Tag Archives: cliche

A Simple Little Flow Chart

I was thinking a lot recently about cliches and how hard it is to avoid them.  Romantic cliches are particularly tricky.  In order to illustrate this, I decided to create a nice, little flow chart that explores some (but not all) of the common romantic plot lines that can be found in books and movies.

You’re gonna want to click on that image to make it bigger, obviously.  Don’t worry — it’ll open in a new tab.  You should also be able to click on it once it’s open in a new tab to zoom it in even more.  I think you’ll be happier with it then.  Have fun!

Boy-Meets-Girl-Flowchart

Please note the disclaimer in red in the lower left corner.  I just couldn’t cover everything.  This process was exhausting enough as it was.  Hell, the computerized version wasn’t even my first draft.  I did it all on paper first.

See?

I threw my ruler on there for a size reference.  I had no banana for scale.  (Very few people are going to get that reference, I fear)

I threw my ruler on there for a size reference. I had no banana for scale. (Very few people are going to get that reference, I fear)

But the reason I did this was to show you that avoiding cliches is hard, and you shouldn’t be expected to do it perfectly.  That’s why I talk about taking a cliche and making it your own.  At this point there aren’t many more options.  You’ll note I didn’t really have examples for the “They’re both gay” storyline.  That could use some exploring.  And, of course, my own novels — Hellbound, Grotesque, and The Dreamcatchers — can be found in there.  Because I am not above these cliches at all.  I just try to make them as fresh as possible.  You will also note that many titles appeared multiple times.  That just serves to further illustrate how complicated something as seemingly simple as a relationship between two people can get.  It might also help you to develop some ideas for your own characters and stories, I hope.  Try exploring multiple story arcs at once, or turning a cliche on its head.

Also I did not include the following story line for what I hope are obvious reasons.

Boy and Girl Meet —-> They do not develop a relationship —-> They never see each other again

In a story, if you bring up two people meeting, it has to be relevant somehow.  So….yeah.

I want to talk a little bit about the art of criticism next, so that’ll be coming up.

Ta ta for now!

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What Sorcery is This?

This post is going to be about my book, Hellbound, which I am struggling furiously to get published.  If you do not know what it is, go to this post and scroll down until you’ve found my hastily cobbled together synopsis.  Or click here to go to the more official synopsis on my super official website.

Right.  Now that you’re caught up, I want to talk about my character, Aiden.  When I wrote Aiden, he was going to be a pretty typical supernatural boyfriend, but there was one cliche I wanted to avoid.  Aiden is immortal, and he was born before a lot of modern technologies were discovered/invented.  The usual response when a person from the “past” ends up in present day is constant shock and amazement.

Sorcery1

Sorcery2

Sorcery3

I looked through TV Tropes to find examples of this particular cliche.  Click here to go to the page that explains it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize any of the movies it listed as examples.  There are a couple I know off the top of my head:

Dark Shadows – never saw it, but Johnny Depp is like a two-hundred-year-old vampire who ends up in the 1970s.  Read The Editing Room’s version of the script by clicking here, since that was my source.

TV Tropes is right about ParaNorman – there are some Puritan zombies in it that get all shocked by modern day stuff.

I don’t know what else.  Probably Kate & Leopold.  And other things as well.  It’s weird.  I know this is a cliche but my mind keeps coming up blank when I try to think of examples.  Maybe you could provide some in the comments?

Anyway, Aiden’s situation is a little bit different.  He leaves Hell and goes to Earth every few decades, so it’s not like he’s a three-hundred-year-old immortal who very suddenly ends up in present day Los Angeles.  Still, I never wanted him to be shocked and confused by the things he saw.  He is occasionally surprised, amused, or curious, but never like, “OH MY GOD WHAT AM I LOOKING AT IT MUST BE MAGIC.”  Aiden goes into his job with the mindset of, “I know I’m going to see new things, and I am going to learn about those things as quickly as possible.”

I don’t really know where I was going with this post.  It wasn’t meant to be me stroking my own ego about how awesome I am at avoiding cliches.  I mean, I’m not even that good at it.  Most of Hellbound has cliches in it.  All of my books do, really.  But I have talked before about taking a cliche and making it your own, or at least reworking it some so it’s not so damn tired.  So I wanted to present an example of that.  And now I’ve started three sentences in a row with conjunctions.

Alright bye!

Word of the Day: Cessation (n) – a temporary or complete stopping; discontinuance

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Villainous Vocabulary

While I was revising Hellbound, I found myself running into trouble with a certain villain’s dialogue.  This, I realized, was because villains are just so…done.  All you have to do is watch a Disney movie to realize that there is a formula that many cliche villains follow.

[EDIT 5/30/13: It seems like a lot of the pictures I put up keep failing to show up.  I can’t tell if that’s due to an error on WordPress or Disney/the owners of the pictures taking them down or something.  I don’t really know how the internet works.  So sorry if some of the pictures are missing.  Feel free to Google anyone you can’t call up an image of in your head]

They are ugly…

Jafar, Aladdin

Governor Ratcliffe, Pocahontas

They are smooth talkers…

Scar, The Lion King

Dr. Facilier, The Princess and the Frog

They want to kill puppies…

Cruella Deville, 101 Dalmatians

You get the drift.  But mainly I wanted to talk about the smooth talkers.  Seriously, there are a lot of villainous smooth talkers…

Hades, Hercules

The reason I’ve been thinking about this is, as I said, I was trying to write a villain.  And he ended up talking like so many Scars and Hades…es that I had to completely rewrite a lot of his dialogue.  It got me to thinking about what makes a villain’s dialogue so cliche.  I mean, there are a ton of phrases out there that have been used so much that they can turn an ordinary character or situation into a cliche.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one (but really don’t):

“Impudent brat”

“Petulant child”

“Just stay out of my way”

“Meddling kids”

“Curses!  Foiled again!”

“You’re going to regret that”

“Get them!”

“MWAHAHAHAHAHAH”

Seriously, guys…what is so funny about being a villain?  Why do all villains laugh?  That’s just crazy.  I really never got it.  They’re all “You’re about to die!  AHAHAHAHA.”  What is hilarious about that?  I’ve gotten off topic again.

What I’m talking about doesn’t just apply to villainy.  There are a lot of phrases in the English language that are used more often than anyone can count.  Some of them are unavoidable…

“I love you.”

“I hate you.”

“Half past…”

“Quarter ’til…”

“See you later.”

“Come again.”

And some of them are avoidable.  For a list of the avoidable ones, just scroll up.  How many villains have given the order, “Get them!” to their minions?  A lot.  Does your villain have to?  No.  I’m sure you can think of a way around it.  And this will set your villain apart from the rest.

Another thing…villains might be crazy, but the crazier they act, the more cliche they become (sometimes).

Ursula, The Little Mermaid

Sometimes, a villain can be “crazy,” but still think that they are super sane.  So they act sane.  They speak rationally, and they don’t go for the dramatics.

Villain

If you make your villain a person, just a regular Joe like the rest of us, then you’ve created something scary: a monster that can walk among us, unseen and unsuspected.  Someone who will buy a bouquet of flowers for their girlfriend on the way home from murdering a middle-aged couple in their own home.

Unfortunately, that type of villain has been done, too.  (Think Patrick Bateman, the antihero from American Psycho)  They’ve all been done, really.  But there is a way to take a cliche and make it your own.  You just have to fiddle around with it a bit.

Done now!

Writer's Block Strip 24

Words of the Day (I couldn’t pick):

Impudent (adj) – of, pertaining to, or characterized by impertinence or effrontery.

Petulant (adj) – moved to or showing sudden, impatient irritation, especially over some trifling annoyance.

P.S. – Sorry for using all your images and whatnot, Disney!  I swear I’m not trying to profit off of them, so please, please don’t sue me.

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