Friday, July 27, 2012

Clichés in Your Plot?

by Jill Williamson

On Tuesday we focused on cliché expressions. Today we're talking about cliché plots, scenes, and characters. Once upon a time (cliché phrase!) every cliché idea was new and original and so brilliant that it inspired people to copy it. (They do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.) But over time, so many people have overused those same brilliant ideas that they're no longer brilliant, and now they make readers (or viewers) groan or roll their eyes.

As writers, we want to avoid having our readers groan and roll their eyes.

There are so many more story clichés than what I've listed below. But these are some that editors and agents mention at writing conferences and that I've seen over and over in books or manuscripts I've read. 

If your story falls into one of these categories, please don't worry! You can still write your story, even keep the scene, though that might not be your best bet. My point? You need to be aware of what is cliché and understand that an editor, agent, or reader will likely recognize that. Then you'll want to fix what's cliché and make it work in your story before you submit. Fair enough?

Here is a list of a few overdone clichés:

-The love triangle
-The line, "Don't you die on me!"
-A story about the chosen one
-A prophecy being fulfilled
-Prologues with an abandoned baby
-Portals to another world
-The sequel where the couple has split up and must be reunited.
-The magical item of great importance
-Prologue that happens many years before your story begins
-The best friend falls in love with the main character
-The fake death. We saw him die, but...he's alive! (I did this one...)
-Character goes to a magic school of some kind
-The minority sidekick OR comic relief
-The gay best friend.
-The evil other woman, ex-wife, parent, etc. (People aren't ever THAT evil.)
-A retired guy called back into service because he's the ONLY ONE who can get the job done.
-The bad guy is really the main character's parent
-The man who's planning to retire... you know he's going to die... and he does!
-The "we look alike, let's switch places" plot
-Big guys are dumb and oafish
-Just before the big battle someone says, "Are you ready?" And your hero says, "I was born ready."
-The evil, dark lord of whatever
-Main character is tutored by the old man (I did this too!)
-The rakish hero who falls for the virginal heroine. He's a heart-breaker, but now he's met the one woman who can tame his wild heart.
-The bad guy could have killed the good guy but he monologues instead, giving the hero time to get away. (*cough* James Bond)
-The couple that hates each other at the beginning but end up together by the end of the book.
-The plain girl who gets a makeover and all of a sudden she's gorgeous and all the guys love her.
-The dying man's line, "Tell my wife and kids I love them!"
-The orphan who turns out to be someone really important (And I also did this one! Oopsy.)

If you've got some of these in your book, what can you do?

First of all, Stephanie wrote about cliches last year and had some really good advice, so click here to check that out as a refresher.

And here are a few tips from me:

-Do the opposite of what you planned or do something unexpected. As I'm reading a book, I'm always guessing, "I bet this is going to happen." So try to make sure your readers can't second guess you. Give your hero two semi-normal, semi-flawed parents. Leave the bad guy dead! Maybe he had a son or second in command who will try and revenge him. The plain girl gets a makeover, people are still jerks, no one asks her to prom, but it makes her tough. Make the giant guy brilliant. Make the girl the main guy likes really nice so that your female lead can't hate her--they're friends!--and it hurts to be jealous of your friend!

Flip things on their head and see what you come up with.

-Avoid stereotypes. In real life, the guy you like might not like you. Ever. (Wah!) But life goes on. And beware of the damsel in distress or the manly, battle-trained female. Give us a real girl and let her do her best sometimes and scream sometimes too. Consider making your main character a minority. If the guy is about to retire, let your hero tell the guy to go home before he dies! I'll like your hero all the more for his wisdom. Maybe the rakish hero is a rake, and the girl tells him so and chooses the brainy guy. (Go, nerds!) And leave your orphan an orphan.

-Create your own creatures or weapons and phrases. Maybe, just maybe, forget dragons and elves and dwarves; swords, bows, and guns, etc. Create your own species. Create your own weapon. Have fun with it! But you can't have the crowl. The crowl is mine. Mwa ha ha!

I created chams (fire-breathing bears) and gowzals (rat-like birds) in my trilogy and they worked pretty good. But I used swords. A lot. *grin*

-Vary your characters' ages. I mean, it's pretty coincidental that same aged males and females are always going on epic journey's together, isn't it? Consider not having everyone in your story be the same age.

-Skip the prologue. Write it for yourself if you want to work out the history of your characters or storyworld, but don't put it in the book. Too many people have. Let the readers be surprised when they discover your ending without giving them that peek into the past or the birth or your characters.

The point isn't to become paranoid over every little thing. No one is going to call your medieval fantasy novel cliche because your characters use swords. These are all merely ideas to get you thinking. When you go back in to rewrite, work hard to make those cliches work for you. See what brilliant treasures you can come up with that are so amazing people will be copying you!

**Added later**

Sarah (from the comments) inspired me to add this good point that I missed. Every scene in your story should happen for a reason. Including clichés in your story because they seem like fun twists is the wrong idea. You want to make your choices based on who your characters are and the goals they have.

Be sure and read through the comments for more discussions on this topic.


  1. Cliches can be good, though! Look at how many Harry Potter has, and it's my all time favorite series. But one non-cliche that JKR did that I love was that while Harry's parents are dead, JK still gives them personalities and such--James and Lily were people! :O So many books, regardless of if the parents are dead or alive, don't even them personalities, which is odd. :/ Making Harry's parents feel real, and having Harry love them, made the HP books that much better. :)

    My WIP has a few cliches--abandoned baby, parents not really dead, BUT I feel like the story is original enough to hopefully distract the reader from the cliches.

    1. That's all I want you to consider, Allison. You can make them work for you. And JK is an excellent example of an author who knows how to make cliches work.

    2. Didn't Harry Potter kind of create the magic school cliche? Or at least make it popular? I don't really know any magic school ones from before that, but maybe I just haven't gotten the chance to read them :(

    3. Oh, and was Star Wars the first "luke, I am your father" kind of thing? I feel like if a movie or book becomes really successful then a lot of the plot points and sayings from there becomes cliche. Like how vampires and werewolves as love interests is cliche because of Twilight.

    4. I think I have to agree with you there, Anonymous. And cliches are cliches for a reason - they're fun and they work. They do get overdone and get predictable, which is why they should be avoided or twisted, especially if they're really popular at the time you're writing (I'd avoid magic schools and vampire love-interests right now). Other cliches have been around for centuries though, like the "they start out hating each other but end up together at the end", simply because they're fun and they work. I think as long as your story isn't filled with cliches, and you manage to add enough twists and make the rest of your story real and original, you'll be ok. My english teacher says that every story that will ever be told has already been told. The trick is to tell it differently from the next (or last) person.
      ~ Amo Libros

    5. The reason there are so many clichés in Harry Potter is because its an amazing book and everyone was copying it after it was written. Most of the clichés in the book became clichéd after it was published.

  2. It was amusing to read through that list and note just how many cliches Rowling managed to cram into Harry Potter... My family likes to joke that there are really only six original plots in the world, and writers have to keep recycling them. Anyhow, Jill, these are great tips for keeping a story fresh! Cliches are by no means evil and an author can certainly get away with them, but I do think it's always good to avoid or twist them if possible. It exercises one's creativity, and makes a story much more enjoyable.

    1. It's true! Everything has been done before. But it's the authors who can come up with that clever twist that will stand out.

      Did you know the Hunger Games is similar to a Japanese movie, Battle Royale, that released in 2000? And also, Suzanne Collins was inspired by the Greek story of the Cretian King Minos sending seven young people into a labyrinth each year where they would be eaten by the a minotaur. Now that's an OLD story!

  3. I think, if a person is the author of multiple books, there is also the danger of being cliché by inadvertently copying themselves. I’ve had times when I’ve read more than one book by the same author, that aren’t part of a series, and I have found them strikingly similar in regards to plot and characterisation etc. I suppose if an author is working to a deadline or to public demand that slipping into old habits and copying themselves is easy to do accidentally.

    I didn’t even realise I had a major cliché in my WIP until this post. Thanks for keeping me on my toes!!

    1. Always something to work to avoid! I hate it when author's seem to repeat plots or characters... But sadly it does happen! :( I know I've tended to repeat backstories on occasion.

    2. You're welcome, Anonymous! :-)

      And you're right! I copy myself. I get so annoyed when I catch myself too. The first time I noticed this was when I realized that all my heroes were similar. Achan, Martyr, and Spencer were all reluctant hero-types who were brave, honest. So I had to work hard to make them their own person, and now I try to keep on top of that.

  4. eee I based a weapon name on a radio station! xD I was so excited when you said to make up your own names. Anywho...

    My stories are filled with cliche's. I have a question though- are there any stalker cliches? My story involves a stalker, and I wanted to know how to keep the stalker's identity a secret until the end. How does one make that not cliche?

    1. I don't think stalkers are cliche, really. At least nothing is coming to mind. I suppose how you catch the bad guy could be cliche. But keeping the identity a secret until the end isn't cliche, it's the genre called Mystery. That's a good thing!

      As to how to keep it a secret? I like to start at the end and work my way back. So I figure out how he'll get caught, then think up what clues the main character will need to discover and space them out in the story.

    2. thank you so much :D Oh and there's... two bad guys in my story xD Is that a bad thing? I have two stalkers and then this girl trying to steel the MC's fiance. One stalker is legit, stalker, scary, psycho... the other stalker is just like a hopeful puppy dog that's always there and is meant to throw the reader off from the real stalker.

    3. I really like how you have the second stalker! As far as I know, there's nothing bad about having more than one antagonist in the story. Mine has several. Of varying levels of evil, but still antagonists. But I absolutely love how you have one stalker to throw you off from the psycho one!

    4. Well the only thing I would personally suggest is that make the evil stalker one of the prominent characters in the book so that there really is a surprise ending without using to many cliches and I honestly think stalker's are great but in some cases they are over used I would get more feedback but that's my opinion

  5. Could a character really die and then be reserected??? hehe cause that's not really a fake death, is it??
    All in all I have a few cliches in mine but they're altered

    A story about the chosen one - mine has multiple chosen ones, some relish in it, some hate it, and the main chosen one doesn't know she's chosen until the end of the first book.

    Prologue that happens many years before your story begins - mine is narrated by my MC many years in the *future*, like she's writing it herself

    and the above real/fake death...

    ooh a lot huh? not good...

    1. Nope, resurrection is not a fake death. One has to die to be resurrected.

      I like that twist of multiple chosen ones! That's pretty cool. I have a chosen one in one of my upcoming books, but in the end he'll realize that his being "chosen" was simply to identify the real "chosen." Hope that works! LOL

      See? Even published writers are just taking their best bet at trying to be original. Ha ha.

      I like the future looking back prologue. Like the main character is telling the story.

      Like I said, you can keep them, just work extra hard to make them your own. Good job!

    2. Wow, Mrs. Williamson! I love that twist! Of having the person being chosen to identify the real one. That's perfect! I can't wait to get my hands on your books. I was trying to see if our library had Replication, but the website's confusing. I'll probably just end up buying it. Besides, that'll help you out more! I never knew that authors had to reach a certain amount of money before earning anymore till I saw that post awhile back. I just joined Go Teen Writers, but I've been around awhile.

  6. Thanks for this post, Jill! It's really helpful!

    Hmm, I've done the old man mentor. And the "many years before" prologue. And in my first novel, the bad guy was EEEVIL. And there's a comic relief sidekick in my WIP....although he does more than just being funny. Oh, and in one of my stories, the bad guy turned out to be the main character's aunt. XP But she was another EVIL villain, so... *sigh*

    "Maybe the rakish hero is a rake, and the girl tells him so and chooses the brainy guy." <3<3<3 =)

    Question: In my WIP, the main character's brother turns out to be the bad guy. But he's not evil; in fact, he has sort of good intentions. But is it cliche that the villain's her brother?

    1. It's okay if the brother is the antagonist. Sometimes that's the story! And the better you can make his intentions good, the more the reader will relate, and the more powerful your story will be. The real cliche is the "Luke, I am your father!" "Noooo! It's not true! I'll never join you!"

      I'd LOVE to see how someone can have the dad be the bad guy in a totally original way. Hmmm...

      You can keep your scenes, Laurie, just work hard to make them as original as you can. And with those super evil people, have some imaginary conversations with them to find out why they're so evil. Knowing their motivation makes them more human, which helps make them less comic book cliche.

    2. Fire by Kristin Cashore doesn't have a totally original bad guy dad, but it is still pretty interesting to read and think about. I won't say more, cause I wouldn't want to spoil it, but it's one of my favorite fantasy books. :)

  7. Let's see. I have the parent-is-bad-guy plot, but not exactly, if that makes any sense.

    Is the he/she's-dead-but-he/she's-not thing still cliche if it's a secondary character, and there's a reason for him/her to "die"?

    Also, I don't think the couple-hates-each-other-in-beginning-then-falls-in-love-in-end plotline is completely worn out, as long as it's not the MAIN plotline. In one of my WIPS, the MC and on of his friends, a girl, really dislike each other in the beginning, and then grow to care for and respect the other. They don't "fall in love", but the potential is still there, because they care about each other now.

    The same-age thing bugs me, too. So I try to split them up in age as much as possible. In Arya One, my almost-finished WIP, the main characters are 18, 17, 15, and 10. And then I switch out the 19, 15, and 10 year olds for three other people, who are 20, 15, and 13. It's kinda cool how, as the ages change, the story does.

    1. Becky, the couple-hates-each-other-in-beginning-then-falls-in-love-in-end plotline is BIG in romance novels. And many romance readers like it. In fact, romance readers like formula. They like knowing that they will be introduced to a man and a woman and know that by the end of the book, they will live happily ever after. So you can definitely make that subplot work for you.

      You can make them all work for you. Just really be hard on yourself when you edit those scenes and do all you can to make yours as original as you can.

    2. Ages are fun to play with - different combinations have such different energies, especially if you have one or two characters who are 10 or younger. In my WIP, I have a responsible 16 year old, a 14 year old who needs an attitude adjustment, and an adventurous 7 year old with a sense of humor - and they all have to work together. I love playing with the energies of this group; they're a lot of fun to read and write (although reading what I just wrote, they sound a little cliche...oh well. I don't think they come across that way on the page, they're just such unique, strong characcters).
      ~ Amo Libros

    3. *reads Jill's comment nodding*

      A Romance Reader


  8. Augh, I need some help with my WIP because I did notice some cliches -
    1. my book has two MCs, a girl and guy who have been best friends for years but the guy realizes his feelings are changing. I've seen books do this, so I'm trying to twist mine all up and make it not expected. So, I gave the guy traumatic brain injury and memory loss, so he only remembers his best friend a little bit but he thinks she's beautiful and fall in love.
    2. The girl is an orphan, and more than anything she wants her foster parents (who are kind and caring, and pretty awesome) to adopt her. They do at the end of the book because her need is "acceptance", but you said leave an orphan an orphan? I need her to not be an orphan...
    3. The "chosen one" thing. The FMC was going to have an ancestor that die killing the villain's accomplises so the villain wants to kill the FMC, but now I'm thinking of cutting that because it's a little bit too much to throw in there and I don't think I need it...

    Well, that's all the cliches I could think of. Now I'm going to go try to be careful as I write xD

    1. LOL!

      Sorry, Sarah. When I said to leave your orphan an orphan, that was just a suggestion. If you're writing a story about an orphan who wants a family, and that is one of the main points in the story, then, yes! You need to let that girl achieve that goal.

      And this brings up a really good point that I missed. Everything you do in your story should be done for a reason. Making your character an orphan just for kicks could be considered cliche. But telling the story about an orphan getting a family is a strong story goal that will tug at your reader's heartstrings.

      Hope that helps, Sarah. Try not to second guess yourself too much. Just make sure that you have a reason for doing things the way you're doing them and work hard to make them original.

    2. The orphan cliche that you really want to avoid is the "I thought I was an orphan, but really, my parents are alive, and they're the king and queen or some other important couple" cliche. It's very worn out.

    3. Yes, and actually, I like having the villain want revenge for what the FMC's ancestor did - assuming it's important to the story, of course. The "Chosen One" cliche you really want to avoid is "THERE IS A PROPHECY THAT SAYS YOU ARE THE ONE TO DESTROY THIS VILLAIN" because it's just been used too often (although sometimes very well). Having the bad guy come after the FMC because of something that wasn't a prophecy or mystical in any way, especially if it wasn't the FMC's doing, is a good twist on the "chosen one" cliche.
      ~ Amo Libros
      PS.: sometimes the orphan cliche can be kinda fun, especially if you have a group of heroes, any one of which could be the long lost child of an important couple. Then you spend the book trying to guess which one, and look forward to either vindication or correction at the end. ...Actually, that sounds kinda cool, I might have to write that

  9. Excellent points on making Cliches your own. Sometimes, you can't help but to write in the fashion. After all there's nothing new under the sun. You make something unique when twist a cliche and make it your own.

    Really good post:)

  10. An old person mentor is cliche? I didn't know, I have that in my WIP and thought I was being unique! I've been thinking about my WiP a lot and it's creating more questions than I know how to answer. It really has me wonder if I need a major restructuring and some plot changes?

    Also, my mc's nest friend is a minority, I did it as an ode to Claudia in The Babysitters club. She was my favorite and was into art, since there's a lot of art in my WIP I thought it was fitting, however, I could make the MC Asian. I realized my "mean girl" is cliche, preppy & blonde so I'm making her a redhead and have been reconsidering the preppy stuff.

    Do you think there is a difference between cliche's and what happens a lot in everyday life? For example, I think it's pretty common for a girl to have a crush on a guy friend. In books of course he ends up liking her back which is cliche. In real life more often than not (or always happens to Tonya) is the guy doessnt like her back. Taking a plot line like that wouldn't be so cliche if you showed how it really is, correct?
    I would say you could switch it up and have the guy like the girl but I'm not a guy so I can't answer this- but how many guys spend a significant amount of time following a girl around once he realizes she's not into him. I don't think it happens much, when he realizes nothings going to happen he moves on. That's why I dont like the notebook :). Or it's just my mother who has always told me "guys don't pine, you shouldn't either"

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Great post! I liked Tuesday's too. This is a great reminder to keep an eye out for these in my plot and a great way to make me think about how I could do things differently for the areas I was going to make cliche. Thank you very much for taking the time to write this!

  12. Yeah! I actually hardly have any of these, that I recognize...I kind of have a triangle, but one guy's being thrown off and the other is too busy doing more important things, like restoring order to his country...
    I have a prologue, but now I might work it in to the main story...
    My MC has about three sidekicks, too. Is that weird? They are mostly different, but not all the way.

  13. Warning: This is going to be a long comment.

    *sigh* I amaze myself with my ability to stuff cliches into my WIP. Thankfully, I've woken up to a lot of them and been able to chop them out in time. Not only did I have a power trio, but my MC was an orphan, his mother was disowned because she married his father against her parents' will, and he was heir to the throne but didn't know it.

    What really amazed me, though, was how much richer my story grew when I changed up those cliches. Instead of the MC's mother eloping (I didn't approve of that anyway!), I "threw in" a several-years-ago civil war ... which ended up adding a lot of depth and interest. And instead of MC secretly being the kingdom's heir, I put in a moment where readers think he's going to be - but then realize it's someone else. The extra characters I added to offset the power trio turned out to be some of my most fascinating.

    Perhaps my biggest, most useless and most annoying cliche was a character named Cameron. He was so overused I could hardly stand him myself ... but when I announced my decision to cut him in the second draft, my readers' reactions were: "NOOO! Not Cameron! I LOVE him!"

    Readers like cliches. There's a reason they're cliche - they're brilliant. The best way to deal with them is to twist or flip them to both please your readers and surprise your publishers.

    Thank you so much for this post, Ms. Williamson. It really helped to see your guidelines, and the list. Thanks!

  14. Hm. I have to say, I don't mind ANY of these - IF they're done in an original way. I think it's unfair to say "no magical schools!" when that covers from "Harry Potter" to "Percy Jackson". I think everything can be good if they're done with a fresh twist.
    That being said, I'm so happy that my WIP doesn't fall into many of these! EHEHE. There is someone who is supposed dead but turns out not to be, but, um, we never actually see him die. We had it on bad authority. And then there's a sidekick that isn't that important, but I couldn't avoid it. * embarrassing story*

  15. I have a lot of "cliches" in my first novel. Reading this struck home! I'm going to need to mix it up a little -- do some unexpected twists. I think I'm too predictable. Oops!

  16. This is cool. I kind of like the best friend falling in love with the main character, because I feel like that does happen in real life. My MC falls in love with her best friend, but they don't end up getting together. I think Tonya said something about that too...

    And yes, I never want to see a story about an orphan or a prophecy or a chosen one again. They're beyond cliches now.

  17. I have a tendency to start my stories with a prologue. How can I keep them from being over cliche?

    One of my prologues starts at the end of the story and the main character tries to think how she got there and re-tells the story of what just happened and then at the end of the story it meets up with her again and she tells what is happening at the moment.

    Another one starts with the main character telling what he saw when he was eight years old.

    Are these ideas to cliche? How can make my prologue less cliche and make it my own?

    1. I have a prologue too, and actually, I may have to end up pitching it, it's so cliche. Yours sound interesting, though, Alexandria. I've seen the first one you mentioned once or twice before, but wouldn't mind seeing it again.

  18. ‎:/ My book has a portal to another world though.... IT is different in some ways because it is a baroque mirror with to faces engraved in the frame on the top and bottom. And you don't walk through the portal to go through, a white light envelopes you and pulls you through. You also visibly fall through something of a black pit wall traversing the portal. The portal pops up wherever you want (though there are sometimes glitches) and is powered by three "magical" stones. Cliche? I have no idea........

    1. Personally, I think you've managed to make that cliche your own. Portals are cool, just overused, as with all cliches. If we took out every sinngle cliche in the world, we'd have a lot of really boring fantasy books. The trick is doing something different with them. I think you're good to go, Brian, especially if this is one of your only cliches.
      ~ Amo Libros

  19. Another cliche that drives me crazy: "It's quiet in here. Too quiet." There was one other one I was thinking of a few moments ago, but I can't remember it now. It had more to do with overall plot or characters...shoot, I wish I could remember.

  20. My novel doesn't have many of these. It has a few, but I'm retiring it now, so it doesn't matter. Now I really want to write a novel about a chosen one with a prophesy and a love triangle with the line, "Don't you die on me!"
    and an abandoned baby with portals to another world, as well as the magical item of great importance and a prologue that happens many years before your story begins Also, the best friend falls in love with the main character, and there's a fake death by the minority sidekick, who is the gay best friend, at the magic school.

    It should also involve the evil other woman,
    a retired guy called back into service because he's the ONLY ONE who can get the job done. The bad guy is really the main character's parent,
    along with the story of the man who's planning to retire... you know he's going to die... and he does!
    Let's not forget the friends' "we look alike, let's switch places" plot,
    a hero who before a battle says, "I was born ready.", and is tutored by an old man,
    the rakish hero, The bad guys who could have killed the good guy but who monologue instead,the couple that hates each other at the beginning but end up together by the end of the book, and where the guy's an evil lord,
    a plain girl who gets a makeover and all of a sudden she's gorgeous and all the guys love her.
    It should also include the dying evil man's line, "Tell my wife and kids I love them!", and the orphan who turns out to be someone really important. And more magic portals, of course.

    1. You know, that could actually be hilarious. An irony involving every well-known fantasy cliche...

  21. Haha my book I completed a year or so ago had ten of those and I didn't really notice it! I have retired that story now, but it's just funny to go back and look at it now :) Shows how my writing has improved.

  22. The first draft of my current novel fell into three of these cliche traps: EEEVIIILLL "parent," love triangle, and two people who hate each other and end up together. I caught them, though, and hopefully I've given them a bit of a twist.

    One thing I do get sick of is the "either or" approach to female protagonists. It seems that she can be strong and a good fighter OR she can be feminine. I hate that because I think it's unrealistic. I believe that most, if not all girls are a mix of tough and feminine. Why can't the wicked awesome female protagonist handle a gun well and like to shop at the same time? It's ridiculous. The truth is, people are full of opposites and contradictions. When we use that, I think it creates more unique characters.

    1. I agree!! All people have contradictions in their lives :)

  23. Heh heh. I'm guilty of some of some of these. ^ ^" But I think I can put a spin on them that'll make them work, because some are kinda necessary for my plot. Good post though. :) I will watch out for them. :)

  24. I'm guilty of a few of these for sure. :) But thanks, this is going to help performing surgery on my WIP lol.
    I've been thinking about deleting a character or two and stuff like that, I haven't really gotten to the creature stuff yet but there's definitely some creatures that are on the subject of hybrids. :) Most of them are half human half something else because they are intelligent for the most part, and they have tribes and such.

  25. OH! One more thing, I am VERY happy to say that I'm deleting a major cliche in my WIP mentioned above :D THe "EEVILLL" step-mother is going BYE-BYE lol. I decided to make her the housekeeper that might be a bit flirty and that rubs my MC the wrong way because her dad is single and she doesn't want him moving on from her mother.

  26. One more thing... lol
    Does the subject of "missing one parent" count as a cliche? Because Disney does that in almost every children's movie it makes. At least the Disney Princess type movies.
    Snow White
    ...need I go on? ;)

    1. I think that's definitely a cliche. Of which I am extremely guilty. Practically every story has only one involved parent. What's with that?

      Maybe we're so lazy, we only want to take the time to develop one parent...

    2. Well, there's also the teensy detail that parents tend to get in the way of plot lines. It's harder to send a teenager protagonist out on some wild journey or adventure when you know that their parents are going to be calling all the time (although that might give some nice conflict.)

  27. *laugh* That list is great. And I love that you admit you've done a few, too. Some of these I do roll my eyes at, others I still like to see sometimes.

    When I was plotting my WIP, I made a list of things Expected and the Unexpected, which is similar to your point of doing the opposite. Incredibly helpful. Totally led the story in some unplanned directions. And a lot of fun, too!

    As for avoiding stereotypes, oh, yes. I dislike the tough-guy girl characters (maybe that's why Peeta is my favorite character in that series, not Katniss). Gabi, in the River of Time series, has this one scene in the third book where she totally loses it. My heart broke during that scene, because I understood that she just needed to break down for a bit.

    Thanks for the great post, Jill!

  28. This list is completely spot-on. I think it hit just about every cliche that actively annoys me . . . And the "Don't die on me" line? NEVER fails to make me start laughing hysterically when I read it/hear it on TV. Which probably isn't the reaction the writer(s) were going for at that particular juncture.

  29. Thats a awesome post!
    I really like varying characters ages. My current group of SC/MC's are from age 12-85. ;) Most of them are around 17-21 though.

  30. I didn't use any!!! YAY! Ok...maybe a slight love triangle, but I changed it. The main character is truly in love with her (the purest, most beautiful kind of love) but his brother (yeah, that's a cliché in and of itself I believe) wants her too. Note the WANTS her. One night and he'll give her back. So it's a bit of a subversion... Your entire website is very helpful. Thanks.

  31. I have heard that these two are also considered as cliche:
    1. Description of surrounding, weather and environment.
    2. Starting with the character waking up from sleep suddenly.
    Are these two actually cliches because my novel has both. By the way, this article is great - I have been fortunate not to enter gravely into these traps.

  32. I hope mine isn't cliche...

    A younger sibling tries to change the older siblings mind set because he goes off the deep end and brings the exposure of magic into the world. The world ends up going into chaos with either the older brother killing those he thinks is too much of a threat or those who don't believe in his way of thinking and then the hunters that believe that wiccans are dangerous thus bringing back the witch trials. The younger brother knows that the older one wasn't always evil but can't seem to get through to him. After finally losing their younger sister though after losing the family members that he didn't lose to the other side, the younger brother believes that if he could find a point in his older brother's life that something happened, he could make sure that it didn't happen. Of course it's easier said then done with the second older brother making his life a living hell. He could only hope that when he does, he could make sure that the second time around nothing happens so that he loses everything. Then again, with nothing to lose, there's nothing he won't sacrifice to make sure his family is saved or he'll die trying.

  33. I'm honestly thinking of writing a story where a young, semi-pretty, normal girl is told she has to study with some kind of wisdom guy (I don't know yet, all I know is that I love romance so I'm developing that part first XD)who ends up being this rude, hot player (her age by the way) who she thinks she can change (wisdom for wisdom?) but really, she can't, and gets her heart broken and a boy who she wasn't close friends with whose just normal like her and he likes her and she, in grief, wants to make the mentor want her so she goes out with him to find out shes in love with him (1 of the 3 cliche I have in my story) I know its messy, but please check it out in the like below and/or give me advise on this site or that. Thanks!

  34. LOL!!!! I laughed so hard at how the list is right on point.

  35. Mine has only one of these, at least so far. Portals to another world. But they're called Gates. And the MC doesn't just fall into one, he becomes one of the ones who guards the Gates. Gatekeepers as they're called.

  36. Thanks so much for posting this! It has really gotten me thinking. When I found this I was already currently thinking of twists and how to "unravel," as I call it, clichés in my story. This will most certainly give me a boost, and I cannot thank you enough for all the thinking you've done for me and all the laughing that has escaped me. You all are amazing!

  37. This makes me feel a lot better about my WIP! I was so worried about writing an unoriginal story, but it only kinda-sorta fell into a few of these. Thanks for posting! I will becoming back to this list to check up on my stories!


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