author C.C.Cole's blog

Sunday, January 15, 2012

On Using Clichés

"The Princess Bride"
During the editing process of my second novella, “Children of Discord,” I used the line in dialogue twice:  “It’s time.”  Once was by Shevata before removing a bad guy, and another was before a secret marriage by childhood sweethearts.  The editor gave good advice by saying the phrase is an over-used clichéd line and to re-word the sentences.

Clichés, or stereotypes, I find to be tricky tools in writing fiction.  The author needs something familiar enough to reel in the reader.  Examples: 1) Hero rescuing beloved princess.   2) The enemy is clever but loses in the end.  2) Cute/humorous non-human supporting characters.  4) Young inexperienced hero defeats the large monstrous enemy 5) last but not least, a single person is chosen for a dangerous task.

The obvious negative of using clichés is the predictability they bring to stories.  But the positive is how authors can spin the predictable into the less predictable.  Examples would be many anti-hero concepts, the “uncloaking” of characters to reveal truths at the right time, and dark outcomes that require careful crafting as many readers don’t want to feel depressed after finishing genre fiction books.  An editor once recommended me to have characters lie to each other more to bring in more intrigue.  The lack of a love interest remains an often-criticized deviation in my own writing.  “Act of Redemption” is not a love story.  Shevata’s monstrous curse doesn’t exactly make her a prince magnet.   But does she ever find love?  That’s the good part about clichés; they make room for the author to use creativity to reach a goal seen often in fiction but through unconventional means. 

When I review books, I usually raise a star to authors that minimize clichés.  But no size fits all; sometimes the template strengthens the story.  While avarice, evil, and greed drive antagonists, still our most cherished emotions like love and bravery move us through our protagonists.  New authors, tweet us about your work, and if you use clichés, that doesn’t make the work less your own.  The readers always decide.


  1. I was reading on the website Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and I was terrified. She gave a book an "F" because ti had every cliche' in it. My third book is basically every single cliche' she mentioned.

    I am not about to write about a blonde or a brunette heroine. Can't. So far, no one has mentioned my overuse of cliche's in any of my books. But what about the old saw that there are only seven actual story plots.

  2. Good point, I think you may have hit a non-audience reader. Please tweet about your book @gastarbooks, would love to hear (read) about it!

  3. Just clicked onto your blog from the Third Sunday Blog Carnival….

    Follow mine at http://thewrongplaceatthewrongtime.blogspot.com/

    I also have a post on the Third Sunday Blog Carnival……


    Dave Perlmutter