The articles recommend not to implement any kind of cliches like having hero who either has no parents or was "just a normal farmer boy". Or something like not inventing new races and rather relying on races like elves, dwarfs from the middle earth saga. Or having a pure "good vs evil" conflict.

    But, aren't those cliches (good vs evil) something what we really want? I can't give any certain reason to support my theory but somehow I feel it... even if we are always shaking our head when we find various cliches in movies/books, I somehow got the impression that we urgently need them.

    What do you think? :)
     
  2. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Hello, welcome to the forums. :D

    I'm not sure where you've been getting that because from what I've read, I've been hearing the exact opposite (ie, everyone's sick of Tolkien-esque fantasy settings and races, or wannabe heroes who are just awesome at what they do so they become heroes with barely any training at all, etc.)

    Clichés aren't inherently bad per se. I mean, gods know I've at least three stories where my protagonists are orphans. I think it's because we see them over and over ad nausem, non-stop that we just want a break from them every now and then. A fantasy that doesn't revolve around a political intrigue plot or a ‘overthrow the evil monarchy’ plot sounds refreshing. Or a fantasy that doesn't have the typical elves, dwarves, Orcs, hobgoblins, halflings, and everything ripped straight out of Tolkien sounds refreshing. A story that doesn't revolve around some poor, orphaned street urchin/farm boy who learns he is TEH UBER SPEASHUL and learns all those LEET UBER KEWL SKILLS in months if not in the span of a few short years, and he is THE CHOSEN ONE OF PROPHECY against the EVIL DARK LORD THAT WANTS TO TAKE OVER EVERYTHING BECAUSE HE'S EVIL AND SHIT...a story that doesn't revolve around that is refreshing.

    Again, nothing wrong with any of that per se. If the execution is well-done, if the characters and plot are gripping and interesting enough, I can read a story about Chosen Ones, or typical Tolkien-esque races, etc. I think it just revolves around the fact that sometimes, every now and then, we just want something different.
     
  3. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Oh God, YES. YES!!! Give it to me. Please. More! More cliché! Oh Baby; I want it now!

    It might not be what writers want, but it sells, so clearly readers love it. I'm rather fond of clichés, they make me giggle and giggling leads too . . . bigger paychecks checks for me!!!! But then I write for a po-dunk magazine, so what do I know.
     
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  4. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    *scratches head*

    Huh. Well maybe I ought to attempt a fantasy with the typical Medieval Europe-esque setting and Tolkien-races (elves, dwarves, etc.) It's funny. I've spent the last 12 years being told how wrong that sort of stuff was but...maybe I should just go on ahead and do it for grins. :D
     
  5. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    A woman in my critique group is having a Tolkienesque Elf trilogy being published. I know she and the editor of the publishing house are working out the final details right now. The reason is that the readers eat this stuff up, if they didn't the editors wouldn't be interested.
     
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  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Who said that? Is it possible that you heard "I'm tired of weird exotic races" and assumed that they meant that they were demanding the middle earth races? I'm tired of things like, say, telepathic sexy leather-wearing cat people who can spit climbing webs from their tongues and scratch with poisoned claws that drug their victims into mindless compliance....but that doesn't mean I want hobbits.

    I think that the issue here may be the word "pure". "Pure" suggests "simple". Simple, dull, simplistic, textureless. I don't believe in a purely good person. The conflict may be good versus evil, but I don't want PURE good or pure evil; that's just boring.
     
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Makes sense.

    Though would an editor accept a fantasy that wasn't a typical one. Like the ones readers eat up?
     
  8. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    I think the best answer is: sometimes. You can't really make very many sizable plots without at least one perceived cliche. The trick is to not use too many cliches, and when you do use one to at least package it in an interesting way.
     
  9. Mordred85
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    Mordred85 Active Member

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    Yes, just like pointing out tropes in cinema. People will continue to pretend they don't want them though.
     
  10. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Look, if you're good at writing cliches (most people are) you should write cliches.
     
  11. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think there's a difference between cliched writing and cliched stories. If the writing is good enough, the reader might not even notice or care that she's read the same story before in different dress.
     
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  12. Bandag
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    I'm sure it's been said before, but the problem with cliches is that we've seen them before. S hundred times. And if you aren't going to add anything new to the cliche, then you may as well have not written anything. No one wants to read a story where it feels like they've read every page before because it's really just lord of the rings with cat people, or spiderman in medieval Austria.
    A skilled author subverts the cliches, rather than relying on them. Write the orphan who becomes the invincible hero of destiny with minimal effort. Then have your invincible hero take a sledghammer to the spine, paralysing him/her from the chest down. Explore from there. Or take the tolkien races and extrapolate them into the modern day. Elves run the banks and nobody wants to hire Hobbits because of their crap work ethic. Dwarves are jealous because all the best cars are designed for human/elf sized people. Maybe the antagonist is a Se7en style murderer.
     
  13. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Certainty, if it were a good story.
    The problem is that many things people claim are cliché, simply aren't.
    It's like the commenter in this thread ( http://www.writingforums.org/threads/hated-cliches.143578/#post-1403579 ) who said German sounding names in fantasy are cliché.

    Here is the rub, according to Germanic mythologies and traditions, Alfheim is the land of the elfs, and Alfheim is right across the Kattegat from Norway and Sweden, which happens to be Denmark and GERMANY. The elves were said to live along the Elbe River, which happens to be in GERMANY and in German, elben (the name for the people living along the Elbe) is elves. (Kind of neat how the mythologies line up with the archeological evidence and river name, isn't it?)

    Now let's look at dwarfs. Germanic mythology has them living in Nidavellir, which happens to be along the Rhine River. Not sure how many people paid attention in geography, but the Rhine River happens is the border between France and GERMANY.

    German cities, like Derggendorf, have been continuously inhabited since the bronze age, making them a great place to set historic fiction/fantasy. The same is true for Halstatt, Austria and La Tene, France. The entire Swiss-Bavarian Basin is an archeologist dream! And the Swiss-Bravarian Basin happens to be in Southern GERMANY!

    If you are writing a story that draws from Germanic culture, Germanic traditions, and Germanic mythology, which is quit possibly set in a historic version of Germany, wouldn't it stand to reason that the names sound a bit, umm, GERMANIC?

    What this person is claiming as a hated cliché is really just sound research. Which is why when people start talking about cliché's I start to giggle. I know they are talking out of their arse and sound research beats stupid every time.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2016
  14. Imaginarily
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    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

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    We now have like 50 threads on this. Just sayin'. 50 Threads of Cliché.

    First of all, stop reading those god damn guides. Stop it right now. The best advice for new writers is just write okay? You find your voice, you write your stories, and you do it confidently. You hear me?

    There is nothing more tragic and infuriating to me than fresh, budding creativity being squandered by some formless "authority" on the subject positing that there could possibly be a "right way" or a "wrong way" to express one's own inner muse. It's disgusting, and I'm quite dismayed that more people don't get as upset as I do about it.

    The only thing you should be concerned about is whether or not your story makes sense. Get to know your characters, get to know your setting, figure out how it all fits in together. Clichés have literally nothing to do with it.

    You write your thing your way. If you don't, I'ma come beat you up. :wtf:
     
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  15. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Writing isn't just creativity, it's a craft. While there is no such thing as a wrong or write way, there are effective tools to help increase the likelihood of your work being effective with readers. This comes from reading and from studying the craft. In addition to these things, you should also always be writing.
     
  16. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Good one! You could have a dwarf who gets into a fight with a human because the latter called him "Stonecutter", one of the racial slurs for dwarves. :D Your Elf character could be a psychologist (‘Tell me of your woes,’ Legolas said as he adjusted his horn-rimmed glasses and put his clipboard on his knee. Margom shifted uncomfortably in his seat. ‘I...I just hate it when people call me Caveslime. It's...does being an Orc make me any less of a sentient being? Am I damned because of what my ancestors thousands of years ago did?’ He shivered as tears dripped down his crusty cheeks. Legolas plucked a tissue from the box and handed it over.), your hobbit character can be an extreme extrovert and a party guy/gal.

    Well, now I'm getting all excited about this. :p

    @Imaginarily - Correct, you are. The most important thing for new authors is to dive in, clichés be damned and explore what voice they have, what style they like, etc. Starting off with reading how-to guides where one person with their own personal opinions say ‘Do this’ or ‘Don't do that’ will only stifle them. We all have our personal likes and dislikes in our writing, and that should be the important thing to find out: what do you personally like to write about and what do you avoid like the plague?
     
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  17. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I think 'cliché' and 'trope' are being used interchangeably here, which happens a lot. For me, as both a reader and writer, tropes = fine, clichés = avoid.
     
  18. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this is another area where it's important to distinguish between writer-chat and reader-chat. Writers may be tired of tropes, may think books should be A, B, or C, may have certain standards of how we should be writing. Readers often have completely different interests.

    Writers spend so much time trying to figure things out and turn all of this into something that's knowable and predictable, and it makes us a lot more prone to over-focusing on things (IMO).

    Readers? They aren't nearly as concerned about all that. They just want to enjoy their reading time. If you give them something they enjoy, they aren't going to ask too many questions about tropes or any of the other things we writers spend so much time worrying about. If they don't enjoy the story, that's when they'll start complaining about cliches or whatever else.
     
  19. Soprah
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    Soprah New Member

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    First of all, Thanks a lot to all the amazing & helpful replies! I didn't expect to receive sooo many answers in such a short time! :)

    I meant the opposite of what I said in my first post: The guides recommend that I shall not rely on the cliche. Instead, I shall create something fresh, new and unique like inventing new races. But as I said, I somehow believe that we want cliche, despite of the advice that are given in the "guides". Excuse me for the mess ^.^

    @Link the Writer,
    Okay, I got your idea. Making use of cliche is fine as long as the execution is well done and not over-used. Thanks for the advice.

    @KhalieLa,
    Yes, I can understand you. Writers are basically tired and jealous that the "non-creative stuff" sells whereas the creative, unique novels (with no cliches) remain unpopular. I can fully comprehend this.

    @ChickenFreak,
    Indeed, I can relate to you. Pure good vs evil conflicts are not realistic and too dull. I'll keep that in mind when I create my own story.

    @Masken Mole,
    You are right. And this is what I also wanted to say in my first post: Having a cliche is good, but not always. Thanks for your clarification.

    @Okon,
    Mhmm I got an impression of what you mean but can you describe it more in detail please? It sounds very interesting.

    @KhalieLa,
    It's funny that nearly your entire post is about german myths because I am actually german :D You know more of our traditions than myself I guess

    @Imaginarily,
    Mhmm I can understand what you mean. Creativity shouldn't be restricted just because of a few guides. But I am very careful and I am just totally overwhelmed by this huge task. It's not that I don't like writing stories. I love to read novels, speculating about the ending, thinking about characters etc etc.
    But I really want to create a good story and therefore I thought "Mhmm, reading a few articles might dispel my inital fear of writing. Additionally, I need someone who clearly says to me where I can begin with my novel. I just don't know where to start ^^


    What can we sum-up? That cliches are fine as long as they not used too much and well executed? That cliches are something that readers just want and thus, selling?

    Thanks a lot again :)

    Regards,
    Soprah
     
  20. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    A journey of a thousand pages begins with one scrap of paper. Reading a few articles won't dispel your fear of writing, but writing a few pages will! Write something YOU like, and disregard everyone else telling you what sells, what's right, what's wrong. Their voices will quietly criticize you, if you let them in to that period where you are communing with your characters and their stories, and drown out your muse. Don't be afraid to write! The worst you can do is learn something you didn't know before.
     
  21. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Defining a cliche as an 'overused trope' and then saying don't use cliches, is problematic.
    Mostly because what constitutes an overused trope is subjective.

    One person may be bored of a trope and consider it overused, while another may enjoy it and want to see it explored in more ways.
     
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  22. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I'm a bit of an odd ball. I've been studying Hallstatt period Celtic Culture since 2008. The spit between Proto-Celtic and Proto-Germanic was in place by 500 BCE. My current WIP is set with a target date of 600 BCE, which precedes that date, so they're all the same culture, speak the same language, etc. Mostly, I focus on older Celtic traditions of the Continental Celts, with an emphasis on the tribes of the Swiss-Bavarian Basin, though occasionally I venture into what is present day Czechoslovakia because the Boii are great to work with when you need a rogue tribe. I tend to avoid the British Isles like the plague. Though, last month I was asked to write a straight-up historical fiction piece focusing on England and Wales in the 1st Century.

    My head is full of mostly useless information . . .
     
  23. Imaginarily
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    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

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    No need to apologize, @Soprah. Debate is healthy for the soul, whether it's intended or accidental. This is a good place to be, you will learn a lot from this forum. Best thing moving forward is to keep an open mind and don't be afraid of the tough questions. Explore, explore, explore.

    So you write it, bro. As @Lew said, write what you like. When you're just stretching your wings for the first time, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks of your work but you must write something. You're practicing, you're figuring out how and what you want to write. Personally, I have never cared about how my content might be received by critics. I just write the kind of story I want to read, and that allows me to write confidently and without regard for what any snobby pretentious person might have to say about my style or my plot (and god forbid I have a little fun!). I have some scenes in the Workshop, you're more than welcome to read them and pick them apart if you want. Critique is a fantastic way to open your mind about your own writing. :-D Or you can just grab some popcorn and read for funsies, or you can totally fuck them off!

    ... *ahem*

    Yes, getting started can be an intimidating chore. But you must write something, or you'll never write anything. Don't worry yet if it's good or interesting or if your vocabulary is up to snuff. Puke out some words to get the wheels turning, then come back later and edit them. As far as where, specifically, you begin? It doesn't matter at all. You could start in the middle and fill in the beginning and the end later. You could write the ending first and work backwards. You could start at the beginning and write linearly. At this stage, the most important thing for you is just get words out.
     
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  24. Imaginarily
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    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

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    To answer your actual question, though, do we crave clichés on a subconscious level to the point where we have to use them?

    As my pal @Tenderiser has pointed out somewhere, there is a difference between clichés and tropes. I think there's no escaping tropes — that is, the broad concept things. A love story, good vs. evil, finding oneself. We need those.

    Clichés are a different animal, and it's probably inevitable that a certain element in a trope becomes cliché from overuse, because that element worked gloriously in the past for other writers, and human nature is to imitate what we like, after all.
     
  25. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I think there's a difference between cliché and trope. Trope is like a term - the good guy but that doesn't necessarily mean he's cliché. The details will define whether or not he's a cliché or original.

    The easiest way to avoid clichés is to watch your plot. If it's starting to look like a formula that's where clichés can pop in. When situations become overly familiar no matter if your heroine is a ninja, jedi knight, crossbred Vampire-Unicorn, or sassy librarian they can find themselves reacting the same way, speaking the same way, thinking the same way as a dozen other books in the same genre.
    But it's not something you necessarily have to worry about. Certain genre's, reading classifications ( middle grade, Ya ) they embrace formula - and readers love them.
     

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