Most advice you see or hear on the topic will be along the same lines. There are no new stories. Clichés are a powerful tool. Use them, but don’t overuse them.
I can get on board with many of these statements in general terms but something kind of bugs me about all of them. They seem to imply that originality is bad, or even dead. Now, of course, most people will never outright tell you this. But they will talk about how clichés help readers immediately get a feel for situations and quickly identify with characters. Indeed, this is great power, but isn’t there room for something else?
In an age where we, as consumers, are inundated with YouTube shows, podcasts, self published books, fan fiction, SoundCloud musicians, indie mobile games, and the rise of HBO and Netflix original programming, there is an incredible amount of content available to us. This variety gives us access to endless niches. As fans, we have nearly unlimited combinations of things we can identify with and use for self-expression.
Why then, still, is there such a strong reliance on worn out clichés?
Don’t get me wrong: you can find common tropes in my writing. Just like there are no new stories, you’ll never be able to create something without someone claiming your idea is overdone. And that’s fine. I am not accusing writing with familiar content of being inferior. Everyone, reader and writer alike, has their own preferences and styles and they are all valid.
Personally, I’m just advocating for more effort to do things differently. And that’s where my preference and style come in to play.
I wrote a werewolf novel. Are the creatures embroiled in an ongoing war against their ancient enemy, the vampires? No way. In fact, there aren’t any vampires in the story at all. Crazy, I know, but stick with me. I didn’t want to bother with a long family lineage with epic ramifications, just a single, intimate group. I didn’t consider exploring the dramatic origins of the race although I did propose the science to back up the affliction. I tried to do things my way without relying too heavily on common werewolf storylines.
I don’t think any of this makes my book better than other werewolf books, it is just my take on doing things differently.
When I read novels, this is the kind of thing I appreciate. I hope to write stories with lasting influence, stories that I can be proud of. I want my books to distinguish themselves from those my fans have read before, no matter the impossibility of the task.
In the future, I’ll share other clichés I heartily avoid. I’ll discuss why I think the alternatives work better for my fiction. And I hope you’ll agree with me.
Thanks for reading.
The aforementioned werewolf novel is currently being edited and will be released for sale by the end of the month. If you sign up to my newsletter before the book is released, you will score yourself a complete copy for free.