Avoiding and Using Cliche

Cliche comes about from over-use of genre expectations. Using genre expectations is good, because it allows readers to understand what kind of story you are telling. Over-using them is bad, because it leaves nothing new or fresh and no questions open to interpretation.

settingsThere is no general advice to be given here, so this is a brief section to give you some food for thought. In moving from your general story-logic, which is emotional logic, to particular settings and situations, think on how much variety you can build in while staying true to your story logic.


Consider including a variety of settings:

Indoor and outdoor
Inside vehicles
Weird places people shouldn’t go


Also consider a variety of scenes:

Dealing with the very rich
With the very poor
With the very popular
With criminals or police
With people who have normal jobs
With people who have very peculiar jobs


And consider paradoxical situations:

Having to arrest a cop
Or rob a criminal
Or disobey a king
Or collect an overdue account from a rich man
Or give spiritual counseling to an atheist


Finally, try to create vibrant conflicts on various levels:

physical conflicts
conflicts in goals
conflicts in strategy
conflicts in what the story is about
conflicts of ideas
conflicts of ideals

genre stand-bys

Think of the genre of the story you are telling.

Consider the different stories you’ve read or watched on the screen that are similar in setting, in situation, or in genre. Ask yourself: what are the kinds of things that are done in these stories?

Make a list.

Those are your audience expectations. You can surprise your audience by starting to talk about something that looks like it would be on that list, and then doing something different, or the opposite.

Published on March 20, 2010 at 9:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

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