I get it. Really, I do. Cliches are, well…cliche. A pretty, strong heroine confused in a love triangle, a suppressing government, the evil president of said government who has no motives other than an intense hunger for power, the sexy first love who has a deep, dark mysterious background; there are tons of cliches we writers are urged to avoid. If you do a Google search for cliches in your genre, chances are you’ll find at least two to three cliches included in your manuscript. (Also pretty likely that two to three is an understatement.)
I’m all for new ideas being introduced in literature. It’s what we all love about it in the first place. As readers, and writers, every new book we read and/or write is a different life we’ve lived.
As the brilliant, George R.R. Martin wrote in A Dance With Dragons:
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.”
However, hear me out.
History repeats itself. Usually, the differences between historical events lie in the details. Giant wars of power-hungry individuals are scattered throughout history, but how did the war happen? What fighting tactics were used? What individuals had families they had to leave, betray, fight against, or lose during the war? How did that all play out for them and how did their decisions affect the aftermath of the war? There are thousands and thousands of details that make each war story different.
This can be said for every cliche out there. While hearing all the cliches readers and writers hate can be helpful in motivating me as a writer to challenge myself to develop new ideas, it can also be daunting and create serious writers block. Imagine any other field of work being told they need to develop new solutions every time they encounter the same problem.
I know some writers get really hung up on avoiding cliches. In a technological world where we have literature, TV shows, history books, and so on at our fingertips, drowning us in influence, the pressure to be innovative is overwhelming, don’t you think? I challenge myself to be innovative in my writing daily, but sometimes, what works for my story just works, cliche or not. Avoiding the millions of cliches out there, in my opinion, is irrelevant to how I write those tiny details that make each cliche different. That’s what I care about and what I think will keep my (future) readers turning the page and loving my book.