I’m writing/scheduling this post ahead of time, because Wednesday I’ll be in Chicago on a spring break work trip (Ch1Con 2015 flyer campaign and researching for a novel).
So far this week I’ve been buried under preparations for going out to Chicago, plus doctor’s appointments, plus internship applications–so it’s nice to have midterms behind me and this week off from classes, even if I am using it to work. (Although also, let’s be honest, talking to librarians/bookshop owners/teachers about the conference and being a tourist downtown are probably the best job descriptions ever.)
This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post.
The one other thing I’ve been doing a lot of since spring break began is ingesting stories*. I’ve been watching a ton of movies, catching up on TV shows, and, of course, reading.
And, of course, taking in all these stories in such rapid succession means that the similarities they (and a ton of other stories) share are extra obvious.
Welcome to the sweet torture of reading/watching a really good story only for a love triangle/Chosen One/green-eyed romantic interest to pop out. (One of the books I read this weekend actually had all three of those cliches. Amongst others.)
Cliches drive me insane. They’re lazy writing, they make the story boring because they take away from its originality, and they take me out of the story because I’m noticing these things caused by them.
Different cliches annoy me at different levels, though. Like: A love triangle can ruin the book for me. A green-eyed romantic interest, on the other hand? I honestly couldn’t care less, beyond the fact that I do notice it. (2% of the world’s population has green eyes vs. 185% of YA boyfriends.) (But also, green eyes are really freaking awesome for symbolism. And pretty. And there are lots of fun ways of describing them. So I’m good with them.) (Okay, you caught me. I’ve totally done the green-eyed romantic interest thing, too. Shhh.)
Considering the book with all the cliches from this weekend, I realized that the reason some cliches are more annoying than others is because they affect the plot more. There’s a good chance it doesn’t matter in the long run that Mr. McSwoony Pants has green eyes, but love triangles are rarely things that get brushed aside in favor of a larger plot. Instead, they get woven into every fiber of the story, so that you end up with things like Katniss fretting over whether to choose Peeta or Gale in the middle of a FREAKING REVOLUTION. (Or, you know, the entirety of Twilight.)
So here I am. Rattling on about how terrible cliches are. Which, in itself, is kind of cliche at this point.
–But I don’t believe in a black and white nature to cliches.
I think even the worst of the worst cliches can be awesome if done right. I’ve seen so many good boy vs. bad boy or childhood BFF vs. new kid love triangles that it’s really hard for one to seem original now. But I still have hope for wonderful, new, unique love triangles. Because the thing that annoys me about love triangles isn’t love triangles themselves, but the way they’re handled, and this is true for all cliches.
Everything has been done before. EVERYTHING. I can’t tell you how many times a friend or I have wallowed in self-pity over the fact that we just had a shiny new idea, or have been working on a project for several years, only to see something that looks exactly like it come on in a TV spot for a new movie.
Heck, a professor is saying every story ever written can be summarized in one of six plot types. Even Romeo & Juliet wasn’t an original story. (Hello, rip off of Pyramus and Thisbe.)
There’s no such thing as a completely original story.
So it isn’t about what you write, but how you write it.
That book I read this weekend with all the cliches annoyed me (a lot). But there were also a lot of good points to it and I’ll definitely keep reading the series.
So don’t worry about writing cliches. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Write what you want to, do your best at it, and everything else will fall into place.
It’s nearly impossible to write a 100% not-cliche story. Embrace where you do fall into the cliches and make them your own.
You never know. Maybe you’ll be the one to come up with a new twist on the classic love triangle. (#TeamEdward? #TeamJacob? No. #TeamAuthor.)
Thanks for reading!
*I apologize for this. I’m starving right now so the only form my brain can function in is food-related verbs.