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The love-hate relationship with clichés in fiction

By September 14, 2019Language, News, On Writing

Clichés in fiction can be unoriginal phrases, obvious plot points, or unsurprising ‘twists’, inducing groans and eye-rolls from the reader and sometimes blighting an otherwise good book.

Each genre in fiction has its own specific clichés that are commonly used but best avoided by writers. For example: in high fantasy a common trope is ‘orphaned child grows up to learn of their higher purpose and defeat a great evil’ (think Harry Potter). Even a classic but over-used trope in fiction can eventually become unoriginal and dull, and considered a cliché.

But is this necessarily a bad thing?

As much as readers groan at clichés in fiction, there must be a reason they have worked over and over again. Where romance novels are concerned, the reader often seeks out a clichéd ‘boy-meets-girl’ plot and a classic ‘happily ever after’ ending, perhaps seeking comfort from something predictable and sweet. Young Adult novels usually involve an ‘ordinary teenager’ who is thrust into a world of myth or magic, discovering a strength/ability/destiny they knew never had, and so on, and they prove popular the world over.

People claim to hate clichés but it seems to be more of a love-hate relationship, according to Twitter.

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