Are Cliches Really Such a Bad Thing?: Discussion Post

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So for my screenwriting class this semester, we have to write a 15-20 page screenplay for our final project.  My screenplay is going to be about a couple, Catherine and Elizabeth, who wake up on the day of their four-year anniversary, both separately making the decision that this is the day that they’re going to propose to one another. The script follows the two women as they go about their normal day, thinking about their relationship to date. As the progresses, they begin to worry that they might be making the wrong decision. Despite their worries, the  story ends happily, and they propose to one another and they both say yes!!! We had to write a scene-by-scene outline for the script and one of the criticisms that my teacher gave me was that my ending was too cliché and I should consider changing it. I love this teacher and I typically respect his opinions, but boy did this piss me off. In another class, one of the characters in my story explains that one of the reasons he lost his faith was because of the way his family treated him after he came out. When one of the girls in my class read it, she said “that whole storyline was a little cliché” which really infuriated me. So based off of these two experiences, I was inspired to write a little list about why clichés aren’t the worst thing  that’s happened to literature.

1. The Reason That Certain Storylines are Cliche is Because a Lot of People Have Gone Through These Experiences.

In my four semesters at college, literally every creative writing teacher I’ve had has talked about clichés. And like I get it. Some things are overdone, and using those said things can be a sign of weak writing. However, I see the criticism of clichés as being relevant to individual sentences. For example, saying a character is the sun would be considered overdone, because others have said it before.  Writing is all about finding new ways to express something that’s been said again and again, which is where cliché sentences come into play. But what pisses me off, is when people call experiences that characters go through “cliche. The reason that these experiences are seen over and over again, is because a lot of people have gone through these aforementioned experiences and find that expressing themselves through writing is the best way to understand what they’re going through. And the more that people write about it, the more others see these experiences being depicted and want to write about it as well. There’s no harm in having plot points or background information that has been done before. It’s the way that’s the story is written that makes it unique and meaningful. I don’t find cliches to be a sign of weak writing. It merely means that you’re able to acknowledge who’s come before you and make it your own.

2. Angst Meaningful.

A lot of people seem to think that for something to be meaningful, it needs to be angsty and I’ve never understood that. If anything those type of storylines have always been the weakest in my eyes. Killing off the main character or making them suffer with no resolution isn’t deeper than letting them be happy in the end. Everyone’s so obsessed with these dark plots and they’re held to this high regard, but why? If anything it’s these surprise twists that have become the new cliché and happily ever afters are a rare and treasured item. What makes despair and anguish more valuable than love and happiness? I love fiction because it tells us that there’s hope but these stories that defy clichés are just telling that life sucks and you gotta deal with it, and I honestly hate that.

3. Let Marginalized People Have Their clichés.

Clichés stem from white, heterosexual, cis, able-bodied storylines. People of Colour don’t get happy endings.  LGBTQ people don’t get happy endings. Disabled people don’t get happy endings. But people are so over  clichés, that they don’t understand that marginalized people haven’t had the chance to experience those cliches in fiction.  The gay characters in all of my stories suffer, because I like to make my characters suffer.  They suffer a lot and I basically put them through living hell, but I always give them a happy ending. Because gay people have been reduced to a tragedy for way too long and I’m not going to contribute to that. Cliches don’t harm anybody, because they’re so often rooted in pure emotions of love and happiness and if you’re threatened by that you should probably reevaluate your life.

What Do You Think about Clichés? Do You Agree with Me or a Firm Hater of Cliches? Let Me Know in The Comments Down Below!

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