Writing and Me

Quit the Narrative and Character Cliches

We’ve all read that book; the one with the over-used, unimaginative clichés. If we’re totally honest with ourselves, we have all written that one book too. It sits nestled in the back of the folder or drawer and should stay there for all eternity.

So, what is a cliché?

Definition: A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.

I couldn’t have put it better myself- ‘lack of original thought’. Narrative and character clichés are predictable and dull.

  1. Damsel in distress: beautiful, but weak female protagonist without a personality, who constantly needs to be rescued by her hunky boyfriend <yuk>.
  2. The ‘Chosen One’ prophecy.
  3. Brooding, handsome love interest without a personality of his own.
  4. The villain sat in a chair, petting a white cat, and being mean for the sake of being mean.
  5. Wise, elderly advisor/mentor: the protagonist usually ignores their advice much to their own repentance.
  6. Love triangle…<yawn>.
  7. A return from the grave: the ‘but you’re dead’ line.
  8. Hate turning to love: ‘I hate you’… four chapters later…’I love you.’

As with any advice, I believe in ‘each to their own’. Some writer’s may not agree with my list, and if you can take a cliché and make it original and fresh, I take my hat off to you. One or two clichés may be unavoidable in your narrative, but stories littered with the above clichés are a huge turn off for me.

Do you have any clichés that grate on you as a reader? Have you read a story with a fresh take on an old cliché? Please, let me know.