View Full Version : Clichés - good or bad?

01-12-2013, 11:36 AM
As I've started writing one of my first Science Fiction novels, something has really struck me in my writing process and it's the fear of using clichés (even if it's all about a few clichés). I've even googled long lists of clichés, just to make sure I haven't been using too many of them. I've also used the lists in order to think of how to twist the clichés into something more fresh, but still with a sense of realism (Otherwise, I think it's easy to feel lost while reading it).

-What do you think about clichés in the writing of Science Fiction?
-Which clichés are acceptable/good?
- Which ones are bad and in why?

As far as I'm concerned, I'm convinced that some clichés are acceptable, if the stories don't rely on them too much, in order to make them more unpredictable and original... but that's just my point of view. Now I want to hear your thoughts about it!

I shall look forward to your reply!

Pardon me if I there are some grammatical errors in this content. I'm from Scandinavia (Sweden).

Aminar Gioco
06-29-2013, 02:09 AM
Cliche's are useful building blocks. Anything you write will have them, they are frequently used for a reason. Just avoid making them omnipresent, and make them yours.
For instance, in my current writing project I took the cliche Alien types(1 human, 1 super advanced alien, 1 hiveminded bug alien) and threw it on its ear. My design goal was to use these tropes while not following the expectation that the advanced Aliens are some benevolent super species, and the hivemind is an evil voracious swarm.
On the other hand, my humans are just human. Pretty cliche their.

06-29-2013, 02:16 PM
Personally, it depends on how "in your face" they are. I'm not a fan of 'in your face' anything because then I start enjoying the story less because I feel like I'm being pandered to or lectured to. I think cliches seem less like cliches when they are part of the story flow. You only really notice them if you're looking for them, not being smacked with them.

Keith Manuel
08-25-2013, 07:25 AM
They give some common ground for the reader, but you should not go too far. tvtropes.org is a good site dedicated to all kinds of literary (including screenwriting) tropes, if you want to look at certain kinds of cliches.

But, yes, play around with them. Do something unexpected. That's where the fun is for both reader and writer. Good luck. :)

Rodgin Kemph
08-31-2013, 04:53 AM
Cliché, if done well, is not cliché. There are very few new ideas, and anything can be boiled down to cliché. I think it is most important to do it well, rather than avoid clichés.

Singed Icarus
09-06-2013, 11:44 AM
"Digging the scene like beautiful clichés" - Massive Attack.

It depends... There is a saying that there is only 7 plot-lines it's true to a certain extent, however it's a writer's ability to combine, twist and skew these that makes him/her stand out. You should probably avoid firing them around but don't worry too much or you'll start second guessing yourself which can lead to mediocre writing that lacks confidence.

Let's put this another way - you might have a lord's daughter in your novel who could be a spoiled brat, it's a cliché/truism however if you flesh out the character with enough history, motivation and personality its not going to matter.

A perfect example of this is Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings series: the tragic, noble monarch in exile was hardly anything new at the time but Tolkien damn well made you feel the weight of his responsibilities! That is why Aragorn never felt like a pastiche.

I hope this helps...

09-08-2013, 01:15 AM
Hi, I'm brand new to this site and have been just poking around at the different forum posts. I thought I'd jump in here with a response. I hope that's okay.
Honestly, in my very humble opinion, you shouldn't dwell too much on lists of clichés. Try not to give the much thought. Write your story as it comes out of you. If you focus too much on what other people have created (such as cliché lists) you might lose your own voice. And it's your voice that will make the story unique--and hopefully very good. Best of luck in writing your book!

Yutani Wakazashi
01-07-2014, 05:49 AM
My personal take here, so take it with a grain of salt.

It sounds like you are talking not of cliches, but rather of tropes. Some examples of common, general tropes in scifi/fantasy include Humanoid Aliens, The Federation/The Empire, Lost Technology/Lost Magic, etc.

Because these tropes are common, they may seem like cliches. The thing to remember is that, in and of themselves tropes are not bad. They are tools, and their effectiveness depends on how they are used. As mentioned by other posters above me, thinking of new directions to take an idea helps.

An example is magic. It is the backbone of fantasy settings, but is rarely used in a believable way. If the wizard can sling fireballs and control dragons and make zombies with hardly any effort, why isn't anybody else doing it? So, instead of having easy magic available to only a few, maybe you can take it another way. Maybe magic is wild and untamed, and the caster is actually rather worried about the spell going off in his face. Or maybe it is on the other end of the spectrum. Maybe in your world, magic has been studied and analyzed until it is basically a science; why would the society bother to invent computers when you can just throw some jinn in a box and make them do calculations for you? Now, you have taken the "cliche" of magic and made it into something different and interesting.

03-08-2014, 12:40 PM
Cliches may often be inevitable. For me, writing takes on a life of its own. The words tumble out and create imagery. Occasionally, I find that something trite, trivial or cliché seems to worm its way into what I am writing - at which point I slow down and then twist it. You can spin it humorously, ominously, or in any other direction you wish so that the cliché is not a direct reference to what it might have been before but takes on a new life.

Just my thought on the subject.

04-29-2014, 08:21 PM

The Cliche is going to happen, it's just up to the writer to make sure it isn't a hindrance in the final draft.

05-13-2014, 01:52 AM
I'm all for them myself, but in the right context. I think if a writer spends too much time making everything they write to be unique, it can become laborious to read, as the reader needs to create a perspective that helps understand what they are reading. A cliche is nothing more than a tried and true idea.
As others have mentioned, it's all about how you sell the cliche to the reader, to create the illusion that it is an original concept. That to me is great writing.