One of the hardest parts about writing, for me, is avoiding cliches.
(Other hard parts of writing: beginnings, endings, character development, plot twists, foreshadowing…oh, we don’t have time to list all the things I struggle with.)
I don’t want my work to be considered “cliche.” I don’t want people to roll their eyes when they read it, thinking, “Oh, that’s mighty convenient,” or, “Well, that’s never been done before EVER. Except for the ONE MILLION OTHER TIMES.”
I want them to think “How original!” “How interesting!” “How very un-lame!”
However. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that there are some cliches I enjoy. A LOT. And I don’t just enjoy using them in my own stories; I enjoy reading them in other books. Especially YA novels.
Here are some examples, along with some of the books I remember seeing them in (and these are just the books I can see on my bookshelf from the chair I’m currently sitting in, so I know there are more):
–Boarding schools and/or a new school (Harry Potter, The Name of the Star, Twilight, Spellbound, Hex Hall, Anna and the French Kiss, etc.)
–Moving to a new city due to family event (Twilight, Die For Me)
–At least one missing or deceased parent (Harry Potter, Paranormalcy, Hunger Games, Die For Me, The Near Witch)
–Magical relics (Harry Potter, Spellbound)
–Portals to other places or times (Harry Potter, Hourglass)
–A group of mean kids who bully the main character (Hex Hall, Harry Potter, Divergent)
–Characters being divided into groups according to personality or some other distinguishing characteristic (Harry Potter, Divergent)
–Mysterious love interest with emotional baggage (The Near Witch, Across the Universe, Divergent, Paranormalcy, Matched, Die For Me, Twilight)
–A girl who rebels against her government with the quiet boy whom she grows to love (Hunger Games, Matched, Divergent)
OH, I could go on and on. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Now, these might not ALL be considered cliches, but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard each of them referred to as such at some point or other.
So this begs two questions: 1) Why are these cliche elements used so much? and 2) Why do I like them so much?
I think the answer to each question is this: THEY ARE AWESOME.
Boarding schools? Is there any richer potential for drama and fun? No way. Boarding schools are so common in YA lit because there’s so much FREEDOM. Boarding schools rock!
And the parents? Well, it adds some family drama and gives the main character some depth. How does he/she deal with his/her missing or dead parent(s)? How does it affect who they become?
And the mysterious guys with emotional baggage, OH, THEY ARE MY FAVORITE. Seriously, if Four, Ky Markham, and Elder were real people, well.
I think you know where I’m going with that.
(And yes, I left Edward Cullen off that list on purpose. Sorry, Eddie.)
What do you think? Do cliches turn you off from a story, or do you not mind them? Or are you like me, and you kind of love them if they’re done right? What are some books you love that contain obvious cliches?