Firstly, on a completely non-cliché note, I would like to say that if you are not following Peevish Penman's blog DO SO! http://peevishpenman.blogspot.com
You should also be following her on twitter: @PeevishPenman
Why? Have a look at her blog and you'll understand but other than posting incredibly helpful writerly blogs, she's an awesome person.
Back to clichés: This carries on from last time's paranormal cliches but is a little different. Even with clichés, horror books have the ability to turn me into a terrified mess. Nevertheless, too many clichés promote predictability, and therefore less fear from the reader. If I'm reading horror I want to be scared. So scare me.Clichés in Horror
- The woman alone in a dark house usually followed by:
- The woman alone in a dark house runs up the stairs and hides in the attic.
- The heroine goes to look for the source of the scary sound. Moron.
- Calling the cops never crosses the characters mind, or the phones have been cut.
- Phones have a bad habit of getting no reception when a murderous psychopath is after you. I'm sorry, but unless you are from NZ and are on the Telecom XT network, this is just unrealistic.
- The mob. Usually brandishing fiery torches.
- Running through the woods in the dark. Anyone would think everyone had a woods in their back yard.
- "Lets split up." Are you INSANE? Theres a creepy monster murdering people and you want to SPLIT UP?
- The damn thing just wont die! The monster is killed, everyone celebrates, but wait! No! The monster isn't dead after all!
- Insert a scary clown or doll into your novel. That hasn't been done before. Honestly. Wait! Lets make it a scary clown doll. And have its head twist around backwards. Ooooh I'm getting shivers.
- You could be the fastest runner on the school track team, but even a slow moving zombie will catch you.
- Nightmares. 'Nuff said.
- Sex + Drugs + Alcohol + Camping = DEATH. Of course.
- The protagonist is actually the killer (but is insane so doesn't realise it!).
I'm not specifically talking about paranormal romance here. I'm treating 'paranormal' as a larger genre that fits somewhere under speculative fiction. But, enough chat. Let's get into those clichés!Clichés in Paranormal Novels
- The human doesn't react to the paranormal character. It doesn't make sense to have them spending the next 50 pages dwelling on it, but some reaction would be relevant!
- The human ends up being secretly supernatural themselves.
- Or, the human ends up becoming paranormal. Usually by being bitten LOL
- The paranormal character isn't just special because they are a vampire/werewolf/weresquirrel - they are also the embodiment of HOTNESS... "check out my bazilion abs"
- The female human is either pure and chaste, or a complete whore.
- The HUGE age-gap between the immortal and the human a) doesn't seem to bother either of them, and b) doesn't make the immortal appear any older.
- The non-human acts human. Dude! You're NOT human.
- The paranormal character battles with his/her inner demon. Again, you're not human. Let it go! Enjoy your supernatural powers like any "normal" paranormal person would!
- The paranormal character is nearly always a male. Where are all the freaky females??
- In addition, why is it always the human girl falling for the paranormal guy? What about a paranormal girl falling for a human guy? Now there's an idea...
- The female MC is a sassy (and often short), bad-ass character who enjoys slaughtering the paranormal.
- If your paranormal novel is also a YA romance, you'd better include the quirky best friend who has no idea about the paranormal aspect of your heroines boyfriend. Because, of course the heroine isn't going to spill the beans to her best friend when the hot guy she's known for a week tells her not to...
And, thanks to the lovely J. Leigh Bailey:
- The soul mate angle. The supernatural hot guy will *know* it when he meets his soul mate 'cause they're destined, and then they don't have to work at a real romance.
- Often the series involves a gang of supernatural hunks who've been alive since dirt was young, but then they all find their destined mate (see above) at approximately the same time. What? No mates were born before 1980?
Romance is one of the genres that thrives on cliché
s. If you don't have some of these cliché
s in your romance novel you could well be in trouble. Nevertheless, cliché
s are good to look at. You may be able to twist one of them to create an interesting plot. Some cliché
s work. Some are just plain irritating.Clichés in Romance
- No more than 1/4 of the book is written from the male's POV.
- The heroine is always beautiful, or, if average looking, has some kind of 'beautifying' feature, eg gorgeous eyes.
- The evil ex, or 'other woman'.
- Horrid relatives looking to cause conflict between the heroine and the hero.
- The man-whore hero - this character has been through more women than the hero has handbags. All the women he's been with have been of a similar character and only the 'pure' heroine can tame him.
- A stupid misunderstanding that drives the whole plot of the novel, when all that is needed to resolve the issue is for them to actually TALK to one another.
- Further to the above, another cliche is when the hero and heroine 'just' miss one another, causing all sorts of tension.
- The hero has never fallen in love before. Particularly in the case of Vampires or other immortals. Seriously? You've been around how long and have never found someone to love? Jackass.
- One of the characters has amnesia, resulting in a relationship that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.
- Best friend becomes lover. Their friendship is on the rocks, but eventually their relationship as a couple works out. I'm a big fan of this one because that's how I got together with my hubby (awww).
- Friend's older brother is the hero. Usually a similar scenario to the ;best friend' because the hero and heroine have known each other for years and nothing has happened... until now.
- The hero is ridiculously rich.
- No other woman in the novel is more beautiful than the heroine. Likewise, no other man is more handsome, or rich etc than the hero.
- The heroine and hero have unprotected sex once and get pregnant. Geez if only we could all be so fertile.
- The heroine is often a virgin.
- When the heroines virginity is taken, is fairly painless. And she goes on to have sex several more times that same night with the hero.
- The hero rips his shirt and buttons fly everywhere.
- The heroine faints (daintily) and never hurts herself. Talented.
The interesting thing about clichés in genre fiction, is that the genres generally came about because of clichés in the first place. The idea of this series is not to take these lists as 'what not to do', but more to provide insight into what other authors have already written to help create new and original writing ideas. Get out of the rut!Clichés in Science-Fiction
- Even though aircraft today have the ability to lock-on to an enemy aircraft, in the 'future' starships rely on humans to manually target the enemy, and even then they miss.
- Spacecraft so big they cover an entire city.
- There has to be at least one flying saucer over the white house.
- Humans, no matter how far in the future they are from, have exactly the same moral values as humans in the 21st Century.
- Or, humans of the future have abandoned all moral value and are psychopaths.
- The protagonist is never tempted to join the other side. They don't seem to have a smidgen of 'bad' in them.
- The Good Guys are always human. The Bad Guys are always some disgusting alien race that not even a mother could love.
- If there are multiple species of aliens, they are all roughly the same size as humans.
- Aliens have only one culture per planet. In sci-fi, humans too only seem to have one culture.
- The 'Galactic Council' must have a meeting, and nothing will be accomplished during it. Much like parliament here, it will be full of bickering and not much else.
- Humans seem to be able to work alien computers and technology easier than they do their own.
- When someone is cloned, or replicated from DNA, it somehow restores the original persons memories and personality.
- At the point of climax, the ammo will run out, technology will fall out of reach, or the futuristic weapon will somehow be unusable, leaving the protagonist to resort to 'primitive' style fighting.
- The warp or hyper-drive will always fail at a critical moment.
- Parents are all evil and want to destroy the universe. Their only child is somehow a perfect human being and will thwart his parents plan and bring peace to the universe...
- The protagonist is usually young, white, human and male. Alien protagonists are almost unheard of.
- Everyone speaks English. Even aliens.
- When the evil baddy dies, there is no henchman to take his place and the empire collapses.
- Something has to get sucked into the vacuum of space.
I should point out that I found many many more sci-fi clichés once I started looking, but I picked the most obvious ones. If you think I've missed any important ones please let me know!
YA is a genre that I both read and write. It is hard for me to be objective about YA because I love it so much, but I started doing a bit of looking into potential clichés and came up with a few I hadn't thought of. Check out the below and let me know what you think!
Clichés in YA
- The flakey best friend. Why can't the best friend NOT be an idiot?
- In addition to be flakey, the best friend often has red hair. Random.
- Absent parents - and by absent I mean either out of the picture or dead. I understand that this is usually to allow the YA characters become independent and go off on adventures, but some solid parenting (by someone other than an alcoholic father) would be nice to see.
- When parents are present, characters often call them by their first name.
- There is often an evil stepmother. She may turn out to be not-so-evil.
- YA characters are always raising one eyebrow.
- They also bite their fingernails, or lip.
- All the guys have loooong eyelashes.
- The antagonist is a cheerleader, or at least the popular girl, and is mean to everyone, yet everyone seems to like her.
- Miserable weather in the background
- Google has all the answers the YA character needs
- The plot is full of internal conflict, and external conflict takes a back seat.
- The 'opposites attract' scenario eg, dorky girl falls for hot guy.
- Male leads that are shallow and two dimensional.
- Male leads that insist they are bad for the heroine, but keep seeing her anyway.
- The 'dramatic rescue' at the end of the novel.
- Depressed characters. Enough with the teenage angst! Are there no happy teens?
- Teens who either talk like university professors (Dawson's Creek) or so full of slang it wont make sense in two years.
- Either the main character or a side character (like a little brother) runs away at some point in the novel.
- Twilight. Enough said*.
There you have it. A list of cliches in young adult fiction. I think I've used a few too many... I might make my best friend character a brunette...
*actually I have read and watched all available twilight books and movies and enjoyed them, despite their cliches...
Welcome to Part Two of 'Fighting Clichés'. Today I'm looking at crime fiction clichés. See here for Part One, Clichés in Fantasy.
I don't write crime fiction (possibly because I don't have the ability to know the end before I've written the entire novel) but I do read it. I think I read every Famous Five, Secret Seven and Nancy Drew book when I was young. Sara Paretsky is one of my favourite crime authors. I also love paranormal crime fiction - it gives the genre an extra-spooky edge. There are large amounts of clichés in crime fiction, especially hard-boiled crime. Here are a few. Not all of them are bad, just often seen. You can make up your own mind if you like them or not:Crime Clichés
- The villain that boasts about what he has done to the hero, therefore delaying enough to allow the hero to thwart him.
- The hero or heroine that goes by themselves to investigate a strange noise, or to meet a stranger, knowing full well they are putting themselves in danger. Idiots.
- The detective cannot be happily married, or even in a happy relationship.
- The detective has a not-so secret problem, eg alcoholism, and the case involves him 'facing his demons'.
- Hunches are always correct, not matter how wild.
- The detective must always step outside the law to get the job done. Eg, breaking into a suspect's apartment.
- And, to ad to the above, the novel includes a long-winded car chase, preferably in the detectives flash car.
- The detective's home is ransacked or their car is followed as a threat.
- The detective gets a new partner.
- The grumpy Lieutenant (or some form of authoritative figure) has a go at the detective at every possible moment.
- The defense lawyer is a creep.
- Your detective hangs out in a cafe/bar/some-kind-of-regular-haunt where he/she will miraculously piece together the crime.
- Woman are always in peril.
- Mobile phone dies or has no signal at the very moment the hero needs it.
That's just some of the clichés in crime fiction. There are plenty more of course. It may of interest to note that clichés differ from sub-genre to sub-genre as setting and characters play a big part in the creation of these clichés.
A cliché is "an overused expression or idea". There are different types of clichés, and understanding what they are is the first step to spotting them.
But what is wrong with clichés? People must have liked them once, otherwise they would never have become popular enough to be called a cliché! The inherent issue lies in the overuse of clichés. Not only are they boring and lacking in originality, but a piece of writing filled with clichés will not hold the reader's attention because they can guess what will happen throughout the story before its really begun.
Clichés can be, and are, used well, but usually only when they are used in an original way (thereby taking out the cliché in the cliché!). Clichés are often used will for comedic purposes. "The Princess Bride" is a fantastic example of a text riddled with clichés that are used to create humour, therefore portraying them in an original way. If you're not using clichés for any particular purpose you may want to look through your writing and ensure that you don't have any hidden.
Clichés tend to differ depending on what genre your write, so I am dividing my list of clichés into generic genres. Since I write fantasy, I'll start with that!
Please note: yes I have used some of these, no they are not always bad, especially if they are used in an original way, and it does not mean the end of your novel if your entire plot is based on one!
• The hero is the unknown heir to a magical kingdom. (Guilty!)
• The helpful but secretly evil mentor - the character that helps the hero throughout the novel but turns out to be the antagonist.
• A group of heroes travel vast lands searching for something of value, only to have it stolen by the bad guys who only had to sit around and wait for the heroes to find it.
• A hero who manages to incite a revolution by defeating one person who foiling one antagonists plot.
• The king is killed (or at least plotted against) by a scheming uncle. (does a scheming brother-in-law count?).
• The evil stepmother.
• The 'prophesy' and the 'chosen one'... anyone seen Kung Pow? Cho-Simba-One?
• Non-humans that are powerful but don't rule the world.
• Multi-part novels that you can't read as a stand-alone.
• Prologues that info dump, usually for fifty pages. Actually, make that prologues in general. Ugh.
• Villains who have no reason to be evil. They just are.
• Blondes = good, Brunettes = bad
• Rulers that are either unbearably good or horribly evil.
• Damsels in distress.
• Kick-butt girls oozing with attitude (can we get some balance please!).
• Vanquishing the dragon.
• Magical races - elves, trolls and the like.
• Magical artifacts that will save the world
• The princess that resists the prince's charms even though he is remarkably good looking and has rescued her from a dragon!
• Evil villains who are incredibly smart, yet manage to be taken down in one blow at the end of the novel.
• The "I am your father" cliché - the hero goes to kill the villain only to find out that he cant because it is him father/brother/uncle/bestest childhood buddy
Thoughts anyone? Have you used any and have I missed any?
The next "Fighting Clichés" segment will be on crime fiction... mwhahahaha