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  1. Lalis
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    Lalis New Member

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    Help! Don't wanna resort to clichés!

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Lalis, Sep 18, 2009.

    Hey! So I'm writing a new short story (probably going to be in Portuguese, though I'm not quite sure) and my main character is a 17-year-old boy with very long, wild hair, who always wears a long black coat and black leather gloves. (Yup, he exists. He's a classmate of mine)

    Anyway, what I'm going to write about is that he wears those things to disguise some really nasty bruises, but I don't want to resort to child abuse because it's really overdone (plus, I know his parents, and they just don't seem like the type)... Any thoughts on where/why/how he got the bruises?

    Thanks :)
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You shouldn't worry about cliches. Most things have been done before, and it's extremely hard to find something new to write about. It all boils down to how well you write. My advice would be to go ahead with the original idea and focus on making it a well written short story.
     
  3. Lalis
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    Lalis New Member

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    Thanks :) The problem is, I'm trying really hard to step outside of my comfort zone. And what do I always write about? Platonic love stories and siblings dealing with child abuse...
     
  4. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    He could have a rare genetic disorder that causes him to bruise very easily. If he leans against a wall, his arm or hip area may be bruised, etc.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Try to focus on the other aspects of people's lives. For example, the character you mentioned might have suffered bruises from a fight with his peers. Perhaps he is in a gang and dresses like that as a way to identify with his gang. And perhaps something goes wrong and he gets in a fight with a rival gang.

    Basically, try to think about the different ways people can get bruises. Also think about why he would wear those particular clothes. Why are they black instead of some other color? Why is his hair long? Just some things to think about and questions to ask yourself.
     
  6. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thirdwind's posts spurred my thoughts a bit more on this. If you want to develop your character, you might think of the psychological reasons why he wears dark, long clothes. It doesn't have to be because he's hiding bruises or what not. It could be the way he feels about himself, or a way to protect himself (mentally) from others. That allows you to draw more out--his personality, his history, how others react to him, etc.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A cliche is an overused metaphor or phrase that has lost its meaning through overuse. Calling a commonly encountered plot pattern a cliche is a dismissive term with no validity.

    Nearly any plot you can envision has been used before, many times.

    An example of a cliche is the phrase "right as rain." Exactly what does that mean? What is conveyed by this weak simile that couldn't be ex[ressed better another way?

    Of course, the use of a cliche in dialogue is not always a bad thing. It adds dimension to a character. Heavy use may paint a character as unimaginative.

    I will leave it to your imagination what the misuse of the word "cliche" says about someone. :)
     
  8. Lalis
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    Lalis New Member

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    Thanks everyone! Marina, I think you suggested a winner... The "protecting himself mentally from other people" thing, I mean. Probably gonna use this one.

    Again, thank you so much!
     
  9. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The term cliche also applies to ideas, themes, and situations. Actually, it can be used for pretty much anything that is commonplace or trite, so I would argue that a plot concept could be considered a cliche.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It has become common misusage. And it drives me up the wall. That misuse is used in a derogatory sense to dismiss ideas there is nothing wrong with. It's despicable and intellectually slovenly.
     
  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't think its common misusage at all. As a matter of fact, the dictionary has broadened its definition of the word so that it includes all trite things, not just themes or phrases. It's sort of like the word "reference." People use that as a verb all the time even though it's not considered grammatically correct. However, dictionaries will soon have to change to accommodate that fact. It all depends on how the majority of people use a word that determines its definition. I'll stop here since this is way off topic.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The dictionary documents common usage, even such egregious terms as come from the boardrooms and back alleys of America. It doesn't make it right, even if it helps someone decipher marketing gibberish or texting spewage.
     
  13. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    If common usage isn't considered correct, then what is correct? Tomorrow if we decided that the word "sad" means something completely different, then that new definition would be correct. It just shows that language is constantly evolving. I just don't see the point of hanging on to old definitions when they do not reflect modern usage.
     
  14. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    What's more important is how the publishers define it, not the dictionary, and I tend to think they would go wth "anything trite, boring and overdone".
     
  15. Joran Selemis
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    Joran Selemis Member

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    How about he's a student by day, a crime-fighter by night? That's certainly not a cliche...
     
  16. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    He could be part of a local underground fight club of sorts. Where two guys get into the arena and beat the crap out of eachother while paying customers cheer on in the crowed.

    He doesn't want to bring attention to his bruises because it might reveal his activities. That and he just simply loves the look :p
     
  17. MacGuffin
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    MacGuffin Member

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    Things only mean what the person on the recieving end takes it to mean... death of the author and all that.

    So if most people take cliche to mean trite and overdone etc, then that's what it means to them.

    Language and meanings evolve.

    Awful used to mean really amazing; full of awe. I remember reading a poem once with 'awful mountains' in it. Didn't make sense at the time.

    Gay used to mean happy.

    If I came up to you and said "You look gay" you would probably take some offence (whether it is right or wrong to take offence at being called gay is another debate altogether) and I could try an explain that all I was trying to do was say you look happy all I want but you'd probably get the wrong (or right) end of the stick.

    So my point is what is meaning if it is not common usage.

    Just done a little googling:

    Nice used to mean ignorant.
    Brave used to mean cowardly.

    Yes these examples are very show complete changes in meaning but I think they show that your point doesn't stand up.

    If you don't want your language to change much, move to France.
     
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  18. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dictionary.com doesn't agree with you, and I personally disagree with the entire concept of death of the author. It's just an excuse used to justify truly stupid claims on the meaning of stories and dismissing the author when he says "no."
     
  19. MacGuffin
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    MacGuffin Member

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    n. pl. bra·va·dos or bra·va·does

    1.
    1. Defiant or swaggering behavior: strove to prevent our courage from turning into bravado.
    2. A pretense of courage; a false show of bravery.
    2. A disposition toward showy defiance or false expressions of courage.


    [French bravade and Old Spanish bravada, swagger, bravery, both ultimately from Vulgar Latin *brabus, brave; see brave.]

    you have to know where to look
     
  20. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Bravado is a different word than brave...

    Edit: And even the source you quote says it came from the root of brave. In other words, brave came first, then bravado split off of it, or at least the root and meaning of brave came first, then the root and meaning of bravado split off.
     
  21. MacGuffin
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    MacGuffin Member

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    I think it depends on what you see reading as. Is it an almost static, one way decoding of a set of words put down by the author?

    Or is it more of a two way stream? What does the reade bring to the table.

    Read animal farm as a kid and it is a simple (though dark) tale about a bunch of animals.

    What about if you read it after doing communism 101? Clear historical parallels.

    Or forget communism... what if you have just read Machivellis The Prince. Better to be feared than loved.

    So it's balls to say that a text has one meaning. When you read, you read with an angle, with an agenda, with a background.

    EG. I saw the trailer for the film 'Cloudy with a chance of meatballs'. The premise of the film is that a scientist has found a way to turn water into food. My initial though was... imagine screening this film in a part of the world where both food and water are really, really scarce. What a double slap to the face. I did have my 'how can I be a cock' hat on at the time and I'm sure the makers of the film don;t want to offend people.

    BUT if you were in a country where food and water were in such short supply that people you knew were dying.... how else would you see this film?!

    And surely any author would love their work to be read in a number of different ways. What ultimate flattery to have produced something that someone has engaged in on a personal level and not just read spark notes for.
     
  22. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Meaning is determined by the author. You can interpret the hell out of it and get any sort of message you want from it, that's the reader's prerogative, but meaning comes from the author because the author is the one doing the communicating.
     
  23. MacGuffin
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    MacGuffin Member

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    I would say intent is determined by the author; as in this is what the author intends to mean.

    Perception is determined by the reader; this is what the reader takes the author to mean.

    Meaning falls somewhere between the author and the reader. If the author is extremely clear and unambiguous then the meaning will fall closer to the authors side.

    If the author is unclear or ambiguous then meaning will fall closer to the reader.

    Meaning changes as you move around the world and ass you go through time.

    To say that meaning is something fixed by the author is plain wrong. You only have to read some Steinbeck or Twain with their works full of the word 'nigger'. This was fine in their time and they probably intended no offence (see the problem here.... how do we know they intended no offence!) but reading this in a multi racial school will cause debate.

    THIS IS BECAUSE THE READER IS BRINGING THEIR OWN IDEAS TO THE STORY.

    If you really feel that meaning is determined by the author absolutely can you give me an convincing argument?
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the hemophiliac/whatever bruises-easily idea
    he's an extreme fighting addict
    has an abusive girl friend
    has an abusive sibling
    is a self-abuser for emotional or religious reasons
     
  25. MacGuffin
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    MacGuffin Member

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    I guess no convincing argument is forthcoming.

    But we have a return to topic. YAY!

    How about making the bruises a manifestation of something psychological?
    Or maybe voodoo.... someones got a little doll of him and they're holding him hostage and make him do things.
    Or perhaps he's half man-half peach, a horrific gentic experiment gone wrong.
     

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