So you have plot/story ready and you’ve finished your first page: Dark Lord, Chosen One, and Orphans. Satisfied you keep writing but a small voice at the back of your head keeps telling you to read what you wrote and oh no! Magic Schools, Cursed Jewelry, Tax Exemptions… CLICHÉS! How could this be? When did the infection began? Why does Benosone cost so much? Disaster.
Worry not, dear reader, for you have come across this blog post written by me, the Burnt Cream™, to teach you how to write. I have been writing for years and have no publications under my belt, but I can teach you a thing or two about writing from a decade of trial and error. Still reading? Not off to play INSERTGAMEHERE? Great!
- Lesson 4: Tropes and Clichés
Clichés, clichés, clichés… As a writer you’ve probably been taught to avoid clichés like the plague. So what are clichés? Clichés are overused tropes that . As a writer you must go beyond the audience’s understanding of clichés. As a writer, ask yourself: Why and when will clichés be a problem?
Well let’s take the Chosen One cliché as an example. You’re probably familiar with how it goes – average person goes about average life only to learn that they’re secretly Jesus with a great destiny planned for them. This destiny usually includes them defeating some great evil and the universe will grant them some great power to do it. The Chosen One cliché gets a lot of flak because of how familiar we are with it – this removes the tension from the story because again, we already know how it will play out; it’s like reading the end of the book before reading the start.
That said I myself am quite fond of this cliché so let’s see what we can do to workshop this. The toolbox analogy is appropriate because you can use your tools, you must first understand what it can and cannot do (A recurring theme in this series) and in this case the tools are tropes and clichés.
Oh before I forget, a trope is a storytelling device that is used in media. Almost like clichés but without the negative connotations. Anyway…
The key issue with the Chosen One cliché is that it kills suspense for the audience because they know how it will play out. You could subvert that expectation: the chosen one will fail, they will be the villain instead, etc. or you could discuss the implications of the Chosen One. If they Chosen One is true, what would it mean for the characters to live in a deterministic universe? Do choices matter? Is the villain truly evil or is he/she merely acting on the whims of an unseen power?
Remember, don’t think of clichés as good or bad. Understand why they work or don’t work.
Additional help from people smarter than me:
Want to know more about tropes and clichés? Look up TvTropes is a wiki that hosts a wide collection of tropes featured in numerous works. A word of warning before you cross that line: TvTropes comes with a warning that it will ruin your life. Like any students of film or media, once you learn or identify a few key concepts, you’ll never see media the same way again. TvTropes is no exception because once you recognise tropes, you will be watching things critically and analysing works which for the purpose of this series is a good thing but ignorance is bliss as they say.
So now you have your toolbox of tropes and are prepared to write and you’re off with your characters. But wait, you wonder. Is your character too flat or a Mary-Sue? Should you drink your tea bag in our out?
See you next time!