1. Late Starter
    Offline

    Late Starter Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2012
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    0

    Avoiding cliche and predictibility?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Late Starter, Mar 7, 2012.

    I've not done any writing previously and want to start writing a novel in the "survival thriller" genre. I appreciate this is generally quite trashy but hey, I like it!

    However, when I read a novel of this type they very quickly work through a series of cliches and predictable set-pieces. Not the end of the world if done well but I often read something and think "there, that's the exact point where the story jumped the shark". For example: "he opened the boot of the car and found a matte black ballistic nylon case containing a blah blah sniper rifle with blah blah scope, laser sight and x thousand spare rounds".

    Unfortunately a lot of these scenes are predictable because the survival situation demands it, people would look for weapons etc and so to not put them in would seem deliberately unrealistic.

    So I guess I'm asking how would you minimise this effect whilst still including the common sense actions of the MC?
     
  2. Newfable
    Offline

    Newfable Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2010
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    California
    It's a funny thing with survival thriller and/or horror pieces of media anywhere, I find. Take movies, just as an example. It used to be common for a character to turn the corner and find the killer staring at them; it built tension and lots of dramatic irony as viewers are yelling at their television sets. Recently, movies try to subvert this by having a similar situation, by having the character look around the corner expecting the villain, but find nothing. So they breathe a sigh of relief, look back, and the killer's right there!

    This got so overdone that what was once a subversion of a technique became cliché.

    I'd say take a look at this index and find sections and techniques that you're interested in using, then playing with them. Knowing what your readers expect and them denying them that while still keeping pace and tone and theme with a scene or the rest of the piece can be a really good way to make a piece of writing seem "fresh and original".

    Avoiding clichés and being unpredictable is very much like magic: once you know the techniques involved, you can play with them and change them around as much as you'd like to make something simple appear new and exciting.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. Phoenix Hikari
    Offline

    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Messages:
    333
    Likes Received:
    6
    How about not giving your MC everything he needs? Just give him random things, sometimes make them find things they thought useful but turn out they aren't. Let them need something so desperately and never find it. That would make it more realistic, I think. We don't always stumble upon the things we need.

    Although, watch movies and read books of similar theme, try to observe what's overdone and what's not. Put yourself in the place of the MC, see what you can come up with on the go. Sometimes ideas come to life at very unexpected moments. Don't ever think that everything has already been done, there's always something new to come up with.
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    I probably don't watch enough survival thrillers to be of use, although I've used a cliche or two. (I don't think a few cliches here and there are that bad. They are cliche for a reason, IMO.) If you want to avoid being cliche, sometimes the best method is not to really worry about it too much. You might be surprised at how the story you want to tell is actually not as cliche as you might think.
     
  5. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    I am not familiar with the genre but generally if you want to avoid cliché and predictability because that annoys you when reading it, think about what you dislike about these scenes and try to find a way around it while staying true to the genre. (if that is possible) think about how you would have written them instead and practise that thinking on your own story.
     
  6. Jowettc
    Offline

    Jowettc Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2012
    Messages:
    207
    Likes Received:
    8
    I'm not a fan of that tropes website and I would definitely recommend that you do not, under any circumstance, use any modern or relatively recent TV / Movie or mini-series as a template for anything. They are usually badly written, badly thought out and agonisinlgy acted. I appreciate I have dropped the generalisation bomb and I'm sure many will disagree with me.

    However, we are talking about writing here not a script or a screenplay. So read, some good novels. You need to learn how to write and how to read what you have written in a critical manner - watching TV isn't going to help you learn how to describe a scene or a conversation.

    Regarding cliches and predictability -- I wouldn't worry too much about it tbh. Just like that Tropes website, there is a fair chance that it is possible that anyone could argue whatever you write will be cliched and potentially predictable. In fact some good stories are predictable and it is what some readers enjoy, it is simply the method of arriving at the logical conclusion that enjoys them.
    I am not an expert on the genre but to me it appears that there appears to be two quite distinct plot devices in general use - The reader knows who did it and the story is about the protagonists journey to the truth, or the classic 'Whoddunnit' where the Antagonist remains elusive until the 'ta da' moment at the end a la A Christie and so on. There are variations on that theme and other devices used and so forth, clearly. Just write. Write what you want to and don't get bogged down in 'what if this' or 'what if that' - write because you love it, dont write because you want to prove some kind of esoteric point. An old story rewritten with beauty is still good, regardless of whether someone else thinks it's cliched, just avoid the hackneyed. For my two cents - the thing that always got me about badly written thrillers was when, at the last minute, the writer produced a piece of information that they had never referred to or even alluded to at any point in the story and we had no way of knowing about it's existence - that drives me nuts and I throw the book in the fire!
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. Newfable
    Offline

    Newfable Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2010
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    California
    Very true, which is related to the whole originality argument amongst writers and other creative people ("Is being original awesome and the whole point to doing what I'm doing, or not?"). The general point is to use what works. Clichés can work, and they can work well, provided that they're what the story needs. And being predictable can be a good thing in some cases. With thrillers or mysteries, it can lead readers in circles until the truth is revealed, and all that.

    Well yeah, that's just badly written literature and a Deus Ex Machina. Never a good thing.
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    Hey, thanks so much for that link! I found it a fascinated read, obviously not as a "formula" but as inspiration and learning exercise. Definitely helpful :)
     
  9. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    I think a good TV Show/Movie can definitely help spark good writing. In fact, I know it's been a great asset to me. It may not be for everyone but I don't think it's something that should be written off on concept. (If anything, I think it has the potential to teach description better than reading. But let's not get into this.) I think this is especially true from a story POV. If word choice is what one is struggling with, then yes, a book might be superior. But since the OP is looking to avoid predictability, that falls squarely within story and I think a good story can help regardless of medium.
     
  10. psychotick
    Offline

    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2011
    Messages:
    1,371
    Likes Received:
    307
    Location:
    Rotorua, New Zealand
    How to avoid predictability? Go through each important plot point and try to turn it on its head. For example, the MC rushes to the abandoned gunstore to get weapons to shoot the zombie hordes, but -oh no! - the zombies have beaten him to it and they're arming up!

    Obviously not all of the head turners will work, though armed zombies is I think awesome! - but I think if you throw in a few curve balls here and there it will add to the interest in the story, and allow the more predictable formulaic elements of the story to shine. Remember its not about getting rid of all the cliche, its about changing enough of the story that it grabs the readers interest, and not so much that it leaves him reeling.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  11. AmyHolt
    Offline

    AmyHolt Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2011
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Warsaw, IN
    This is a great idea. Have your characters make do with what they can get their hands on.
     
  12. Late Starter
    Offline

    Late Starter Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2012
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    0
    Cool, thanks for the pointers guys.

    I think I need to plan an outline a little bit more rather than the "making it up as I go along" approach I was going to go for! At least then I can get a better idea of the "set-peice" scenes and how to subvert them.

    I have one advantage in that because I'm in the UK firearms are much less available than other countries so the MC is less likely to happily stumble across some when they need them. I think removing this aspect would be a good start.
     
  13. James Berkley
    Offline

    James Berkley Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    NYC
    Maybe as a funny subversion they find a firearm that does not work for the situation. Aka they are in grizzly territory and there is one chasing them, and they find a double barreled 16 and half a box of 8 shot shells.
     
  14. James Berkley
    Offline

    James Berkley Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    NYC
    Waite are we talking about survival thriller where people are trying to survive in the wilderness or apocalyptic survival where its end of the world stuff?
     
  15. Nakhti
    Offline

    Nakhti Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2012
    Messages:
    400
    Likes Received:
    16
    Yes, this is why I've never really understood the whole 'conveniently placed firearm' device. Maybe in the States people really do just radomly stash guns in the glove box or down the back of the sofa. I dunno. Just seems a bit weird to me.

    Anyway, without knowing what your story entails it's hard to advise how to avoid cliches, but I spent the whole evening yesterday poking around that TV Tropes site, and it made me chuckle lots. Not saying you have to avoid anything labelled a 'trope', but just try to resist doing it in a stale, unimaginative way :)
     
  16. Late Starter
    Offline

    Late Starter Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2012
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    0
    Both but with a heavy emphasis on the former and an understated end to the world. (If such a thing is possible)

    Difficult as it's set in the UK so "wilderness" is a relative term - you're never more than a few hours away from civilisation here.
     
  17. Nakhti
    Offline

    Nakhti Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2012
    Messages:
    400
    Likes Received:
    16
    Hours? Jeez, you can call a taxi from most places in the UK and it'll be there in half an hour :D
     
  18. Late Starter
    Offline

    Late Starter Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2012
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    0
    It would basically be a self-imposed survival scenario where the MC is required to live as far from civilisation as possible. So whilst they could live in a town or city they decide not to for various reasons - admittedly not true wilderness survival in the "fighting off bears in the middle of Alaskan wilderness" fashion.
     
  19. Cogito
    Online

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    off topic discussion removed.
     
  20. jwatson
    Offline

    jwatson Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2009
    Messages:
    559
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    canada
    When I write, cliches are always first on my list of what not to do. If you want to stand out as a writer, you can either get lucky and include a whole bunch of cliches and still have your work appreciated on a somewhat large scale, or you can go against the conventions, to some extent, and stand out that way. I suggest the latter. If you want to dabble in this genre, and you want to avoid cliches, do your best be as original as possible while at the same time falling into the said genre. I don't really have any specific advice, I think it comes down to the creativity of the writer. I can suggest that you write what is on your mind now, cliche or no cliche, and hopefully you will come up with some original ideas as you write. Hope this helps.
     

Share This Page