One topic roaming around the writer world is the debate over cliché. By definition, a cliché is an overused expression or idea. I thought of this because my family and I were watching a television show that premiered this week. I’m not going to say which one because I don’t want to openly trash said show and offend someone who might have enjoyed it…although I can’t imagine many who would have.
While watching, I joked with my mother that at writer’s
conferences they always tell us to scrap the first thought, second thought and
third thought. That is the only way to plow through the cliché and get to something
truly worth writing. I said this show’s writers obviously didn’t do that
activity. The clichés were flowing from the plot structure to the bad guy’s “strategy”
down to even the dialogue. We knew it was time to change the channel when I predicted
what the character was going to say right before he said the sentence…just
bragging, but I got it word for word. I am not one who focuses too much on clichés.
In fact, I would roll my eyes at people in my English classes who would trash a
story for having one cliché line in the entire book. In fact, a friend of mine
lost a short story contest in high school to a paper that began “it was a dark
and stormy night.” I think there are just some blatant clichés that do push
When looking at the cliché in closer depth, the idea of
being “original” is often contradicted. The writer community strives to have a
brand new twist. “Don’t be predictable,” they say. But then the writer
interacts with those in the publishing world. They want something similar to
what is already out. They don’t want something completely different and unique
because they don’t know how to sell that. They don’t want blended genres. They
want the cliché.
I can see how a television show like the one mentioned above
comes about. It seems safe. It seems easy. But, even though the two sides appear
to proclaiming different things, I think there is a way to mesh them. Readers
don’t want to read a book by a different author that is just like one they read
for someone else. But quirky doesn’t always sell. There has to be a happy
medium; a way to do the same story in a different way.
An example of this would be the show Once Upon A Time. They
use fairy tale characters and multi-dimensions, but they throw their own twists
on the whole thing. It’s a curse that made the multi-dimensions and Red Robin
Hood is the wolf (to name a few). The
show works because it captures the old in an original way. That is the only way
to bridge the difference. So, is cliché bad? Only when done blatant. When adapted,
cliché can also capture an audience or even take them by surprise.