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  1. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Cliché Cliché

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by CDRW, Jul 7, 2008.

    Does anyone else get tired of all the talk about clichés? It seems like no matter what you write someone will say its a cliché. Given a situation with only two answers, like does this character have a certain trait, either answer will be overdone in the eyes of whoever is saying.

    A good example is in the personality of the protagonist. If your protagonist is a pure good person that is cliché, yet if the author tries to make him unlikeable that is also cliché. Your only option left is to make him likeable, but still a regular person with weaknesses, anybody heard that one before?

    I'm starting to get a little sick of it because I think many people use that word to give a real sounding answer for why they don't like something. Who really decides if something is cliché anyway? The public does, they decide what is overdone or timeworn and also what is still entertaining to use, so how many people does it take to decide something is cliché?

    I'm starting to think that all this talk of clichés is cliché because everybody uses it and it's getting old.
     
  2. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    Hmm tat's an interesting point. I must admit I do get annoyed sometimes having to try and manourve around cliches all the time, but at the same time I want to be original. Then again someone on here asked if their protagonist was good and I told them it was a load of cliches, so it confuses me!

    However I think that it's actually quite easy to subvert a cliche, ever so slightly. But I can see your point. Then again, I write fantasy, and if ever a genre was built for cliches, I think it'd be this one!
     
  3. Last1Left
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    Last1Left Active Member

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    I would have to agree with that sentiment. Everything's clichéd to some extent, and people shouldn't delude themselves thinking otherwise. Even so, that doesn't mean you have to talk about it constantly.

    Sometimes, I think people are just fishing for things to label clichéd. If your protagonist is a good guy, or your elf has blonde hair, is that really clichéd? Think about it. I personally think most people are good, and an elf with purple hair, no matter the circumstances, is just plain off. It's kinda like saying just because your protagonist has a nose, it's clichéd, because everyone has a nose. And besides, I'd rather read a good, clichéd novel than horrible, original one.
     
  4. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    We've made cliche cliche... Well done us...
     
  5. bone jaw
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    bone jaw Member

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    I hear you. With all the talk about avoiding cliche, sometimes it feels like everything I write falls into being so. Then, when I try to work my way around it, it still feels like a cliche, but now with a mask on. I truly think that some cliches, like everything else, can be ok in very small to moderate doses. If it's like that, then I don't mind looking past a worn idea that's been molded it into something entirely new. Having said that though, I still think that one should always try to shoot for originality first and foremost.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's one good reason to avoid asking people about plot summaries and the like. Because every story idea has been explored in some form, someone is sure to label it cliche.

    But if you write a good story that engages the reader, no one pays much attention to the fact the idea has been used before. Their attention will be on the whole story.

    The place to worry about cliches is at the phrase level. In the blink of an eye, slow as molasses, slept like a log, tight as a drum - phrases like these have been used so many times that they no longer evoke a clear image to the reader. How many people hear the phrase "in a New York minute," and vividly imagine haste?

    "He was as tight as a guitar string." To me, that give a sharper visual than, "He was as tight as a drum."

    Of course, if your plot resolution is so predictable that the reader shrugs when encountering it, maybe you should try to find something fresher. I hesitate to call that a cliche, though. It's just a weakness in the story. It may even be possible to rewrite it so it sounds less obvious.
     
  7. The Essential Writer
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    The Essential Writer Senior Member

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    It is impossible to right something that is not cliche. We've simply wrote everything.
     
  8. Sato Ayako
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    Sato Ayako Contributing Member

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    In many cases, when someone claims something is cliche, I've found that they mean one or more of several things:

    1. "That idea has been done before. You managed to pull it off without sounding like a hack and I'm jealous."
    2. "That idea has been done before. You sounded like a hack and you've wasted my time."
    3. "That idea has been done before. This was such a wonderful story I didn't even notice."
    4. "I've heard this story before and it BORES me."
    5. "I've heard the story before, but you've managed to mangle it so much I don't recognize it and now it's ANNOYING."
    6. "There's nothing original in this story. You didn't even put in the effort. Why are you wasting my time?"

    (This is all in general, of course.)

    The last item is the one that always bothers me. The thing with a cliche is it's something that has been used so many times in one or more particular ways that it isn't effective anymore. From that, we can basically say nothing is effective anymore and, as generations wear on, becoming inured to things like sex and violence, this is becoming more and more true.

    With cliche, the idea is not to use it in any particular way. What I mean by that is you put your own spin to it. Your own voice, talent, etc. If you write like you write, not how others write, then you can write a story about a farmboy who is destined to save the world and you will not write a cliched story. Younger writers, or writers who haven't yet found their voice, won't have the benefit of being able to do this. Many things they write will have some element of jarring cliche. And that's all right. It's part of the learning process.

    Personally, I like the talk of cliche. Or, times that I don't, I don't see anything particularly annoying about it. I think cliches are amazing in that there are some cliches people never get tired of hearing about, such as the tried-and-true "save the world" plot, or "badass assassin" character, as well as the "Middle Earth" setting. Then there are other cliches that people get tired of, such as the weakling woman, or the hypermasculine man (and vice versa).

    How a cliche rubs on a person also depends on how loudly it screams. If your cliche screams LOOKITIBEENUZEDB4, then your audience is going to hate you for wasting their time. If the cliche whispers, if it attempts to tiptoe past a reader sitting serenly in his chair, then it won't annoy. It won't jar.

    Then there are irascible people who will tell you you work is cliched no matter what.
     
  9. TheFedoraPirate
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    TheFedoraPirate Contributing Member

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    tvtropes.org << It HAS all been done before.

    Sato Ayoka has covered most of what I want to say here.

    But as for character cliches, most things only become intolerably cliche (like the "weak woman" or "He-man man") when the cliche is the total sum of the character i.e. "This is Suzie Weakling she is a kind, pure, healer who is kidnaped by a villain and must be rescued", there'd better be more to her 'cause not only is that cliche it's pretty damn flat and very dull. Same thing with a "good" cliche such as Deadly von Assassin a moody, brooding assassin with a dark past ...

    'Course knowing what colour your character's toe-jam is doesn't make them a well-rounded character, either. [/rambling]
     
  10. MumblingSage
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    MumblingSage Contributing Member

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    Also from TV Tropes: TROPES ARE NOT BAD.

    So don't sweat if you're using one cliche--er, trope. Call it a trope.

    And then see the 'playing with tropes' section.
     
  11. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    This is why I've never taken that "Mary Sue" test online or whatever it is, because I know that no matter what character I use, or how I answer, it'll probably be considered a "Mary Sue" in some way. It's just the opinion of some person on the Internet as to what constitutes a Mary Sue, or a cliche, and without them knowing me personally, even better than I know myself, who could honestly say with 100% accuracy if it is or not? And as long as the story and the character are written well, who really cares?

    Everything will be a cliche somewhere, to someone. The very foundations of fictional writing--the time-honored plots, the archetypal characters that people love so much simply because they know them so well--are all cliches. That doesn't mean they're bad, though. I think what people often forget is that cliches are cliches for a reason, and that just because something has been done plenty of times it isn't necessarily bad. In fact, why would something be done so often unless it resonates with a lot of people on some level? (And yes, this applies even to lousy movies and music. They sell so well because SOMEBODY likes them.)

    How well a cliche is handled by a writer (or other artist) is what determines the difference between a cardboard/stock character or plot (a walking cliche) and an archetype. An archetype is just a cliche that's handled well so that it seems original rather than trite.

    It's a very fine line, but in the end, what's cliche is just a matter of opinion. Majority opinion is what people tend to notice.

    I can't stand the cliche of the tavern brawl, for example, but lots of fantasy writers seem to love it for some weird reason. *shrug*
     
  12. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Cliches are somthing that label every genre.
    I tend ignore the reviews that only say work is chiche, as I don't think they give any real feedback of review of the story.
     

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