Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Combating scene-based clichés

I'm sure many fantasy writers have experienced this: you are happily writing along, discussing the coming of the evil overlord when -- bam! -- you realise that what you are writing is horribly, terribly, disfigured and clichéd. This can be a depressing moment, and honestly it is not one I can help you with. You might not have outlined, but if your overlord bothers is preventing progress then you ought either to stop right now and do so, or at least try it next time you are trying to defeat an evil overlord. On the other hand if you try to rationalise one of these plots you can sometimes end up killing it.

Sometimes it is better to accept your evil overlords and love them for who they are, even if they don't really make sense. Fantasy can be problematic in that way. I hate quest stories from a writers point of view: they are full of wholes, ignore historical premises, and don't make proper sense. As a reader I love them.

So, back to what we can deal with. Scene based clichés. You know that scene where your characters go down into the dank, dark, dubious caverns to hunt some unforgettable forgotten evil or travel to some improperly named 'other side of the mountains' where the populace conjugate their nouns and all the grown ups wear sheets. Or maybe just the caverns.

When you realise you are writing a cliché here is what you do: Stop; Give yourself half a moment and let what you are writing register. And ask a questions or two, get to know this scene.

1.Why do I want to write about this?
Maybe you just love the princess who finally gets hit over the head with reality. Or maybe you don't want to write it but feel obligated.

2.What does it have to do with the rest of the novel?
Maybe it makes perfect sense for the princess to enter reality right now, and the sarcastic hero needed to tell her that she was an idiot to make it happen.

Once you understand the scene and why you are writing it you can probably do better then to simply repeat what has been done before. Though there is much to be said on the impossibility of originality it can be said that your novel is unique. It may follow the same storyline as another and have similar characters to this one, and discuss a land that reminds you of this other one, but unless you are writing fanfiction you are in your own world. Make the most of it, and make sure everything fits into that world and has that particular flavour that only this one novel can give it.

Actually, this advice stands for any scene. It never hurts to know why a thing is happening and what it has to do with anything, it is just urgent to deal with when you are getting writers-block from it.

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