Monday, March 7, 2011

What's Wrong with Clichés? I LOVE Clichés!

I might even get it embroidered on a t-shirt!

I saw the passage below for the first time last week when someone posted it up on facebook.  The similarities between Disney’s ‘Pocahontas’ and James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ were always fairly obvious if you’re familiar with them both, but I couldn’t help thinking ‘yeah, so?’. 
 (to see it larger, just click on it)

Is it even possible to avoid clichés now a’days?

When I’d finished my second book, I was SO sure ‘this’ would be the one. (like I am with every frickin book I write before reality smothers all hope or enthusiasm)   The story was a funny YA romance.  But then I critiqued another blogger’s YA romance and the similarities between them were striking. (borderline depressing)

Bring on some ‘Creepy’ clichés:

1.       1. Girl starting out at new school.  (check)
2.       2. Good Boy / Bad Boy scenario  (check)
3.       3. Love triangle  (check)
4.       4. Bad Boy has daddy issues- dad’s in prison (check)
5.       5. Main character has mommy issues (check)
       The list goes on.....

Oh lord help me.  What I thought was an original premise has been done and done and doooone five times over.

But it was fun writing it!  Which is what brings me to why I think clichés continue to come out in all forms of entertainment.   We LIKE them!!!   We like the struggle between good and evil.  We like the good girl caught between the dark and dangerous lad and the handsome righteous hero.  We like the characters almost dying but then being saved at the last moment.  We like happy endings! 

Because lets face it- if we didn’t like them, they wouldn’t be so popular even when presented in the most similar of forms, don’t ya think?


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35 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

So many stories have been told before but it doesn't mean they can't be successful. That's when I find a truly original story - I gush over it. I don't mind reading cliche stories if the voice and writing is great and something new has been brought to the table. (cliche).

Jessica Bell said...

Very true! But I bet your voice is totally different, right? I wouldn't give up on it!

Sarah said...

There's a reason cliches become cliches. It's because they're appealing to many, many people. But when something has been done and done again, writers/artists have to come up with some new twist AND the execution has to be unique. I'm a firm believer in the idea that there are no new ideas under the sun, but I'm also a firm believer in human creativity. Familiar tropes packaged in utterly unique ways, especially when they offer extensions on the trope or interesting twists, are often hits.

Melissa said...

OH MY GOODNESS! James cameron totally stole Avatar from Disney. I never even noticed *hangs head in shame!!*

You know, I only have a real problem with cliches when it's small sentences. Like 'right as rain' or 'don't put your eggs in one basket' that kind of one liner stuff. Because, you're right, when it comes to story stuff... I like the struggles I like and they only got to be cliches because people wanted to read them!!!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

LOL my new wip as the last two cliches. Hopefully the rest of the book isn't one big cliche. ;)

Gina said...

I think I must be the only girl on the planet who doesn't get the appeal of the bad boy. I am all about the nice boy!

Cruella Collett said...

Absolutely. I even would go as far as saying most books *need* them - otherwise they would be too hard to connect with for any given reader. Surprisingly often we prefer to know what we get as readers...

Angela Felsted said...

The great thing about Avatar isn't the story anyway. It's the special effects.

Anne Gallagher said...

Oh God, now I need to start writing all over again. lol.

Matthew Rush said...

I really don't think that what you're getting at here is cliche. I mean the examples you give of your novel versus your friend's, those sound very basic to me. Read this:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/03/archetype-vs-cliche.html

Cindy Blog-A-Liddle said...

Last week I wrote on my blog about other people coming up with the same idea I had (for a "fake" reality show) and as I said there, I'll say it again--few ideas are original. It’s how you present them that matters.

Jennifer Hoffine said...

It's totally okay that James Cameron stole Pocahontas from Disney as Disney could be the poster child for taking other people's ideas and running with them. Bambi, Mary Poppins, the princess stories...they all were someone else's stories to begin with.

But Disney ran with them...putting their own mark on all of them, and that's the difference to me.

You can reuse cliche's, but make them your own. Add a twist here and there, make your characters stronger, the dialogue less trite. That's how you make a boring cliche into a Disney megahit.

Angelina Rain said...

Everything is a cliché in one way or another. The trick is to write it in an original way and make it your own. You’ll be surprised how many people don’t notice that it’s a cliché. My first published short story has like two big clichés in it. Given that the story is only 6,000 words, that’s a lot of clichés. Yet, all the reviewers thought the story was original.

Old Kitty said...

Absolutely nothing wrong with cliches!! It's what one does to them and how one uses them in one's writing. And why am I using "one" - who do I think I am the Queen or something!! LOL!!

The t-shirt idea sounds fab!! :-)

take care
x

Saumya said...

You are SO right! I admit to loving cliches and will always read stories with these themes. You are hilarious, by the way. And don't let anything smother your hope!

Hart Johnson said...

I saw Avatar and the most recent Terminator in the same week and those ALSO have the exact same plot... funny, that... I think if the details are different enough, you can totally get away with it. In fact I think part of my problem is my refusal to follow some of these standard plots. I don't have any framework to pitch within... I think readers like something predictable when they jump in... so long as it isn't ALL predictable... twist something up.

Nicole Zoltack said...

You're right, it's impossible to write a completely fresh and unique story. But your voice and characters are what sets your story apart. Don't ever give up! :)

Talei said...

Oh, I hear ya on the cliche - there's always a method/formula with books, its not a bad thing but I guess we all hope to find the fresh idea that all agents will want! Good luck with your next book my dear! ;-)

Kelly said...

People do like familiarity too. How many times and how many ways has the Cinderella story been told?
Each author has their own voice.

Carolyn Abiad said...

I want to say something witty about all skeletons being similar too, but I second what Matt said, just see this: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/03/archetype-vs-cliche.html

Dawn said...

One of my mentors told me that there's no original storylines left and that the plot can be somewhat cliche, as long as the writing / voice is unique. I have no doubt you've got that covered, sunshine.

Jolene Perry said...

It's all about voice and characters. You can write a story that's been done 100 times, doesn't matter as long as it's written well. Oh, and we care about your people :)

Talli Roland said...

I'm with Jolene. There's only so many stories in the world, and some of the best stories are well known clichés! That doesn't make them any less readable.

Go clichés go!

LTM said...

you're right--there's comfort in the familiar. I like taking the cliches and turning them backwards. Like everything you said, reverse it. :D

And I thought Avatar was more like Star Wars meets Platoon meets the Lion King... I hadn't considered Pocahontus... LOL! :D xoxo

Melody said...

Dude, I love cliches! I mean, I understand the need for originality in stories...and I definitely appreciate that when I come across it in a book or movie. But I don't have a problem with cliches. "Ooooh, that movie was just like this one!" Yeah, so. And you liked them both, didn't you? :)

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

It's mostly like everyone else has said it before me. You put the same plot in two different hands and you'll get two different stories. That is the beauty of story telling, each fairy tale was so similar but the characters made them shine ;) I do agree with Melissa, the one liners are annoying, though.

Nahno McLein said...

I think you can avoid cliches. If you play with them and are aware of them, then you might be able to justify using them
Avatar is one of those, it's supposed to rework the old ideas, because the focus is on the new visual.
Nahno ∗ McLein

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I have never seen Avatar -- and now I don't need to!! I watched Pocahontas PLENTY of times when my daughter Gabbey was 3. (Cross Avatar off my To-Do list.)

Americans in particular like their movies and books to follow a formula. (Pick any "romantic comedy" film, for example.) That's why they don't care for foreign films and books -- because they tend to branch out and do unexpected things. Americans hate that. :(

Slamdunk said...

Pocahontas and Avatar? You must be mistaken... Ha, ok that is too funny--after viewing the evidence.

Aisha said...

It's not the story idea [those are ALL cliche] its how its told that separates it! :)

Colene Murphy said...

HA! I love that picture. Awesome stuff. It's really weird that we both wrote about cliches this Monday, but so differently! Danged if people don't love cliches, no matter what they say, though!

Caitlin said...

I'm not entirely sure whether cliches can be avoided or not, but I absolutely hate when I get started on a story or an idea that I think is amazing...and then I realize it's full of all that same ol', same ol'.

Erin Kane Spock said...

I only watched 1/2 of Avatar, but I was definitely humming "Colors of the Wind."
There are a finite number of distinctive plot lines and all we can do is make them our own.
I don't suppose your bad boy is a vampire and the love triangle involves a werewolf? :)
I've got no right to comment - my plots involve girl meeting boy, conflict keeping them apart, and happily-ever-after.

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Katie, when I finished my first YA novel, it was exactly like you described. There were so many cliches and I simply didn't know until beta testers ripped into it. Good lord, with all the red strikethroughs it looked like a crime scene:)

Christopher said...

I'm not sure if there even are any original thoughts left in the world. Grab your favorite cliche, own it, and have some damn fun.

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