Lost in a Sea of Clichés

I am working on a book. It is a fantasy book, taking place in a different world, with different races, different rules, and magic. Lots of magic. I enjoy working on it. I really do. But the amount of control it has over my emotions is just ridiculous.

I suppose I’m so emotionally attached because it’s my first foray into novel-writing. This story is my baby, the one I’ve been thinking about for years. It’s the story I go to when I’m bored, doing chores, falling asleep…It’s a soap opera in its seventeenth season, constantly playing in my head during the lesser parts of the day. I’ve lived this story, I know the characters more intimately than I know my own friends and family. So it is very, very hard to write this story and do it justice.

Today I was researching magic systems. I want to be sure that the magic in my book is interesting and believable, and that is has rules and limitations so it’s not a dues ex machina just waiting to happen. It seemed like such a simple goal. But then, I stumbled upon an article that really tore me up. It was a post about Do’s and Don’t’s of magic. It basically listed a bunch of clichéd ideas that are either overused or just boring. And it made me oh-so-sad.

I admit it: I like a lot of clichés. I like a downtrodden person rising to the top. I like rooting for an obvious hero. I like reading stories where the protagonist is better than other people at certain things. Is this a bad thing? When I look at it, my story is full of fantasy clichés and it leaves me wondering if it’s any good at all. I thought I had gotten over the whole “Is my story a special snowflake?” phase, but apparently not.

But the more I think about it, the better I feel. So what if my story needs a little more polish? I enjoy working on it and I see it as an accomplishment that I have discovered the clichés in the first place. It means I’m doing my job, digging into the work to see the framework that holds it all together. And if I have to devote a little more time daydreaming some not-so-cliché ideas into the piece, well, I suppose I could make that sacrifice.

6 thoughts on “Lost in a Sea of Clichés

  1. natashanalina

    Because your book is fuelled by such passion, only good things will arise if you don’t give up and stay true to your story and yourself. Keep it up!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Christine great post!
    I also write fantasy and when I began writing was haunted by these very things. But the most important lesson I personally learnt was that everything has been done, retold, and rehashed a thousand times.
    There is no ‘original’ idea. But it’s how you tell your story and how a reader feels about your characters that matters. I’m not saying rewrite, word for word, lord of the rings but you could have a similar, fundemental idea and it be a completely different story!
    Take JK Rowling for example. Did she come up with the idea of a magic school? Hell no! But she made it her own! She used every cliche under the sun (dragons, a dark overlord, a prophesy, a chosen one, a downtrodden male hero) but it’s one of the most popular stories ever!
    It doesn’t have to be an original idea but you have to have an original take on that idea 🙂
    I hope this helps!

    Caroline

    Like

    1. It does help! I thought I had gotten over the whole “nothing is original” thing with this book, but seeing those tropes pop up really discouraged me…for an afternoon. And the next day, I felt so much better and started right in on editing. I think those clichés exist for a reason and help set the genre apart, as true for any other genre of writing. And I found that for as many clichés that I do use, I have just as many oddities to balance them out. Isn’t writing fantasy great? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I’ve had many of those days! Sometimes your writing can seem like the best thing since sliced bread and the next you doubt everything about it!
        The only thing that we can do is keep going!
        It is great 🙂 I love the endless possibilities in fantasy but it also takes time to get right for example, magical systems need some real thought!
        Caroline

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  3. I think it’s alright for a story to have a cliche if the cliche is delivered WELL. If the book is well-written and absorbing, then the reader won’t mind the cliche or even notice, because they’re so involved in the story. Sometimes a cliche is a cliche because it works, and because people enjoy it and seek it out. Of course, that said, some cliches really are over-used, especially if you’ve got a lot of them in one book, so if you’re concerned then maybe try putting a spin on it. Twist it slightly to make it different. Sounds like it could be an exciting creative exercise. You’ve already got the foundation, now you can dress it up. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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