“a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.”
When you first hear the definition of a cliché I bet your mind goes towards a negative thought, not a positive one. The terms, overused, and lacking in original thought don’t exactly reek of confidence. When I think of a cliché, the first one that comes to mind is:
“Like a kid in a candy store”
That particular cliché is probably the first one I think of because social media is splattered with meme’s with that as their caption. Everybody uses clichés at least occasionally, most often in a conversation. Are clichés really all that bad thought? Must we avoid them like the plague in our writing – another cliché for ya ;). If your enjoy making an outline for your novels, it can help you spot a stereotype you have within your plot. I’ve written a post that can guide you in making an effective outline.
The best advice I can give you is to be cautious when using them, you don’t want your writing to be littered with clichés – giving the appearance that you are completely unoriginal. If one or two clichés fit perfectly within your writing, by all means, add them in. I can imagine a character within a story who loves lame jokes, and drops clichés all the time – and in that context they would be fitting, and won’t leave unoriginal undercurrents tainting your writing.
Clichés are more than just overused sayings though, they exist in plots, character types, and descriptions.
A few typical examples of character clichés that you should aim to avoid:
- The young woman torn between two loves – one dangerous, and one safe.
- The scorned woman who is seeking revenge.
- The nerdy boy next door who is in love with his beautiful neighbour.
Tips to help you avoid stereotypes and maintain originality:
- Use your favorite stories as inspiration – not guidelines
- Develop fully rounded characters that think logically, as you would – unless your character is an idiot.
- Don’t assume your novel needs to be filled with dramatic, over-zealous, action-packed scenes. Reach into the boring parts of life and craft them into intriguing scenes.
Boring –> Intrigue – Example:
With her mind on other matters, Amy washed the knife she used to prepare dinner for Jonah last night. Jonah warned her not to make anything exotic, so she spent all day simmering a chilli for their dinner guests. Nobody had told her that Mrs. Alma had a severe allergy to jalapeño peppers – why didn’t anyone say anything? I didn’t know exotic extended to spicy. Mrs. Alma’s face swelled up within seconds, Amy just stared at her, mouth gaping, and she continued to sit and stare until long after the paramedics had left.
This scene is boring in nature, Amy is simply washing the dishes, and thinking about the previous nights events – nothing exciting. Accidentally serving someone food they are allergic to happens frequently, and sometimes with dire consequences. It’s realistic, but it’s intriguing – what happened to Mrs. Alma?
It’s hard to avoid stereotypes completely, they exist because we fell in love with them once, and they became overused because of our love. Tap the creative juices flowing through your veins, and you won’t have to worry too hard about being cliché – creativity gives birth to originality.
Comment to let me know what cliché or stereotype you are drawn towards!