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Serpent
04-12-2012, 09:07 AM
Hello AWers,

I was just wondering if any of you have had your agents or editors scrap something because it was considered "cliche". If so, did it surprise you? Do agents complain about recurring cliches in literature? Are the cliches they complain about tend to be timeless, or, are there ones that go in phases?

Drachen Jager
04-12-2012, 09:46 AM
Rule # 40 (or rule #1 depending on the source): Avoid clichés like the plague.

It's just bad writing. If a cliché says something you need (or really want) to say, find your own words for it.

Good article on writing with a section on cliches here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-bangs/avoid-cliches-like-the-pl_b_796016.html

quicklime
04-12-2012, 04:20 PM
what drachen said....a cliche (think "raining cats and dogs") is the most common, over-used way to say something. Often diluted to meaning less as a consequence, plus instead of showcasing your own ability you are reaching for the lowest common demoninator.

Now, there are times a cliche can be great, like a somewhat dim boss who seems unable to talk in any other language--that's part of his character. But if you narrate using cliches, it is weak, derivative writing. You aren't saying what only you can, you're saying what EVERYBODY can.

Undercover
04-12-2012, 05:08 PM
If you're writing cliches than you wouldn't have an agent.

HoneyBadger
04-12-2012, 05:14 PM
I feel like this should get stickied somewhere:

Agent Ann Collette often live-tweets her reactions to queries in a Top 12 bit. (https://twitter.com/#!/Ann_Collette) (I hope she'll do one today, as she has my query!) And she's bloody genius. She points out why she's passing (or, more rarely, requesting a partial) and it's incredibly interesting. She talks about cliches a lot.

RKLipman
04-12-2012, 06:32 PM
If you're writing cliches than you wouldn't have an agent.

This is what I came here to say.

Serpent
04-12-2012, 08:35 PM
what drachen said....a cliche (think "raining cats and dogs") is the most common, over-used way to say something. Often diluted to meaning less as a consequence, plus instead of showcasing your own ability you are reaching for the lowest common demoninator.

Now, there are times a cliche can be great, like a somewhat dim boss who seems unable to talk in any other language--that's part of his character. But if you narrate using cliches, it is weak, derivative writing. You aren't saying what only you can, you're saying what EVERYBODY can.

I know what a cliche is.

Herp derp.

Serpent
04-12-2012, 08:36 PM
I feel like this should get stickied somewhere:

Agent Ann Collette often live-tweets her reactions to queries in a Top 12 bit. (https://twitter.com/#%21/Ann_Collette) (I hope she'll do one today, as she has my query!) And she's bloody genius. She points out why she's passing (or, more rarely, requesting a partial) and it's incredibly interesting. She talks about cliches a lot.

Thanks! This is exactly what I was looking for.

flapperphilosopher
04-13-2012, 02:28 AM
There's cliche phrases, and there's cliche characters/stories. Using cliche phrases in your writing, unless it's dialogue and a very specific character thing, is just bad and lazy writing. Cliche characters and stories are harder to define. What's cliche in stories and what's not varies over time, too-- once upon a time, the 'prostitute with a heart of gold' WAS unexpected, but now it's a cliche. Same with 'tough guy who isn't really so tough'. Cliche characters and stories (and even twists) are boring because we've seen/heard it all before. A cliche is playing to expectations.

When you're querying, there's an added dilemma-- you have very few words in your query, synopsis, and first few pages, so it's especially easy to resort to cliches to try and explain things. There ARE types of people/characters and types of stories, but remember, you don't want to be describing your stories and people by 'type'. You want to show off the ways they aren't types, the ways they subvert the cliches.

I'm not sure exaaaactly what you're looking for in your question, but hopefully some part of that helps! :)

Colossus
04-13-2012, 07:14 AM
If you're writing cliches than you wouldn't have an agent.


I don't write chiches, but I still don't have an agent.

One more thing I'm not doing wrong......hmm.....

ha

Drachen Jager
04-13-2012, 08:50 AM
Everyone writes clichés.

It's inevitable, you can just keep them to a minimum and avoid the really trite ones. Some cliché use is pretty much unavoidable.

gothicangel
04-13-2012, 12:27 PM
If you're writing cliches than you wouldn't have an agent.

Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyers, Christopher Paolini . . .

quicklime
04-13-2012, 07:33 PM
I know what a cliche is.

Herp derp.



so, you knew a cliche was weak, cheap, unimaginitive, lowest-common-denominator writing, and you wanted to know why that was a bad thing? Or if agents would try to change/discourage them?



*scratches head

ios
04-13-2012, 08:18 PM
Hello AWers,

I was just wondering if any of you have had your agents or editors scrap something because it was considered "cliche". If so, did it surprise you? Do agents complain about recurring cliches in literature? Are the cliches they complain about tend to be timeless, or, are there ones that go in phases?

Offhand, as a reader, I don't think the cliche level is high in published writing, either in phrases or in large elements of a story. However, I don't recall ever reading a novel either and thinking, Wow, not a single cliche. Off hand, without having a novel to pick up and analyze, or the time to do so, I'd say avoiding cliches is like avoiding passive voice in writing. Sometimes it's gonna be in there because it works.

As a writer, I'm a big believer in that if it works, it works--and that goes for cliches, passive voice, backstory in the first 10/50/whatever pages, and other writerly advice. If it works, it works.

Jodi

Old Hack
04-13-2012, 08:28 PM
As Serpent has now left the building I'm going to close this thread. If anyone would like it reopened PM me, and I'll reconsider.