1. Garball
    Offline

    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2013
    Messages:
    2,846
    Likes Received:
    1,332
    Location:
    S'port, LA

    Too anti-cliche?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Garball, Jun 6, 2013.

    Many, if not most, of the critiques I read of others mention something being too cliche. Is there a point where you have to stop trying to avoid cliches and just admit that the scenario, saying, or whatever works because it is real? There was a recent post about somebody doing drugs in a dirty, graffiti filled room and one of the critiques was that the setting was too cliche. Would you rather the the author have you doing street drugs in a hedge maze outside of a castle in the Rhone valley and pairing the metallic taste in the druggie's mouth with the flavors of garrigue in a Chateauneuf-du-Pape?
     
    1 person likes this.
  2. Alesia
    Offline

    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2013
    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN
    There's all kind of places you can use for that scenario. From personal experience, I never shot up in a dirty graffiti filled room, nor did anyone I knew. We used in our living rooms, bedrooms, back seats of cars, bar bathrooms, wherever was convenient yet hidden from the prying eyes of Johnny Law. It's pretty easy to avoid the cliche' if you know your subject well. Cliche's like dirty heroin dens (while they do exist in reality) generally stem from people that don't know their subject very well, so they slip into what they've seen in the movies and on TV. Personally, I don't care about cliche' descriptive words and the like, I just let my stuff flow and if it's cliche' so be it, not like I'm trying to get published or anything.
     
  3. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    There is a "great" sentence in a very stupid novel I remember: MC enters a public toilet and describes it by saying: "The toilet was the dirtiest place you could imagine." Full stop. He says absolutely nothing more about it. Why is it dirty, what makes it dirty, why is this dirtiness in any way important for the scene, for the plot, for the character - no details. A public toilet is supposed to be dirty - so, this one is dirty.
    That's what I think of cliches - they are usually completely unnecessary - a fast and easy way out if you, as Alesia says, don't know the subject that good to know of other possibilities... Of course, you could choose to go with a cliche, but you need to acknowledge it in some way. Maybe the character thinks to himself: "I've seen this s**thole somewhere before... Oh yeah, in just about any low-budget tv show!" or you go over the top with the cliche, making a subversive statement with it.

    Do you remember the sperm whale and the bowl of petunias in the "Hitchhiker's Guide"?
     
  4. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Yay, that was me. Now I feel special. The reason for pointing it out was explained by Alesia pretty well, but since erebh doesn't come off as a guy who lives under a rock playing video games, I didn't write there "omg you know nuthin'" 'cause, indeed, drugs can be taken and shot pretty much anywhere and I liked the scene, omigawd, despite it. So clichés aren't a make-or-break deal either : )

    That'd be AWESOME.

    I appreciate if people point out something I write rings like a cliché / sterotype, and they have. I also like reading about different types of scenarios than expected. Why be anti-cliché then, why should I give a crap?
    Wikipedia, what do you say?
    Wikipedia: Cliché is "an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning, or effect, and even, to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel."

    Truth be told, clichés are difficult to avoid, and if it works, I see no point in stressing over them.

    ETA: also, clichés are a great source for humor too, and a good way to "surprise" the reader if they expect certain type of e.g. behavior from a character, their expectations based on clichés/sterotypes.
     
  5. erebh
    Offline

    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,620
    Likes Received:
    467
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Has anyone seen Trainspotting?

    Of course junkies can shoot up anywhere but dodgy, filthy squats suit me and the scene I tried to create.

    To say gay men hang around public toilets would be clichéd too but look at George Michael - these things happen so while possibly clichéd, also realistic - where is the line?

    I recently added a critique to someone's piece about Vietnam, I painted a picture of jungles, of napalm and of gooks firing blindly from the trees and somebody else said it was clichéd too. Sometimes you can't win. Should Vietnam be described as the Amazon with bears meeting with snakes with big eyes singing I'm the king of the jungle?

    Love Garball's Chateau Neuf du Pape guzzling French, Aristocratic opium smokers ducking through a maze of Louis XIV fineries. :)
     
  6. ithestargazer
    Offline

    ithestargazer Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2010
    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    the big M, Australia
    Definitely a story there.
     
  7. pinelopikappa
    Offline

    pinelopikappa Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2009
    Messages:
    152
    Likes Received:
    32
    Location:
    Hellas
    Edit, stereotypes can be fun. No problem if they are well written.
     
  8. sanco
    Offline

    sanco Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2013
    Messages:
    234
    Likes Received:
    17
    I try to avoid stereotypes and create archetypes. You also want to find a balance between realism and quirkiness.
     
  9. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    You can't avoid certain cliche's - my story right now is about a slighty rocky relationship between a step father and his step
    daughter cliche right? well, I'm trying to avoid it being overly cliche by making her not hate him, she just loves to yank
    his chain.

    Don't worry about cliches just give them your spin. You don't have to do the opposite. In your example of the graffiti
    painted room that you spun into a castle maze, there's an amazing opportunity there -
    wouldn't that be a cool graffiti image? A guy is doing drugs and imagining himself in the medieval mural.
     
  10. Alesia
    Offline

    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2013
    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN
    I loved that movie.
    I will give you this though, though it wasn't your typical "heroin den", none of our homes were particularly clean. Overflowing ashtrays, pizza boxes on the floor with half eaten pieces left inside, stuff like that. When you're on drugs, things tend to become dirty because you don't care.
     
  11. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas
    That would be really interesting!

    Cliches are difficult if not impossible to avoid completely. It's a good idea not to overuse them and have balance. Thinking outside the box never hurt anyone. I agree with KaTrian. The problem with cliches is they can easily lose effectiveness which is something you do not want in any story.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    We don't all agree with that comment about the room being cliché.

    I think one needs to be careful worrying about every single opinion. If you have three or four people telling you the same thing, too cliché, maybe it is. But if one person thinks so, well, is it the reader or the writer? Could be either. There are no absolute rules that I can see except it has to be readable. Even bad grammar has a place in some pieces.


    And I should add, it may be that a junkie in a shooting gallery is cliché, but it's also a real life situation. There are shooting galleries. Any real situation can also be cliché depending on the story around it. Is every 2 vampire 1 human triangle a cliché? Currently, yes. But that doesn't mean a fresh story involving that scenario isn't out there somewhere in the works.
     
  13. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I've got a jealous girlfriend in my story that I decided to make a nice person underneath, not as mean as she first appears.
     
  14. blackstar21595
    Offline

    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2013
    Messages:
    598
    Likes Received:
    34
    Location:
    Brooklyn,NY
    I recently read a short story collection that takes place in Vietnam during the war and the author never mentioned napalm. And the only time gooks were mentioned was in dialogue. As for the jungle, he described it as a "shit field" and went very in depth with his definition of a shit field. And the author is a Vietnam war veteran. His name is Tim O'Brien.
     
  15. blackstar21595
    Offline

    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2013
    Messages:
    598
    Likes Received:
    34
    Location:
    Brooklyn,NY
    I wouldn't call it a cliche because I dont know the why. For all I know, she could be mad at him because he won't let her get a dog. But I'll be honest, one should try to be original. Originality makes the reader want to know what will happen and appreciate the writer a lot more. And if one wants to be a good writer, then they will be sure to avoid cliches. I read a short story about a guy who writes obituaries in a newspaper, and one day someone that he wrote an obituary for shows up in the office, and the guy gets fired for not doing his job properly.

    Here's another original story, A man's daughter gets attacked by a dog, and the man bites the dog's ear to save her.

    A soldier in Vietnam gets his girlfriend to come to Vietnam and stay there with him and his platoon.

    Last one, a soldier in Vietnam goads his lieutenant into sending him on increasing dangerous missions. He even tells his lieutenant(who's short), "My idea of a joke is a four inch dick on a two inch lieutenant."
     
  16. heal41hp
    Offline

    heal41hp Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2013
    Messages:
    225
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Oklahoma, USA
    Originality definitely isn't everything. I've read some great mundane stuff that's been done a thousand times before and the style in which it was written made it new and interesting. If you constantly strive for originality, you'll be pushing yourself more and more into the absurd if you're not careful. Anime, from what I understand of it, is all about trying to be original with its concepts. I can't stand it because of how bizarre, absurd, and ridiculous it is. It just wants to be original and amazing. Nothing else seems to count.

    As has been stated several times already, clichés have their use. Don't avoid them at all costs. Use them to your advantage, whatever that happens to mean to you. They are just another tool in your writer's toolbox, not something to be tossed out.

    Everything else in this thread seems to be taken care of. Everything I could want to say has been said. :)
     
    1 person likes this.
  17. John Eff
    Offline

    John Eff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2012
    Messages:
    77
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Norfolk, UK
    A scene can't be cliche, but how it's written can.

    Cliche is a word bandied about far too freely and furthermore is one of those words which sounds really silly the more you say it.
     
  18. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Or the milieu/setting where the scene takes place can be a cliché, and no matter how you write it, it will come off as one, but all in all, it probably won't feel boring if the writing is good.
    I don't think it's bandied around too freely. In fact, it should be thrown at aspiring writers' faces more often so that they'd learn to take other angles to their stories than the... hm, easiest one? Common one? You get the gist of it. By the way, I'm not implying whatever I write is totally cliché-free. Pfft, as if! I just like to be conscious of them, or of whatever tropes. Plus it's fun to play with them.

    Also, it can be culture-specific. In Finland we don't really have homeless people or squatters because you get free housing from the government. These apartments look very different from the quintessential L.A. heroin den we see on TV. 10 months of the year you freeze your ass off, so graffiti-ridden abandoned buildings aren't particularly popular amidst druggies (though of course you can find needles inside them from time to time, esp. the souther you go). Sometimes life is just like in James Bond novels (like some ex-KGB agents can attest), sometimes it's plain and boring; yellow wallpapers and IKEA furniture. Sometimes your dealer is a non-descript guy, or the pusher is a hot chick. Writers have a wide array of options to choose from, and we pick what we deem the best option. The IKEA furniture and non-descript guy don't equal boring, but it lends a very different mood to a setting than graffiti, piss and crap, and a stinky mattress in a corner.
     
  19. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    It's true there're plenty of rubbish animes out there, but then that's the same as the west - there're plenty of rubbish cartoons and TV series and movies in the west. It's not fair to generalise like that. Can I say, "All Hollywood movies are trash"? There're plenty that are trash, but it's just not a fair generalisation. However, I can understand if anime simply isn't a style that you like - it has a very specific way of doing things, in its art as well as its stories, that not all would enjoy.

    Anime humour is slightly bizarre at times and I've noticed a lot of my western friends are rather confused by it and just find it weird. I grew up with anime and I find it cute and yes, bizarre, but in a funny kind of way. I do believe anime is an acquired taste, and on top of that there's the culture clash - the Japanese simply do not handle things the same way you'd expect in western TV, and why should it?

    It's just not true that "all" anime tries to be original and "amazing" - one of my favourite stories from the classic film direction Miyazaki is about a 12-year-old girl going through school, trying to become a writer, getting a teenage crush and learning how to deal with all these emotions, and that's an anime. Growing up, I watched an anime-adaptation of The Secret Garden (British classic), Sound of Music, and an American classic whose name I believe is "Daddy Long Legs" focusing on an orphan who is sponsored by a stranger to go to boarding school, and the only thing she knew about her sponsor, to whom she's eternally grateful, is his silhouette against the setting sun - hence "Daddy long leg", because his shadow was stretched against the wall. There was nothing absurd or "magical" in your typical anime-way at all.

    Other anime themes involve technology (sci-fi), magic (usually includes transformations, fighting and collecting something), saving the world, trying to be the best in X activity, entering into a second world - the truth is, other than the transformation thing and perhaps "trying to be the best" theme, all the others are prevalent in the west too. I mean, just think how many films and books you know that're about saving the world or going into an alternate reality/world, and since I don't watch or read sci-fi, I don't know about technology, but just think of the films - AI and I, Robot are both about technology.

    Like, in terms of anime's "originality" when it comes to themes and plots, it's really not very different from anything you'd see in the west. How anime handles it is the difference, which I agree is often exaggerated. You just have to pick and choose, just as you pick and choose your books and films normally in the west.

    Btw, to the OP - when something's cliche, it's usually in the writing rather than exactly what's happening. However, it's true that people seem to be hyper-sensitive to "cliche", or perhaps it's just an easy excuse - akin to when people tell you why your opening didn't hook them ("I just don't care about your character" - that's not actually the problem at all, but the symptom, only no one can pinpoint what is the real problem, so they all fall back onto that).
     
    1 person likes this.
  20. T.Trian
    Offline

    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,246
    Likes Received:
    1,449
    Location:
    Mushroom Land
    This reminds me of the one and only time I encountered a guy shooting up in a graffiti-ridden, crummy room: my band played a gig in a club that no longer exists (you remember the one; I kissed my girl by the factory wall...), and the fuse went out. When we went to look for the guy who ran the place, he was sitting on a beat-up couch with a needle in his arm. He had tattoos and the place was made to look crummy on purpose (meaning all graffitis were done by paid artists), but that didn't change the fact that the bathroom looked like one after a nuclear meltdown (and stunk like it too) and you would've been nuts to drink from a pint (thank God the barkeep was just as happy to serve the drinks straight from cans/bottles).

    Apart from that, every other time I've seen people take drugs, it's been outdoors during summer (usually in parks, on the street, or festival areas, but no seedy alleys), in normal, boring apartments, or very nice, very tidy ones (the latter mostly when we were still too young to move out/get into pubs/clubs). Any setting can be made to work as long as you do it well (how's that for being ambiguous?).
     
  21. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    I remember. But that was basically a public place he was shooting in? Nowadays it's a Nepalese restaurant :)
     
  22. erebh
    Offline

    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,620
    Likes Received:
    467
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Did you dream a a dream by the old canal?
     
  23. heal41hp
    Offline

    heal41hp Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2013
    Messages:
    225
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Oklahoma, USA
    I appreciate you calling me on that (and so thoroughly at that!). It was really poor form to make such a huge generalization. :) It's not fair to judge everything based on my few, poor experiences.
     
    1 person likes this.
  24. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas
    This is why I have so much fun talking to random strangers about their lives. You hear some interesting things!

    Definitely. Just because something is not expected doesn't mean it can't work!
     
  25. sanco
    Offline

    sanco Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2013
    Messages:
    234
    Likes Received:
    17
    A friend and I made a funny observation the other day. A lot of movie drug-dealers have fish tanks in their houses/apartments.
     

Share This Page