PDA

View Full Version : What Do You Make Of This Comment?


gothicangel
02-22-2011, 12:59 AM
Mark Billingham:

"You worry that you will be entering that world of the strange cliche-ed cop, but you soon realise that you have to get comfortable in that world. You think 'Hang on, some of the clichés are part of that territory'. It would like writing a Western and going 'Oh no I've given him a horse! What a terrible cliché!' It's not a cliché - It's part and parcel of the genre - cowboys have six-guns, horses and stetsons and detectives have a past... problems [and] flaws, because if they don't, then there is nothing to read about."

It probably explains why I've never finished a Mark Billingham title. Would love to hear other opinions. :)

Ken Hoss
02-22-2011, 01:24 AM
I think the cliche has gotten a bad rap. As a writer, I don't think you can avoid using cliches all the time. Heck, almost everything is a cliche these days. Check this link:

http://www.helium.com/items/1469803-cliche

And this one:

http://www.helium.com/items/1524143-cliches-in-fiction-writing-when-to-use-them

There are three more articles on this site.

I'll be back.:D

heyjude
02-22-2011, 01:26 AM
It's absolutely true that everyone has a past, problems, and flaws. It's how you write it, IMO. If the character's a cookie cutout of every other character, that obviously won't work. If it's written in a fresh, engaging way, even the standard cliches work.

JRVogt
02-22-2011, 05:26 AM
It's not the size of the cliche. It's how you use it.

Or something like that.

kaitie
02-22-2011, 06:47 AM
I think the trick is not giving the character the same past, flaws, and weaknesses that every other cop character, for instance, has. If the brooding tough guy whose wife leaves him because he's too distant and he becomes an alcoholic is cliche (I've seen a few of those) then maybe it's time to consider something a little different.

I read an interesting story once where the main character became a cop because he'd had to turn his brother in after his brother murdered someone. Yes, the guy had issues, but that was a really cool way to handle his backstory and gave him a really intriguing past. I found that one of the most fascinating elements of the book.

In principle, he's kind of right, but I never like the idea of giving characters cliche traits. Actually, I try really hard to see my characters as three-dimensional human beings first and foremost. I think when you've done that, it becomes a lot easier to avoid cliche in general.

mtrenteseau
02-22-2011, 09:07 AM
Every character has a past; while technically, they did pop up full-grown on the page the first time we see them, in the universe of your story they had a lifetime of experiences that shape their personality.

Everyone in law enforcement has a reason for getting into that profession. Everyone has a reason for the way they deal with their parents. Everyone has a reason for the way they deal with the opposite sex. Everyone has a reason for the way they feel about money.

Even if you've heard them before, they're not cliche if you handle them in a different and interesting way.

Dandroid
02-22-2011, 09:20 AM
hard-boiled detective novels run into the problem of characters having pasts or problems that also make them seem tougher...ie..the vietnam vet, the former or current alcoholic, a loss of faith, loss of family due to violence, etc...but i guess IBS or CHF isn't as sexy....

mtrenteseau
02-22-2011, 10:17 AM
but i guess IBS or CHF isn't as sexy....

Depends on if you want your character to be sexy. Ironside was in a wheelchair, Adrian Monk had OCD and a laundry list of phobias, and there have been more than one blind detective.

While I've never heard of IBS being a character trait in a detective, the last Hercule Poirot story, Curtain, has him taking nitroglycerin.

Dandroid
02-22-2011, 10:22 AM
Depends on if you want your character to be sexy. Ironside was in a wheelchair, Adrian Monk had OCD and a laundry list of phobias, and there have been more than one blind detective.

While I've never heard of IBS being a character trait in a detective, the last Hercule Poirot story, Curtain, has him taking nitroglycerin.

poor guy...probably had ankles swollen like nobody's business....

gothicangel
02-22-2011, 12:46 PM
I think the trick is not giving the character the same past, flaws, and weaknesses that every other cop character, for instance, has. If the brooding tough guy whose wife leaves him because he's too distant and he becomes an alcoholic is cliche (I've seen a few of those) then maybe it's time to consider something a little different.

I read an interesting story once where the main character became a cop because he'd had to turn his brother in after his brother murdered someone. Yes, the guy had issues, but that was a really cool way to handle his backstory and gave him a really intriguing past. I found that one of the most fascinating elements of the book.

In principle, he's kind of right, but I never like the idea of giving characters cliche traits. Actually, I try really hard to see my characters as three-dimensional human beings first and foremost. I think when you've done that, it becomes a lot easier to avoid cliche in general.

So this. :)

I love Wallander and Rebus, there seems to be a lot of pale imitations. I'm reading Billingham's Buried and don't care for Thorne at all. Ditto with Michael Connelly.

The Detective I'm writing now is a high flier, he has a strong relationship, but is haunted by one decision he made on the job that led to a death.

Shakesbear
02-22-2011, 01:15 PM
In the introduction to Kenneth Branaghs version of Much Ado About Nothing (the book version, not the film) Branagh writes:
"This filling in of the 'back story' for each of the characters is one of the most necessary and interesting elements in preparing a characterisation, particularly for the screen. The audience won't know specifically my off-screen history for Benedick - his upbringing, his family, his likes and dislikes - but I hope that with this history firmly in my mind, they will at least intuit part of it, feel a depth to the character beyond what he says and does." (Page xi)

I think that if a writer has the back story of their character in mind when writing it stops the character from being a cliche because the reader senses the "depth to the character beyond what he says and does".

gothicangel
02-22-2011, 02:02 PM
In the introduction to Kenneth Branaghs version of Much Ado About Nothing (the book version, not the film) Branagh writes:
"This filling in of the 'back story' for each of the characters is one of the most necessary and interesting elements in preparing a characterisation, particularly for the screen. The audience won't know specifically my off-screen history for Benedick - his upbringing, his family, his likes and dislikes - but I hope that with this history firmly in my mind, they will at least intuit part of it, feel a depth to the character beyond what he says and does." (Page xi)

I think that if a writer has the back story of their character in mind when writing it stops the character from being a cliche because the reader senses the "depth to the character beyond what he says and does".

Thanks for that. I whole-heartedly agree! :)

Ken Hoss
02-23-2011, 12:12 AM
So a detective who is a recovering alcoholic, has lost her faith and is still in love with her ex-husband is a cliche? Damn! Now I have to scrap my first book. *hangs head and slinks into a corner*















NOT!

Lyra Jean
02-23-2011, 12:18 AM
What came to my mind was the movie, The Poseidon Adventure, where the retired cop married the hooker. I know it's not a detective story.

Adam has a blog story with a detective who describes his trench coat, hat, and beat up car as if it was the uniform for detectives. Gumshoe Casefiles (http://gumshoecasefiles.blogspot.com/)

Umgowa
02-27-2011, 07:37 PM
I think it's possible and desirable to have certain important elements like character flaws and and still keep things fresh. Don't eliminate the flaws . . . people love characters with flaws. I think the challenge is to find a way to make them fresh. Maybe the main character is addicted to video games, or Facebook . . . or maybe he can't tear himself away from the new growing addiction of fantasy baseball.

tarak
02-27-2011, 10:29 PM
Ken, my MC is a recovering alcoholic. Recovering in the sense she doesn't drink anymore. She does, however, leave voice mail messages on her dead husband's cell phone (which she's kept paid and active for several years). Not one of my betas has said to cut that subplot.

Jamesaritchie
02-27-2011, 10:50 PM
I don't think there is such a thing as a good cliche. But there's nothing cliche about horses and six guns in westerns, or the usual tropes in mystery fiction. Cliches come from overused plots, actual cliched language, and cardboard characters.