1. GLaw
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    GLaw New Member

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    Spotting Cliches Early - Help?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by GLaw, Aug 25, 2016.

    Hi, this is my first time posting here and I'm a little nervous, but I need some writer-ly advice if it's not too much trouble.

    I'm in the early stages of brewing an idea for a novel, which is likely to be teen thriller/romance. Basically, my main character has retrograde episodic memory loss, and although she knows she loves her boyfriend very deeply, she can't remember the specifics. This includes first kiss, a plot-relevant romantic trip to Ireland, or even falling for him in the first place. Thus, a foundation is set for a story about realistic emotional cheating (okay, okay, it's a love triangle, but I love them when they are done well), and the final, rather grim moral is that first love isn't always forever. It's kind of an extended metaphor (is this the right term?) for falling out of love.

    My issue is that I am pretty certain amnesia in MCs is the most cliche of all cliches. Sinful, in fact. But I want a realistic representation of the condition, and intend the narrative of my MC to be disorientated and unreliable to reflect her emotional state. The plot device would also add more depth to a mystery - something that happened in Ireland, the trauma she ought to be thankful she forgot - meaning there could be two narratives, almost; the MC before, and the MC after. The ambiguity would also create the gothic tone for which I am aiming.

    So, I know I haven't gone into huge detail, but does anyone think I should scrap the idea now while I'm not in too deep? Any tips on how to handle this plot in a sophisticated way? I'm young and fairly new to writing so I would appreciate any constructive criticism you have.

    Thanks a million,
    GLaw
     
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  2. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suppose the trick would be to find a new angle on the amnesia thing. How familiar are you with other amnesia stories, what they have in common and what sets them apart from each other?
     
  3. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Welcome GLaw :) No need to be nervous. People here are decent, and even when we're not, we're sitting behind a computer screen half a world away, so who cares?

    I don't think there are any hard and fast facts to answer with, so opinions ahoy.

    Regarding cliches, the usual thing to keep in mind is that they're entirely subjective: what is an irrevocably hackneyed cliche to one is a tried-and-true trope to another. There's a recent thread here somewhere about how cliched love triangles are, but you've said above that you love them when they're done well. That's amnesia for me: I know it's been done a lot, but I still find it an exciting framework for a story, so I will happily read something revolving around it. I even acknowledge that taking liberties from realism often makes for a better story, so as a reader I will willingly suspend any disbelief arising from factual discrepancies (as long as you deliver the goods and the story is compelling!).

    With cliches vs tropes in general, I think confidence comes from 1) having read/heard/experienced plenty of stories and knowing how common things are, and 2) discussing them with other people so you get an idea of the opinions floating around. Even if you recognise something is a complete cliche, you might find a way to flip it on its head and breathe new life into it. Ultimately, you can never read everything and talk to everyone though, so go with your gut; if you have an idea and like it (and it sounds like you do), get writing. Worry about what others think when they're giving you feedback! If you let your doubts get ahead of you before you're 'in too deep', you'll never finish anything.

    Regarding realistically depicting amnesia (grain of salt: not my area of expertise), I believe anterograde amnesia is actually far more common than retrograde, and I think it's rare for the typical fictional 'bump to the head' to result in amnesia. But as I said above, don't let the facts get in the way of a good story! If fiction was just like life, I wouldn't read.

    Hope that helps and good luck!
     
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  4. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    I actually like the story, it is complex, as you described it, which is the opposite of cliché, and I think you should start writing and see where it goes. Like @Sifunkle said, you need to research the amnesia to portray it accurately, but for the opening you could just depict it as it is when it is introduced, and later on develop how it happened. therefore you need not have all the answers when you start. Go for it... and welcome aboard BTW!
     
  5. taariya
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    taariya Member

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    I actually don't think this is a bad idea at all, and personally the "MC has amnesia" cliche is far from prevalent enough on its own (in my opinion) to justify dismissing a work. The main problem I have when reading works where the MC has amnesia is not that it's commonly done, but that it's commonly not done well. I would suggest that you fully research the condition (retrograde amnesia based on your description) not just by reading a symptom list from WebMD or a few articles about it but by digging around to find case studies or the stories of people with retrograde amnesia/with loved ones suffering from retrograde amnesia. So many authors technically depict the causes and symptoms associated with the condition without quite capturing the emotions and reactions of the victim and the people in their lives in any realistic or effective way.
     
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  6. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    You know my problem with questions like this is as follows: people become so worried and so obsessed with not having cliches that they fail to write anything at all. Which is what I'm seeing is happening with you.
     
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  7. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    While amnesia is something of a cliche, it's when it's used as a shortcut that it's a problem, imo - "ahhh, this simple misunderstanding can't be reconciled because the mc has amnesia! And for no other reason!". When it's cheap, it's an issue. Your plot seems more complex and more about the amnesia (Memento comes to mind; no one's calling that movie cliche), and the fact that you say you're actually interested in presenting it in a realistic way - not just hand waving it as magic plot-convenient amnesia - makes me think you'll probably be fine :)
     
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  8. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    per my signature cliche per se isnt a reason not to use something - people will only roll their eyes and say "what a cliche" if its badly written or used as a cheap and unsatisfying resolution

    Classic example - theres nothing wrong per se with writing a story which is entirely set in your MCs dream (or while they are in a coma or whatever) , the cliche comes in using the ending "and then i woke up"
     
  9. Shbooblie
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    Shbooblie Contributing Member

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    Cliche Smeeshay is what I say! Please don't let a fear of cliches stifle your creativity. The trick is to make it your own, put your unique spin on it and make the plot compelling.
    From the sounds of it you've got those boxes ticked off.

    Write the story you've got inside you first, worry about what people think later, then make changes as necessary. Your beta readers will let you know what works or what doesn't. Good luck with your novel!
     

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