When is a Cliché not a Cliché?

If you haven’t read How To Tell If You Are In A High Fantasy Novel, you should, simply because it’s hilarious. At the end of that article, you’ll find links to discover if you are in a Regency Romance or Babysitters Club book. It’s worth looking into, just in case. I mean, I’d hate to be walking around in a Regency Romance all unawares and such…

But seriously, the above mentioned article takes a humorous look at clichés in High Fantasy, and is worth a read for the sake of avoiding such in one’s writing. Another great – and hilarious – resource is The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones. Buy it. You will laugh many times over and come out a better writer. If you aren’t a writer, buy it anyway, just for the laughs.

But it raises some questions for us writer folk. Primarily, when is a cliché not a cliché? I’ll venture to say – with no statistical data to back me up – that almost every book contains some element that might be construed as cliché. For me, it comes down to why and how an element is included in the story. Does it play an important role in the story? Is it the only logical way to write the story or is the author being lazy? (On the other hand, is a redhead’s braid an inconsequential detail not worth fretting over for the next 200 pages? For the record, I don’t think my redhead would ever suffer a braid in her hair. Far below her style, to be sure!)

I suspect we writers will never completely escape all the makings of cliché, but I hope we’ll be smart enough to avoid flat-out cliché and to set our redheaded orphans of prophecy in compelling, original stories in which their braids make perfect sense.

The Council would love to hear your thoughts on this matter. Quickly, though, for they are most displeased with my poor mother since the untimely death of the dear father whose face fades from my childhood memories.


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