Cliches & Story Ideas

Evoking the familiar in fiction is important – vital even.

But just as often, you want to do something unexpected, to surprise or delight the reader. One of the best ways to do this is to avoid using cliches. Old advice, we know. And certainly not all cliches can be avoided in all circumstances.

Here’s a great list of movie cliches, which are exactly the kind of cliches that appear in fiction too.

Movie Cliches

So, how can you use the cliches to get a good story idea? Well, try this – choose one or two cliches from the list and try subverting them. Maybe flip a cliche on its head by changing something about it. Take this movie cliche from the Animals section:

Dogs always know who’s bad, and bark at them.

A cliche, right? Not to say this never happens in real life, but try subverting this.

What else could a dog recognise? Good people? People about to die? Rich people? Liars? Celebrities in disguise? The list goes on – it really depends on the needs of your story.

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When is your manuscript ready?

One of the most frustrating questions a writer faces is whether a manuscript is ready.

How many drafts, how many revisions or edits, before you can finally put it aside and say that, yes, it’s ready? Before it’s ready to submit, to publish or share with friends, whatever your desired goal, make sure you follow some simple tips before you send your work out there:

  • Check your spelling and grammar
  • Read your work aloud
  • Seek advice
  • Proofread your work
  • Be consistent

Check your spelling and grammar: This might sound obvious, but be sure. A manuscript littered with simple spelling errors or grammatical nightmares will confuse or turn a reader off. Instantly.

Read your work aloud: This is a fantastic chance to hear the rhythm of your words, and find the awkward spots. You don’t have to perform it – just sitting at your desk and speaking aloud is enough. It’ll give you a chance to make sure the flow of words is natural.

Seek advice: Whether this is professional or not – do seek advice. The kind of feedback you get from someone with fresh eyes is invaluable. You’re too close to your project. Find someone you trust to be honest and listen to what they have to say. It’ll probably be hard the first time, but do it anyway.

Proofread your work: Before you send it off – proof your work in a different context. Print it out, change the device you read it on, even change the font. Changing the way you see your manuscript will bring new errors to light – especially typos or missing letters.

Be consistent: Keep your stylistic choices consistent, such as spelling or formatting. Use US or UK spelling either works – just don’t mix them. Keep an eye on other aspects, like your spacing, capitalisation and font uses, both size and type. Imagine reading a report or an essay where the font size and type changes from ten times on page one.

These are starting points only, there’s a lot more care you can take – and should take – but these steps should make a big difference to your manuscript!

Point of View

Clear and engaging use of Point of View (POV) is vital to good writing, especially in fiction.

Not just a question of who is best suited to telling your story, it is also a micro-level series of choices made by the writer to build and develop character at the same time as developing plot or setting scene.

There is a wealth of advice out there on how to handle POV, but we feel Australian author Karen Miller describes point of view very clearly in her post on Voice and Point of View, in addition to providing a clear comparative example.

Is your point of view working for you?