How can I avoid cliches and tropes in my writing?

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Answered by: Jonathan, An Expert in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books Category
Cliches and tropes are as old as entertainment and have become a drain on literature in general.

There are a few ways to avoid these common mistakes in writing your own stories and creating your own worlds

for people to explore. Let's get started!

1. Recognize them

     The first step in solving any problem is recognizing it. You might not even realize your writing contains cliches or tropes until you dig deeper into your stories. It's helpful to remember that cliches are smaller phrases, characters, or descriptions that are well-known or common, while tropes are larger, story-based familiarities. Take one of the most well-known fantasy tropes: A young farm boy finds an ancient relic or learns of an ancient prophecy; a older mentor, usually some form of wizard, trains said boy to become a hero; the boy finally realized his inner power and uses it to defeat an ancient evil. This trope is very common these days; you can see it Lord of the Rings and even a variation in Star Wars.

     While you might not sink into these larger tropes, its essential to be on the lookout for cliches in your writing, places where you might be tempted to take a shortcut to writing something interesting.


2. Subvert them

     One of the best ways to get away from writing cliches and tropes is to twist them around so that the outcome is unexpected. Subverting common character types, magic and/or technology, and even classic fantasy/sci-fi tropes can be a fantastic way to creating an interesting story. What if instead of having old wizard mentor train and care for our farm boy protagonist, the mentor ends up being the villian in the end? What if they die before they can teach the protagonist all they need to know?     Subverting tropes and cliches starts with asking, "what if...?"

3. Get to know your characters

     A key to writing good stories is to have compelling characters. I don't really care if an ancient evil is coming unless I care about the people working to stop it. The more I know about your characters, the more I can understand and empathize with them as well.

     Along those lines, make sure you present your characters with several situations where they can show the readers who they are, for better or worse. If we as readers can understand why your characters are doing what they're doing, it brings us that much more into the story. We care more about characters who display true personality traits, even if they aren't the most honorable or noble. Creating flawed characters gives a chance for them to grow and for the readers to experience that growth. Focusing on creating these kinds of characters can give you a more unique, powerful story, without unnecessary cliches.

4. Realize you won't get away from them completely

     As much as you want to be entirely original, it's important to realize that you won't get through your writing

without using at least a few cliches. The important thing to remember is to try to minimize their impact and focus

on creating interesting and compelling characters through dialogue, personailty descriptions, or other aspects.

A few cliches can even help you to reach out to your readers and make them feel more comfortable with your story.

Certain descriptions can tell a lot about a character without having to go into a ton of detail. Pick and choose where your cliches will happen, and it will go a long way for making a better story.

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