Tag Archives: cliche

How writing deliberately bad stories has made me a better writer

Reddit is a massive anarchic community where there’s a forum (or subreddit) for pretty much everything. Recently I came across /r/worststory, where members post prompts designed to inspire awful stories, and respondents reply with short, deliberately bad stories that are often funny and thought-provoking. Clichés, repetition, awkward prose, beginner mistakes, typos and repetition are encouraged.

After reading a few sniggeringly good/bad stories, I started submitting a few of my own. I thoroughly enjoyed writing about Winston Churchill’s death in Nazi-zombie-occupied Paris (prompt: write a horribly inaccurate piece on the death of a significant historical figure), and an ignorant 13-year-old’s anarchist manifesto (Anarchy rulez!!!). I don’t claim they’re good or funny, but it did get me thinking about writing.

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How to deal with clichés in fiction

The topic of cliché is one I have brushed upon in my earlier article on Mary Sues. In that context, I argued that being cliché doesn’t automatically make a character a Mary Sue. The link between Mary Sues and clichés that has been made by some commentators implies that clichéd Mary Sues are bad because clichés are bad. But this isn’t necessarily so.

There are many sides to the cliché debate. There are those who see clichés as an automatically negative element within a story, like the Rinkworks Fantasy Novelist’s Exam, which implores writers to abandon novels that contain certain cliché elements. There are those who see clichés as tools to construct a story and manage reader expectations. And there are those who believe that whether an element of a story is cliché or not is irrelevant and that the focus should be on how well the author tells the story, not on whether its been done before.

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