I have a problem with clichés. No, that’s wrong — I have a problem with clichés being handled wrong. Curiously, there is a difference, and how you view and consequently write it can make or break your story.
Let’s think about it. Some clichés, stereotypes, tropes . . . some of them are there for a reason. Sometimes, we like seeing the prince save the princess from the dragon and true love conquering all. Sometimes, we don’t mind it when you have your typical bad boy or bossy queen bee . . . as long as the characters eventually deliver and don’t fall flat.
See, that’s what I’m talking about. Clichés get this bad rap because so many of them are handled badly. If you pick up a YA novel these days, you’ll see tons of clichés and there won’t be many books that can accurately portray them without falling into the . . . well, cliché. Honestly? I’m kind of that person who loves the same-old themes and stories only to see them made new and fresh. If you think about it, there’s really not a plot that hasn’t been written or a character arc that hasn’t been thought of — your job is just to make it your own, create it anew and unique.
I’m a big fan of anime, which are kind of like Japanese cartoons (but a lot better than just “cartoons”). However, anime constantly falls into a lot of “tropes,” specifically with its characters. Some tropes include the nerd with glasses, a “cutesy” girl, a mysterious cool guy, a cheerful and friendly boy, and a reckless redhead. Some anime go no further with the development other than just the character’s outward appearance and personality, but the anime that are really good are the ones that push deeper into the characters’ psyche and actually make them unique. They give them their own tastes and quirks, so that they’re not just a hothead or a geek or whatever. That’s what I love most: when a character is actually their own person — not just one-dimensional.
One way of getting past clichés is by breaking them — don’t write the love triangle, build a happy dystopian setting, etc. But you don’t have to always do that. If your cliché is a stereotype, for example, then I think it’s fine to keep it. I mean, aren’t most stereotypes formed from truth, after all? Just don’t go overboard, and make sure to give the stereotype extra depth as well.
I think you should see by now that my main point is that whatever you’re trying to write: just make it fresh. Twist the reader’s expectations, and make them love the characters, and even if it’s a bit cliché, write a story so enthralling and different, no one will care.
I hope all your writing is going well! Are you all looking forward to the New Year? I can’t believe 2015 is almost over. I hope it’s been a productive year for you all.
Thanks for reading!
~ J. Dominique