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  • The one about characters getting knocked out always bothers me. In fact, I think I'm going to write it into a book — and have the character wake up in the hospital.
  • Great share. And the Key & Peele sketch is icing on the cake!
  • I'm guilty of several of these tactics.

    But I laughed out loud when I read one of the comments about the "Magic Negro / white guilt" issue.

    "My personal favorite is "The Last Samurai." To quote Paul Mooney: "I'm gonna make a film called 'The Last Nigga on Earth,' starring Tom Hanks."

    I swear, I would SO make that comic book!  Hahah!
    I should contact Paul Mooney and ask permission.
  • edited April 2013

    The Last Samurai also changes history to give a happy Hollywood ending...

    Here are some more suggestions for cliches I don't wanna see no more. 

    1/ The Dead Girlfriend
    We were in love and they killed her. Now I'm DARK. And also motivated to participate int he plot.

    2/ I Was In Special Forces, I'm The Best There Is At Everything

    3/ Saving The World to Reconnecting With The Family
    The hero saves the earth/city/universe from some unstoppable menace and now, instead of giving him PTSD, it has fixed his relationship with his estranged wife/son/brother. 
  • edited April 2013
    While the link and other suggestions are fun I actually have no problem with such devices.

    The link assumes that all stories should be on the same level, as if there are no fun page-turners or popcorn munching flicks.  At least for me (I can only speak for myself) I don't mind retreads -- as long as the new coat of paint is shiny and new and enjoyable.

    As it has been said before... there's nothing truly new under the sun.  7 basic story plots and all that jazz.  What I do enjoy is the new spin and new vision of the magic negro or the dead girlfriend.  Universal, heart wrenching, tear-jerking, soul searching devices comes in all shapes and sizes.

    Also, going too far off the limb means leaving the audience out in the cold.

    Stories, entertain, inform, enlighten and inspire... but as writers we should lead our audience, not try to leave them in the dust beyond comprehension.  If our culture responds to certain cliches then spin off of it, work with it, reshape it.  No sense to dump it altogether.  Well, some do, and that's why we have an independent arena for books, film and plays.  As long as they know they're speaking to a minute and narrow audience.  Those who make obscure work should not complain about being marginalized when compared to the top ten storytelling cliches that people seem to like when it is done well.

    I'm not debating against the top ten list, I'm just saying there's no line to draw in the sand.   It's fluid.
    Some of the best films (again, my opinion) fit some of these tropes.
  • I will in fact gleefully use any cliche that seems like it works. Not using something because it's a cliche is just as bad as using cliches.

  • There's a bit in my novel where the Magic Negro character says: "I'm not your god damn magic negro," and walks out of the story, leaving the characters up shit creek. 

    These cliches can provide the opportunity to do some cool stuff but they don't excuse lazy writing. 
  • edited April 2013
    Is the quality of writing up for discussion, or just the use of clichés in the writing?

    Because a good story that's done well can work with such devices.
    Lazy or bad writing is lazy and bad even if it is original, unique and sans clichés.

    That's what gets me about the list in the link.  It *assumes* that the work will suffer just by the use of such devices.  That's not true.  It almost comes off as a pet peeve list more than anything else.  Again, I'm not saying the list is invalid, I'm just saying that it shouldn't be cast in stone.

    If so there would be a LOT of great movies, going all the way back to the golden era of filmmaking, that we should avoid... oh, just because we're sick of seeing such-n-such plot devices.  I tend to think a lot of the problems we have with work today is the fact that we have way too much to consume.  We're spoiled with the 140% of options from every era and arena.  At a certain point people have seen the similar clichés a bit too much and in many cases badly done and poorly executed.

    That doesn't mean they still shouldn't be used.
  • Myths recycle tropes and stories over and over. This list is valuable for its ability to help people see and recognize these tropes. For the creator its critical that you know when you are using them.
  • What Marv said.

    Nobody says you have to apologize every time that you use a trope--I certainly don't. But I don't hold with the idea that there are a finite number of stories told, either. 

    If we don't make an effort to avoid falling back onto cliche (which is not the same as consciously leveraging them) then readers will get bored and snarky and start writing top ten lists about lazy shit that we do. 

    I know you guys put the same premium on new ideas that I do and I see a lot of awesome, original work coming out of practitioners on this forum. Give yourselves some credit. 
  • A while back, another list made the rounds in the webs, of dialogue lines you shouldn't use anymore. About half of those were really funny back when Joss Whedon used them, but are old and wasted now. Unless you give them a new spin, of course.

    Point is, none of those lines were unfunny by themselves.

    Clichés and tropes ... well, there's a point to avoiding those, which is: they're a warning. When they appear in your writing, it means you're in danger of hitting generic, overused plot devices, and you should watch where you're taking your plot. I wouldn't avoid them at all costs, but I'd be cautious about it and either have a real good reason to do it, or contemplate alternatives if they don't betray the plot too much.

    As for the list, I'm somewhat lucky. I've only used 2 of them (4 and 10), and 10 was an attempt to match common action comic tropes. Looks like I got that one right. I also have my own issues with the White Guilt trope, which is I've been avoiding that and The Other Race Trope so much that I ended up with hardly any 'ethincally interesting' characters at all. Which says a lot about how avoiding clichés sometimes takes you to the wrong place, too.
  • There's a tendency for well-intended writers who are afraid of writing not-like-me characters badly, to not write them at all.  But the Magical Negro, the Wise Indian, the Honorable Oriental, and the Gay Best Friend were actually steps forward from that, so I'd rather see writers stumble into those clichés than to just write the cast of Leave It To Beaver or Friends.
  • There's a Patton Oswalt routine about being offered a 'gay best friend' role and refusing to take it unless they rewrote the character so that he was an idiot who dispensed nothing but terrible advice.

    Overall, though, these cliches belong in the same category as writing in the passive voice, using adverbs and adjectives, alternative verbs for 'said' or 'asked' or 'replied' and so on. Knowing that you're using them, and knowing that sometimes it's okay to do so, is probably more important than avoiding them completely. 

    That's what Marv said, huh? Smart guy, that Marv.

  • You want an example of how to deploy tropes well, look at Justin's Luther Strode. 

    Slasher villains are superheroes: that was a magnificent piece of lateral thinking and combining the similar tropes from the two genres has given us a new, interesting and original work. 
  • An over-used line of dialog to ... use with care:


  • They should do that with every over-used line and make writers watch them. I like to think of that as aversion therapy.
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