Thursday, June 02, 2005


No, not the "when hell freezes over" cliche. I'm talking about cliche on a bigger level.

I recently pulled an old ms out from under the bed, and I decided to take a looksee to see if it could be revived. I did a quick read of the first three chapters, and I thought "hey, not bad." But then I realized that I hadn't looked at this story for 4 years, and I am a much better writer than I was four years ago, so there had to be some serious flaws in the story. I just wasn't seeing them. So I did the "cliche test." (I just made up that name right now. Pretty catchy, eh?)

I looked at my cop hero and said to myself "How is this character cliche?"

Well, I was pretty surprised to discover I had an answer! He really was cliche! "He is cliche because he is a cop who is in trouble with his jerky boss for always breaking the rules for the greater good." Wow. That's such a cliche. Movies, television, books, you name it.

So then I asked myself "How do I make him not cliche?" So then I brainstormed a list of about 20 or 30 ideas about who this cop was, that were different than the ordinary treatment of cops. I came up with some really interesting ideas that were unique, and then it was a matter of seeing which ideas lent themselves to the most interesting story.

Trying doing that with your WIP. Ask yourself how each character is cliche. How is your plot cliche? How is your black moment cliche? How is your character's reaction to a situation cliche? Example: h/h are facing a stressful situation. Hero realizes heroine is stressing, so he places his hand over hers for reassurance. CLICHE! Think of something else he can do.

And then to add fun to the process, substitute the word "predictable" for "cliche": how is your plot predictable? How is this scene predictable?

This is what I'm doing for my WIP (my Warner Forever project! Yahoo!) Before I start writing each scene, I ask myself what the reader would expect to happen next. What would be the predictable thing to happen next? And then I make sure I don't write that scene. I write something different.

Keep the cliche and the predictable out of your story and you'll have a ms that is fresh and energetic and pulls the reader along. Editors love that! If anyone tries this and wants to share their findings, I'd love to know!


At 5:28 PM, Blogger Jill Monroe said...

Some excellent advice, especially asking which element in each scene is cliched!


Post a Comment

<< Home