Saturday, May 4, 2019


Fiction writing is about wording and its effects on plot, characters, and setting. The words and ideas behind the words can be either innovative or mind-numbing repetitions of previous words or overused cliché not only of phrases, but also plots, settings, and characters. If writers want readers, they don’t want to use banal writing, yet readers do want to feel some type of relation to the characters and their world. This means sometimes cliché situations work.

One of the first cliché readers encounter are book covers and blurbs, which show genre type, and allow readers to recognize whether a book has a plot type they like to read before they buy it. So in this instance, they are very useful.

So cliché happens, and as in speech, it gives listeners instant understanding as do analogies. Cliché can be useful in writing, but more often it can be the inclusion of thoughtless, worn out phrases, or the overuse of theme and device tropes and typecast characters on the writer's part that provides no other purpose in the story.

Cliché in Wording

Because of its prevalence, cliché can creep into writing unnoticed. When used too often it can grab the reader’s attention, and when that happens, it often becomes a turnoff for the reader. Anything that distracts the reader and pulls them from the story is dangerous. Often they won't return, so it is important to recognize and control the use of clichés. Cliché List has an extensive list of common clichés.

But are these commonplace usages always bad? Not always. They can be used in creative ways such as to define a character through their dialogue. When a character speaks using a cliché, it shows part of their character. While I don’t think readers want to read one cliché after another in the basic story information, when a character speaks or thinks using clichés, it tells the reader something about that character’s personality without the writer having to describe it.

The key to using cliché phrasing is selecting when and where to use it to keep the reader engaged.
Clichéd Characters
Typecast characters can include stereotypes that are repeated without variation, which is not a good idea. Writers want their characters to be fresh and different to the reader, and the reader wants characters whose situations and reactions they can empathize with but not recognize as having read before--at least not too often. Yet acceptable stereotypes exist, usually defined by their business like cowboys, spies, Regency noblemen, working women, etc. Generally speaking, every person has a recognizable personality type, so typecasting characters can’t be all bad. This can be used to create characters. When a story starts with a cliché character but morphs into something very different, it changes the reader's view of the character. As long as characters remain relatable to the readers, even if they fall off the abyss of sanity, they remain interesting characters.
Settings in most instances are familiar places or places the reader would like to visit. Only so many ways exist to explain New York, Paris, or London, or any city, the same with any region of the world. Seasons, time of day, as well as location are important in stories. Here is one area where strong descriptive wording helps make a difference, especially when used to create a mood.
Some plot device tropes are well understood by readers as they have encountered them in previous books. This speeds up understanding and moves the story forward faster. Every genre has its tropes, or common, even overused, plot lines and devices. It starts with genres and then into tropes. Often readers chose a book because of the trope.

Cliché in contemporary "romances," include billionaire bosses who fall in love with ordinary women who are extraordinary in some way. Cowboy or soldier romances are other tropes frequently used, but there are many more. Almost every Regency romance includes a noble aristocrat whose behavior is often borderline moral, but he remains an honest man with a good heart, and one who may or may not be looking for a wife. The woman under consideration for a wife is either the rich debutante or a governess. Here character tropes are in full play, too.  Fantasy and Science Fiction have their trope story lines, as do mystery and adventure stories. It is almost a given in writing. Readers enjoy these tropes because they’ve read and enjoyed them before. So whenever the reader has experienced the problems the characters encounter, the reader often creates a mental link based on understanding and sympathy. 

To make these ‘clichés’ relevant to the story, the writer needs to be aware of what they are doing and create new avenues through old landscapes.

Writing Maniac:
Tropes in Literature 

TV Tropes The Grand List Of Over Used Science Fiction Cliches

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