Friday, June 17, 2011


I had a student last year who wrote that he doesn't think cliches are all that bad--they once were a great way to say something, and he thinks they still have a place in modern writing.  I try to avoid cliches like the plague (okay, I won't do that again), but I hope he has a point.

Wait--hear me out.

Some students come to English from another language, and to them cliches can seem fresh.  Evocative.  And then there's the tropes in stories: prophecies, parents who disappear in children's fiction, dragons who guard treasure and breathe fire, sexy vampires...I wouldn't want all those tropes to go away.  Now I'm not saying I don't see far too much of some things--and yes, of course I love new twists on old ideas.  But I was looking at young adult novel cliches today, particularly cliches in the paranormal romance and urban fantasy, and while I'm definitely sick of some, I wouldn't want other to disappear.  I like them.  Other people like them.  And if they're written well enough--or seen from a fresh perspective--they really can sparkle (I swore I'd stop, didn't I?  Oops.).

So what do you think about cliches, in plot or down at the sentence level?  I love seeing people play with cliches (Terry Pratchett comes to mind), and that sort of play can't happen without a base...

The Wee Free Men from Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series!  Terry Pratchett is a genius, and every time he writes a new book there is much rejoicing.


  1. Interesting...Well, I tend to think that as a romance writer, I kind of have to deal with Cliches. I have no idea why I put that with a capital letter lol. What is the challenge, and I'm not saying I get it right all the time, is sneaking them in, twisted to make new phrases. And some just go in as is because, hey, it's romance. 'Butterflies' and 'her pulse beat desperately' and 'his eyes were hot' - what would a romance be without these! :0) But hey, I always try and defend adverbs too so maybe I'm not the best person to comment!

  2. Dare I admit that I like a well-placed "quietly"? So I can understand your defense. And you're right--genres get defined by commonalities, so obviously you can't get rid of all of them. Subverting them, however, is another matter entirely...

  3. I just looked at my post above and there is a question with only an exclamation mark...for shame. But thumbs up for the adverbs - let's bring them back when we're both successful ;0)