Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Avoid clichés. Or....not?

Chances are, if you've ever Googled "writing tips" or something like it, you've come across "Avoid Clichés" numerous times. When I'm writing, there's always the voice in the back of my head (not the character's voice, but rather, the voice that feeds on my failure) telling me "Been done. Too many times." So I spend thirty seconds backspacing everything I'd just written. (maybe that's why my backspace button popped off. I've worn it out. Highlighting and deleting is too easy.)

But should we always avoid clichés? I don't think so. Clichés becomes clichés because they work. They work so people continue using them until the world is sick of them, and then they're pegged with that dreaded word.

Yet, after they're done countless times, sometimes they still work. Take Perfect Chemistry, by Simone Elkeles,  for example. Bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks falls for rich girl who has everything? This is the kind of thing the word "cliché" was created for. The people who didn't like it, generally don't like it for that reason. Yet, it's an extremely popular YA novel, and many people adore it (myself included).

An example of avoiding clichés, Twilight. The vampires in Twilight have nothing in common with your typical vamps, other than their bodies craving human blood. In fact, even their craving sways a bit from normal vampires, as they can survive on animal blood. How often do you hear of vampires feeding on animals instead of humans? How often do they sparkle? How many stories have there been, where vampires didn't die when staked in the heart? And what do a lot of people say they hate about Twilight? They aren't "real" vampires. She steered clear of most clichés, and people criticize it.

Where's the middle ground here?

These things work--for the author writing the books. I think it all boils down to you. I don't believe there's a formula for literary success. If there was, everyone would be doing it. Write what works for you. The only way to know what works for you, is to write it!

Does that mean I don't think we should take advice? Absolutely not. You may come across something that is the greatest piece of advice you've ever heard. I just don't believe we should live by everything we hear or read. If you take the advice of every author, and every website you come across, your binding yourself by rules. Do you think Stephenie Meyer paid attention to the rules? I doubt it. (If she did, I'd say she would've realized she uses a lot of adjectives, which the experts say is a no-no.)

Why am I writing this post? Because I get annoyed at myself every time I put my fingers on the keys. I pay way too much attention too all those rules, and I think too far ahead to the finished product, and I get stuck. Sometimes I wish there was a way to undo everything I've "learned" about writing.

So how do you feel about clichés? Do you find yourself bound by the endless sea of rules on writing?


  1. You know, I love a good cliche. I've written in a few book reviews on my blog that as long as the author puts their own twist on it, I don't mind that it's not the most original idea. How many novels have I read where there is a love triangle between friends? SO MANY. Yet every time I stumble across a new novel with that similar premise I add it to my reading list.

    If you think about it, not many ideas are 100% original anymore. With books, it's always how the author has made a concept their own that makes all the difference. Much like Perfect Chemistry. Forbidden love isn't anything new but the way Simone Elkeles wrote about it is what made all the difference.

    I say write what you want to write about. :) Just make the concept your own.

  2. I completely agree! Elkeles writes chemistry like a champ! She puts her personal touch on it, and it makes a huge difference.

    And I also agree with ideas not being 100% original anymore. Even if I come across a book that seems original, there's a pretty good chance that something like it has been done before. Even if I've never read it, or never will--it's probably still out there lurking somewhere.

  3. ohhh interesting post. i think it's near impossible to come up with a completely original plot. humans have just been alive for too many years. i don't have a problem with cliches...i mean come on we all love a good love triangle (people ate it up with the camelot tales, and more recently twilight, vampire academy, etc.), or the evil uncle who kills (or attempts to kill) his brother and/or nephew to take the throne, etc (hamlet, the lion king, prince caspian, iron daughter...) anyway - i think there's still plenty of room for originality within these hackneyed plot lines.

    by the way i am passing on the versatile blogger award to here:

    happy saturday!


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