1. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    When you say 'cliche' which kind do you mean?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tea@3, Jan 31, 2016.

    I hear a lot of talk about cliches in writing forums but as I was just reading a highly praised book (the one I mentioned in the 'chicken or egg' OP) I caught myself rolling my eyes at a certain passage, so I paused reading and asked, "Okay, why did that just irritate you?"

    My answer (to myself, yes I'm weird that way) was because it came off very cliche which BORES me instantly. (OTOH I believe it's impossible to create any written work that doesn't contain at least some commonly familiar things. So I usually expect any book to have at least some cliches. Should I not?)

    As I read the page in question, I thought: 'Hmmm, wait. It's not the actual words in the dialogue, but the THING they are discussing that sounds tired, because I've heard it in a thousand other books or movies.'

    And that's when this hit me: the thing that I call a cliche may not be a cliche at all. So I looked it up:
    1. 1.
      a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.
      "the old cliché “one man's meat is another man's poison.”"
      synonyms: platitude, hackneyed phrase, commonplace, banality, old saying, maxim, truism, stock phrase, trite phrase; a very predictable or unoriginal thing or person.
    2. 2.
      a stereotype or electrotype.

    The passage from the book that made me roll came off as far too familiar (shop worn?) dialogue about a policeman being "Just one screw-up away from suspension... I'm gonna take your badge... When I'm done with you you'll be back on traffic duty..." etc. Sorry but I have heard this so many times I can't take it anymore. (argggh! lol) At this point, even if cops really do get threatened this way in real life, it still comes off boring to read that.

    So, I get that an overused word/phrase is a cliche, and that a stereotype is also a version of a cliche.

    But what do you call the kind I am referring to, the over-used situation/idea? Mind you, I'm not referring to the actual word choice or dialogue/phrase, but rather to the IDEA that's being re-hashed over and over in so similarly a manner, over many different written works. It's a too familiar thing happening in the story, and it comes off unoriginal, like the writer can't think of a new way to do it. Does this make sense?

    Is this a cliche too? Or is it called something else?

    I guess you'd simply call it, The Unoriginal Idea?

    Thanks in advance for your answers. :supersmile:
     
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  2. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The definition of cliche that I've found most apt in fiction writing is actually none of those definitions. For me, cliche requires the thing to be commonly found and the thing to not fit the story well (with the idea being that cliche will identify when something is placed into a story because it is commonly found in other stories, even though it is not the best fit for this specific story). In this definition, a phrase or plot element cannot inherently be cliche.
     
  3. MichaelP
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    MichaelP Active Member

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    Expressing anger by "making fists" and "grinding one's teeth" are annoying cliches. Another cliche: "His heart skipped a beat." Another: "His heart fluttered."

    Cliches are the tool of the lazy, the incompetent, and the inexperienced.
     
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  4. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    A cliché is a form of expression that is less effective because it is familiar to the audience. (An idiom is a form of expression that is more effective because it is familiar to the audience.)

    It may be splitting hairs, but by the definition I use, an idea per se is not cliché. But it could be that no matter how you express the idea, it will come across as a cliché because the audience is already familiar with the idea.
     
  5. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    That's what I think too. A 'story' cliche instead of a 'language' cliche.

    So, whenever I refer to cliches, this is what I mean too. But I think I'm sometimes misunderstood because others seems to refer more to the language cliche so they are thrown off by my use of the word.

    Yes the language cliches are trype too, IMO, but I don't expect them as much when I'm reading published fiction because I figure not many make it to the final published draft. It seems, however, there are 'angry police captains chewing out hotshot rogue cops for insubordination' all over the place.

    <shrugs>
     
  6. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Well, I do see what you mean. I do. But for me it's not the way it's expressed but the fact that the same incident/scenario is repeating AGAIN so predictably, as seen in oh approximately 5,735 other novels in recent years.

    Using my above example about cops, let me rephrase the question:

    Has anyone ever seen a cop MC movie where the cop WASN'T reprimanded or verbally dressed down by his/her superior?

    I can't remember one, lol.

    :pop:
     
  7. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Also, this is what I meant in the OP when I said I think the word cliche doesn't fit (maybe) the 'repetitive shopworn' incident/scenario/idea overused commonly in fiction.

    So, like I said, there may not even be a word for what I'm referring to here.

    Anyone?
     
  8. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dunno if I have seen a movie or TV show where that does not happen, but The Wire pulls it off beautifully:









     
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  9. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The great writer who has long term writers block
     
  10. Samurai Jack
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    Samurai Jack Active Member

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    This thread seems less effective to me because I am familiar with the topic. At what point does this become meta?
     
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  11. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    When I think cliche I'm thinking of anything that I've seen many times before - whether it's a phrase or a plot.

    You might be searching for the term trope? Of course tropes are not bad, and not all tropes are necessarily cliches.
     
  12. lastresort
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    lastresort Banned

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    OK, so I'm not the sharpest tool in the thread!
     
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  13. lastresort
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    lastresort Banned

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    Cliché? Risqué?
    Is that all you have to say?
    My choice of words not imaginative?
    My tone of voice too conservative?
    You think I'm lacking skill?
    Of me, you've had your fill?
    Well, I'm far from finished yet
    The most boring that you've met?
    Cliché! Hooray!
    I hope you're here to stay!
     
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  14. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    lol Love it!

    True story: I once got mixed up and said 'brightest tool in the shed' and everyone at my job rolled.

    Then also there's a character in Boon Dock Saints (film) that does this (incorrectly mixing cliches) all through the film, and it's hilarious.
     
  15. R.K. Blackburn
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    R.K. Blackburn Member

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    Cliches are the tool of the lazy, the incompetent, and the inexperienced.[/QUOTE]

    Bob Dylan has used the cliche extensively in his lyrics. The power of cliche is that it describes ideas and images so vividly and memorably that they become commonly understood. Dylan uses this common understanding to set up his original lines and give them power and meaning. Cliche is in many ways just the over use of perfected language. Do better than "between a rock and a hard place." I think that scenes and situations and plot concepts could be considered trite but not as cliche.
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    This is one of those things that is difficult to judge in the abstract. Good writers can and do make cliches work for them. The only question is whether any given use works or not.
     
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  17. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Yes, I get what you are saying. I guess The Wire examples above prove they can be done well. But I swear, lol, anytime I see the 'cop gets chewed out' routine it just totally breaks me out of suspension of disbelief. :/
     
  18. Samurai Jack
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    Samurai Jack Active Member

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    But this is why I'll never understand the circle jerk of talking about cliches, tropes, or anything else of the nature. In the end we can all maybe, probably agree the 'cop gets chewed out' routine is done a lot, but, it's a personal reaction of whether it's appropriate, done well, or just enjoyed. So is cliche a personal experience or a hard definition?

    21 Jump Street, The Other Guys, and Cop Out were three buddy cop movies. 21 Jump Street is hilariously stupid, The Other Guys is a cinematic masterpiece, Cop Out is terrible. They all use cliches, except the story, the dialogue, and the chemistry of the main characters determines success.

    And then, what if I've never seen a movie or read a story involving 'cop gets chewed out,' and the very first time I do I think, man, he better not screw up again or his life is going to suck! When I start describing that reaction to people, are they going to explain to me how overused that situation is, how unoriginal the author is, how I would understand if I'd spent more time reading that genre? Should that affect how much I enjoyed it?
     
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  19. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    You make great points. I feel ya. You're tired of seeing cliche threads!

    I thought my thread was a bit different, because I did a search and saw people were mentioning the language aspect. But nonetheless it's still a valid thing to ponder (for me; I speak for myself here) if one is trying to find a way to write better, more original.

    Also I note the three examples you cited are comedies, maybe parodies, but I was referring to works attempting to be more realistic. But, I get your point. I do. It's all subjective based on the person's past viewings. But I think that applies more to viewers than to writers attempting to write in a certain genre.
     
  20. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think there's something in that. The first time Johann Cruyff did a Cruyff turn it was magic. Now, it's commonplace, hell, even I can do it. But if you've never seen it before, it's magic again.

    To a certain extent, the more well-read the reader, the more sophisticated the writing needs to be to trigger that Wow! reaction.
     
  21. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you came up with a good word right there to describe it: shopworn.

    The best I can come up with other than that would be hackneyed (which I think is where we get the word 'hack' to describe an unimaginative writer).

    And I have to agree with you. It's why I stopped reading novels (and watching shows) where the main character is a cop. You can pretty much set your watch at the beginning and predict when the captain opens his desk drawer and says, "You badge and your gun... now."

    Or espionage/political dramas in which someone says, "Oh, crap! He's not after <fill in the blank>! He's gonna kill the president!"
     
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  22. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Trope cliché?
     
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  23. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I try to say trope when I mean trope and cliché where I mean cliché and something-I'm-bored-of when I mean something-I'm-bored-of. But I'll sometimes work out which one the OP really means and go with that. I find people most often say "cliché" when they mean "something I'm bored of".
     
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  24. Samurai Jack
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    Samurai Jack Active Member

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    @Wreybies Scarlote Witch, with a power somewhat akin to telepathy, is able to feel her twin brother Quicksilver die. I give that a pass.
     
  25. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, agreed, but it doesn't cover for all the normal mortal twins we see on TV and film who feel their twin die through the Twin-Link. o_O
     

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