A Case for Clichés

It’s practically one of the ten commandments of writing: don’t use clichés.

They are cited as being boring, repetitive, and just bad writing. And while this is often the case – and this applies to tropes too – perhaps clichés do have some place in our writing.

A small place.

When you really think about it, maybe there are reasons certain phrases, characters, dialogue, and settings have become clichés. For one, as humans we naturally seek out patterns. We also tend to repeat the patterns we like.

Take a love triangle, for instance. Though this trope often causes eye rolls today, it has also helped create some of the most lovable stories in literature: The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, The Hunger Games, and the list goes on.

We also, as humans, have shared experiences. And as your writing often imitates life, then it is inevitable that two people will have similar stories to imitate in their writing.

For example, popular young adult books The Fault in Our Stars and Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl both have similar plots following a trio of friends, a love story, and cancer. But does this make these topics cliché? Not at all! Love, friendship and death are simply universal truths about life.

It is also important to remember the *cliched* saying, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Most plots, characters, and twists in your writing are going to have been done before. But that doesn’t make them bad, boring, or unoriginal.

The key for turning these repeated stories into new and exciting ones that make readers forget the potential for clichés is using your unique voice to write them well.

Clichés are obvious if they are overly abundant and poorly written. However, a reader can quickly forget that a certain character seems familiar if they quickly fall in love with the story and the new quirks of that character that you integrate in your work.

So, the bottom line is that clichés and tropes aren’t all bad. Though they often get a bad rap, and writers are told to avoid them at all costs, I believe that they should be given a second chance.

When written well and integrated with new ideas, plot twists, and a writer’s unique voice, stories that include clichés can – and will be – loved.

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