Clichés are a common thing that writers try to stay clear of- but what is it that makes them so bad? In this post, I’ll be going over some pros and cons to help you decide to what extent you must avoid these reader-judged expressions and plotlines.
Before I get onto the pros and cons, let’s take a look at the definition of ‘cliché.’
Cliché- Noun: A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.
The definition says that using clichés implies an inability to come up with unique ideas, whether that be lines, plots or characters. Keep this in mind as we go into the…
1. Lack of originality
As mentioned above, writing clichés can make you appear as if you lack originality. What do you think this will imply to your reader? How about potential agents and publishing companies? The people who can further your writing career (whether it be people who are professionals in the writing business or just your readers) are seeking out the ‘next big thing.’ Everyone’s seen lines like ‘as fast as lightning,’ or ‘as white as snow.’ Using lines like these could mark you as an amateur.
2. Drawing your reader out of the story
How many times have you read books about the orphan who finds out that they’re special, the old mentor who dies in the end, or a magic piece of jewelry? While these things can be made more original with a few tweaks, we’ve all seen them and can point them out. So can your readers.
Let’s say that Fred the orphan discovers that he’s heir to the throne of the great kingdom that’s in control of the land. An old wizard, Bluebeard, trains him to fight so he can take back the kingdom from the evil power who has seized it and enslaved millions of creatures. On the journey to the castle, Bluebeard is killed in an attack by goblins. Fred kills off the goblins, and there’s enough time for him to speak to Bluebeard before he dies. Bluebeard gives Fred a magic amulet that allows him to pass through walls. Fred starts off for the kingdom by himself.
That’s just a snippet from a potential book. It’s rich with cliché plotlines, as you can see. The thing is, some readers might actually read that book. But unless you’re an insanely good writer, it probably won’t stick with them. People want to read something they haven’t read before. Isn’t that the point of reading new books?
In conclusion (and probably quite obvious to you know), clichés can distract your reader from your writing.
3. Not memorable
The most popular books didn’t get popular by using popular ideas. They got popular by writing something memorable and new and enjoyable to the general public. To write a book that has a large audience doesn’t mean that you should write what you know they like, but instead what you think they haven’t seen before. Those are the books that stand out and soar through the charts.
4. They allow laziness
Sometimes people use clichés if they can’t come up with another line or idea. If you’re a writer, you’re probably a naturally creative person. Most people who are drawn to the arts are. Which is why you can afford to think a little. Make what was meant to be a passing thought a great one. Write an original line that will be considered a cliché in the future because it’s just that popular. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
1. Popular for a reason
Some people forget the reason that clichés are so common. It’s because people like them. People sympathize with orphans. People like to romanticize the idea of an old wizard or other elderly person teaching an aspiring hero throughout their journey (and having them pass away and leave some last piece of knowledge is always a great bonus). And the piece of magic jewelry or weapon is a classic, of course. Sometimes clichés can be a good thing. Orphans, for example. Readers just seem to love them, as we’ve seen with countless popular stories (Eragon, Harry Potter, Oliver Twist, A Series of Unfortunate Events, just to name a few). Play with the common audience’s sympathies. Why not?
2. When they aren’t overused, what’s the harm?
Clichés are sort of like junk food. Maybe they’re good in small amounts, but don’t go overboard. It may seem sweet at first, but your writing might not agree with you. Try to use clichés sparingly, and when you do, add your own twist.
Well, that closes this post. I’d honestly expected to have more pros, but my mind has gone blank (sorry for the cliche expression… I’m exhausted). I’ll probably think of a bunch later.
Anyhow, I hope that was helpful. Tell me some of your coolest original lines that you’re proud of in the comments!