Even Cliche is Okay. (Sometimes.)
For the most part, avoiding cliche or stereotype is wise advise for writers, especially in fiction, I dare say. Yet something I think the advice is taken too far.
We don’t want our fiction to be predictable, (even though there are supposedly only seven stories, or whatever that BS is.) So we seek to avoid the well known, the often trodden path, the common. We come up with wild names, or give people unheard of hobbies or talents, and that’s fine.
Yet we run the risk of isolating our fiction from our readers or vice verca if everything about our story is obviously foreign or unique.
To begin with, a reader needs to relate to something in our fiction. That something may just be an emotion or a setting, but unless you are going for experimental literary fiction, (which is fine if that’s your thing), it’s not an achievement to write something so unlike the world we live in that nobody knows what the hell is going on in your story. Even fiction set in another world or dimension needs some aspect of our reality to it, if we want readers to get caught up in it.
And let’s be frank; certain stereotypes have some basis in fact. (Note the use of the word “basis.”) Moody goths that wear black all the time do exist. Snooty English professors exist. Meat head athletes exist. Using such tropes in our fiction need not be a sin, if we don’t rely on them, and if said tropes are not the only thing our fiction has going for it. By all means challenge stereotypes as well, but you aren’t a poor writer if you include someone that fit in with a well known image. Fiction can’t be 100% true to every nuance of actual life of course, but don’t let that convince you that every one of your characters has to fight against every single possible grain that could exist in their world.
Sometimes a goth is just a goth, so to speak. And we needn’t discount the value of a goth (athlete, preacher) that doesn’t break the mold.
- Posted in: Writing