We all know most stories we love are largely recycled pieces of mainstream refuse. And yet, we keep buying them up like they’re going out of style. Why do we do this? I don’t know. But here’s what I do know – clichés are popular for a reason, but that’s still not an excuse to copy and paste.
As writers, the key is finding the tone and style of what makes these plot points click with readers. Then when you write your story, you can touch on the similar ideas while putting your own fresh spin on them. Sound good? Great. Let’s dive in and I’ll show you what I mean.
1: Scooby-Doo Cliché
You know what I mean – the common clichés when the characters unmask the deviant, and everyone freaks out. Cute, for a cartoon – but that novelty has long since worn off. Instead, why not introduce the mysterious character switch with breadcrumbs and clues along the way? Proper foreshadowing (and the lack of a literal mask) can make all the difference.
By this, I mean when a character spends most of a book endlessly promoting one school of thought. Then just before the ending, they change their tune. Suddenly, they’re singing a whole other song that they never even bothered to introduce. Of course, you want your characters to be well-developed and nuanced enough to adapt to the story. But like the above point, this is best accomplished gradually. Make them question what they believe, until the shift is complete to avoid those clichés.
I actually like this one – but only when it’s done well. I’m never okay with books that glamorize abuse or power struggles in this way. But creating a setting that pairs up two characters that hate each other for very realistic and non-abusive reasons? *Chef’s kiss.* The tension is palpable, and the moment each of them starts to cave and fall for the other one is hilarious. Put your own spin on this by challenging what it means for one character to hate the other. Maybe they don’t really hate each other, so much as don’t understand each other. Endless ways you can have fun with this.
4: It was All a Dream!
No, just no. And there’s really no way to make this more palatable. The biggest problem with this cliché is that it’s too perfect of a cop-out. No need to connect your plot points or add depth to your characters because none of it is real anyway. It’s always seen as a lazy way out, leaving readers unsatisfied and frustrated. Maybe instead, write something like a virtual reality world or some other science fiction twist that will bring about a whole new tone to your story. But still be tactful with how you choose to do this. If your story is a renaissance romance, the addition of high-tech gear probably won’t fit. That is, unless your story is steampunk – then you might be on to something. For more on the steampunk genre, read this article HERE.
5: Orphans. So Many Orphans.
It’s not cute and endearing – just tacky. Especially when paired with the “save the world” clichés – totally done to death (no pun intended). Instead of resorting to this cheap compromise, why not actually spend the time necessary to sketch out a rough idea of what your character parents could be like? You don’t even have to use the whole story you come up with – even a backstory can help you envision who they exactly are. Parents aren’t always a buzzkill, you know. Sometimes, they can actually be helpful and insightful.
Hopefully these trope examples motivated you to dig deep and quit writing the exact same stuff as everyone else. At the end of the day, your story is yours, and no one can tell it like you can. So what are you waiting for? Start writing!