The young woman yawned softly, her golden curls cascading down her shoulders. She blinked slowly, not wanting to rise from her massive and expensive bed. It was the first day at a new school and she was certain no one would like her, especially not the tall, blonde, blue-eyed, and slender girl with an enviable complexion. Sure, her smile had blinded a few helpless young men before, but she was still certain she looked like a toad who had been dead for a century and who was now rotting in a drain.
Perhaps when you read the paragraph above you rolled your eyes, or maybe you chuckled a little at how absurd it sounded. Either way, I’m sure most of you thought it was at least slightly silly and you would be right!
That paragraph that I wrote as an example was a mash-up of many cliches. What is a cliche? Well, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it is as follows: “Something that has become overly familiar or commonplace.”
That’s pretty straight-forward. It means a cliche is something that has been used so often that it is now stale and boring. One would think that people would try to steer clear of cliches, right? Wrong! Cliches have infiltrated every aspect of the writing world. Sound harsh? Let’s take a closer look at it.
I want you to name every story you have ever read that involved a love triangle. Take just a minute or two and think. The odds are you could list at least five, no doubt more. I could think of at least ten right now and many are from extremely popular books!
A love triangle is simply one cliche in a vast sea of them. Another cliche is starting off a story with the protagonist waking up (as shown). The waking-up-on-the-first-day-of-school cliche is a common one, especially found in Teen Fiction. If you think about it, I’m sure you could name at least one novel you have read that used this cliche.
One such cliche that bothers me is the cliche of all white characters. Come on, I know we’re not the only skin tone out there. This a seriously annoying cliche that needs to stop. Not all the main protagonists have to be white, not all the love interests have to be white –and with blue eyes too, I might add– or the antagonist! Let’s switch it up a little, giving the protagonist short kinky curls, or the love interest –if you absolutely MUST have one– brown eyes for once and a skin tone that cannot be described as being alabaster-like.
On the note of diversity, where are the disabled characters? Those who might be blind, deaf, or maybe they’ve lost a limb? Apparently, they’re not novel material which is absolute crap.
Give me a story about someone who must learn to live with and accept something that has happened in their lives and changed them forever. No lover, a supportive family, and a heart-wrenching story that will truly make me want to reread it. Where are those stories? They’ve been drowned out by the stories of a teen girl who moves to a new town and goes to a new school and who must now deal with her feelings for an equally white and equally gorgeous guy.
Why. Does. Every. Protagonist. Have. To. Be. Gorgeous?! According to the world’s standards, very few are “beautiful”. If so many of us are “normal”, then why are the people we see in stories all this elusive form of beauty? I want a protagonist who’s “too” skinny. He doesn’t have the six-pack, the golden skin, or the penetrating blue eyes. He’s a normal person who has anxieties and problems just like everyone else. I want a protagonist who doesn’t look like a model. She doesn’t have the tiny waist that lengthens out into perfect hips and her thighs touch. She’s a normal person with doubts and self-image problems just like everyone else. These two examples work for both male and female! I’m so sick and tired of seeing protagonists with Hollywood star bodies. Most people do NOT look like that!
The last cliche I will touch on is the parents-who-are-never-around. Seriously, where are the parents in stories? Either they’re dead or they just don’t seem to care. Let parents play a role in your story! Let them help guide the protagonist as they do whatever they’ve set out to do.
I’m just as guilty as any other writer out there and I’m not trying to bash those who use cliches. I’ve used cliches many times myself, but I’ve come to realize that anyone can write a cliche. It’s those who write truly unique and original stories that will make a name for themselves. If you’re wondering how to avoid cliches, here’s a few tips.
- If it has been used before, try to stay clear of it.
- Don’t be afraid to be unique! Tell your own sort of story.
- Create a list of cliches that you wish to avoid at all costs. Keep these near you as you write so as to remind yourself.
- Above all, just write what you want to. Write for yourself and what brings you joy. If you write just so that others will praise you then what’s the point?
I hope this post has been informative to you. If you have any suggestions for how to avoid cliches, or if you have some other cliches that should be avoided, please comment below!