Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The First Cliche

I don't have the humor of the Bloggess. I don't have the artistic talent of Allie Brosch over on Hyperbole and a Half. I don't have the near-perfect grasp of the English language like my wife does over on Tales of an Intrepid Pantster. I'm not sure I have a claim to fame, but if I did, it is the ability to piece together unique stories either devoid of cliches or using them in a mostly harmless way.

I hate cliches. And while I might enjoy a story that takes a cliche and spins it in a different direction, the use of the cliche never leaves me completely satisfied. Overuse of cliches will result in a wall thumper at worst and my weekly mockery at best (I'm looking at you Terra Nova!). On the other hand, good cliche use gets my attention and works devoid of cliches get my praise.

I haven't decided the full direction of this blog. I know that I'll talk about writing, television, books, movies, my cats, my wife, Upstate New York, and subjects I probably shouldn't mention. I will regularly be deconstructing and constructing story elements. If you are a writer, I'm sure you'll get at least two pieces of advice for every piece of dredge I offer. If you like reading blogs, this is a blog. If you don't want to see your favorite shows ripped apart and insulted, you need to find new shows to watch. I'll definitely talk about cliches. Someone needs to declare war on the suckers.

I'm going to try and write an entry once a week. That's the closest thing you will get a promise. I'll also try and include random writing in each post. For day, I'm going to create a story using some dice I got for Christmas. It's from the game, Rory's Story Cubes. I have two sets. You roll the dice and put together a story based on the pictures you have. In future posts, I'll use these dice to talk about how I construct stories and work to avoid cliches. For now, I'm being lazy and just creating a random story and pointing out the cliches.

There was once a happy family living in a house. The night had been a peaceful so far. Thomas had just given Kelly a gift to open. After spending a moment to ponder the package, Kelly unwrapped a pair of dolls. The night was suddenly interrupted by a dragon from out of town. It landed on the guard's tower and setup camp in the parapet. The appearance of the dragon created a bit of drama for the family. After a heated conversation with his wife, Thomas decided to go to investigate. From the top of the tower, he saw the dragon hanging out on a parapet below. Thomas took a giant ball and tried to drop it on the dragon's head. In retrospect, the act was a bit of a reach. The ball missed. He decided it had been a case of bad judgement to try and slay the dragon. He was upset, but after dancing a jig at home, he felt much better.

The story, at its core is pretty dull and ripe full of cliches. Peaceful life is disrupted by an outside force that is given a monstrous appearance. Male decided to take his approach against the wishes of the female and tries to defeat the beast. Male makes an attempt to stop the beast and fails. I'm willing to bet you can take this plot summary and apply it to thousands of popular stories. I took a brief look at my bookshelf and only had to scan as far as my collection of Andrew Lang. That's the start for a large chunk of fairy tales.

The first step to dealing with cliches is to recognize them. The worse the writing, the more they stand out. Better writers paint the cliches in pretty colors to hide them. It is possible to water a cliche down until it is unrecognizable. However, if you don't know it's there, you can't water it down.

If you're curious, the story took approximately two minutes to write.


  1. What do you mean, NEAR-perfect? :p

  2. Ssssssssh. If I say you're perfect, no one will believe me.