Whats in a Cliche? A trope by any other name wouldn’t be so lame

Once Upon a Time: Tropes and Clichés

I recently had the pleasure of reblogging an enjoyable rant about that bothersome subject.


I liked the post but it raise an rebellious thought however – too often we dismiss various tropes and ideas for being “too cliche” but often don’t really get to the heart of why such such a thing is bad.

(For the record I’m talking hear more about tropes, rather than cliche phrases which could be a whole entire other post)

First of all, I think the reason certain plot points or story progressions become considered cliche is that they are quite good really. For example the quintessential love triangle; it can be hard to generate tension within an entirely monogamous situation, and including any more than three angles can make an MC seem greedy (or of course create an easy solution of pairing people off with other characters aka Shakespearean comedy).

So sure love triangles are (over)used but does this mean they are bad? After all if our argument is that anything done often = cliche territory, and must be avoided we might as well stop having main characters romance subplots or writing books in discernible language.

In my humble opinion a cliche starts to stink when a writer perhaps fails to provide good story fundamentals to back up the situation, and/or worse believes that a tropey story technique will be powerful on its own to make a compelling read. Dare I use such an Example but the Twilight series is a successful example of including a love-triangle without solely relying on the fact, by which I mean the relationship tension existed logically among vampire/werewolf politics and plots and all the other sparkly stuff (OK maybe not the best example).

Another perhaps stronger case is Harry Potter. Why Harry Potter could easily be accused of ‘the chosen one’ cliche its hardly the center-piece of the story. Yes Harry’s position does bring much misery and plot action his way, but in no way does Rowling rely on a prophecy of Harry vs the Dark Lord to carry the story of the series or any individual book.

For a poor example of prophetic action see this trilogy the author of which I really love, but I noticed the series relies awfully heavily on the fact the main character is a prophesied evil-defeater and from there much of the tension drains away (the second trilogy in the series is much better despite a very fluffy ending)

I guess my conclusion is that readers aren’t necessarily looking for cliche’s to burn with pitchforks and flaming torches in hand, but rather that story tropes that are ubiquitous in fiction need to be handled with care, lest we as writers forget to tell an authentic story rather than fall back on said tropes hoping they will carry the story.


What are your thoughts on cliche’s? Are there any that you particularly despise, or love?

Don’t be shy comments section is there for a reason!!


One thought on “Whats in a Cliche? A trope by any other name wouldn’t be so lame

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