1. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2017
    Messages:
    761
    Likes Received:
    701
    Location:
    Colorado

    Secret Agent Clichés

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Sclavus, Nov 16, 2017.

    When it comes to cops, secret government agents, soldiers--pretty much any kind of investigative character who uses a gun to fight bad guys--there's a lot of clichés I think need to be put to rest. For my main character Vincent and his fellow gunslingers, I've tried to avoid:

    "I know he's lying/telling the truth/good/bad/etc. because I looked into his eyes."

    "I never miss a shot/fail a mission/lose a fight. Ever. Except that one time when it really mattered and it absolutely destroyed my confidence."

    "I'm Billy Badass. Kick me in the face and I'll wipe my lip, then smile and break all of your ribs with one punch to your nuts."

    "I regret having to kill and it destroys my soul each and every time I pull the trigger. But I'm going to keep doing it, because who will if I won't? I mean besides the other thousands of my colleagues. Besides them."

    What other clichés have you seen that should die in action characters?
     
  2. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2015
    Messages:
    1,852
    Likes Received:
    2,763
    Location:
    UK
    I like rib-shattering nut punches! Why would you ever want those to go away?
     
  3. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2017
    Messages:
    761
    Likes Received:
    701
    Location:
    Colorado
    That kind of cliché only works in some situations, like in The Matrix where you can shrug off a hit if you realize it's not real. Whenever it happens in "real world" settings, it becomes a yawn fest. In some books, I've seen scientific explanations for why those hits don't have their full impact, but if we're operating on real world rules without armor, it's unrealistic and boring.

    Far too often clichés undermine the story. For visual media, it's usually for the sake of the visuals. In written stories, I think it comes from writers who are unwilling to kill their darlings.
     
  4. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2017
    Messages:
    374
    Likes Received:
    521
    None of them, because execution always trumps concept. All of the things you list have often been done badly, but any "cliche" can be executed well and made to work in a story, even if it's been done (or done badly) a thousand times before.

    I think anyone who's tempted to use "cliche" or "trope" to mean "bad" needs to read this page. :)http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TropesAreTools
     
    Shenanigator likes this.
  5. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2017
    Messages:
    170
    Likes Received:
    150
    Hahahahah! Your list really made me laugh, it's spot on. I think the others are right that a lot depends on how you write them to avoid cliches, they need to have more to them than that.

    Even so, I know what you mean. I don't read many detective novels any more because I read one too many where they just have to solve their case to lay the one murderer that got away to rest from a similar case and finally they can kick their alcohol/drug/other self destructive habit. Although I know there are lots of very good detective novels that are original out there, it's just finding them.
     
    Sclavus likes this.
  6. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2017
    Messages:
    761
    Likes Received:
    701
    Location:
    Colorado
    Ah, yes. The "I will be whole once I take this unrealistic opportunity to nail the bastard who got away."

    As others pointed out, clichés and tropes aren't inherently evil, but many are rarely well done. The trouble is finding stories where such tropes are executed well.

    The Dresden Files is a good fantasy noir series that uses several tropes that have been done poorly elsewhere, but Jim Butcher uses some to good effect. I don't care as much about originality as much as execution, but some clichés are so overdone or outlandish that I dislike seeing them at all.
     
  7. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,913
    Likes Received:
    3,891
    Location:
    On the Road.
    If a novel is well done, I don't even notice if there are tropes. In fact, I've got to think real hard if something qualifies as a trope (probably yes) :)

    Sometimes I notice tropes even in a well-executed story but don't care, because the approach is novel or humorous. But yes; mostly I'm reading realistic stories, and the above mentioned tropes could theoretically happen but I've read too often to take them seriously in fiction novels anymore. Non-fiction is a different matter—that's why I stick to it by preference.
     
  8. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    15,290
    Likes Received:
    18,137
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    When your lead character is an ex special forces homeless man who kills zombies while dressed as a penguin I sense disbelief is pretty much suspended anyway

    On that point ex special forces leads generally - particularly the ones from really improbable special forces backgrounds - Jack Reacher, I'm looking at you " I used to be a military cop and we were trained better than delta force because we had to police delta force ".... bollocks you were
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice