I always try to avoid cliches as much as I can. But sometimes I just can't; they seem to be the perfect bridge between one scene and the other.

For example, in the current novel I'm writing, the friend of the protagonist gets raped by her father (I know, the cliches of cliches). So I tried to write it so it sounds original (at least to me): the girl and her father were very close when she was a child. But he suddenly became distant when her first period came. She thinks this event somehow disrupted the relationship she had with her father. She thinks somehow she became dirty or unwanted. But later that night, her father comes to her room, and rapes her (I don't directly state this. I use similes/metaphors like "burning from the inside").

As I said, I'm not sure whether I succeeded in turning this cliche into something more or less original. I wonder, though, if I should just drop the whole scene and start fresh.

This happens to me a lot. I would like to hear your opinions.

  • 1
    What will be added by keeping the scene in. Will it teach us something important about the characters? Does it explain or perhaps provide the foundation for something that might pop up as a conflict later in the story? i.e father released from prison? Or are you explaining the event just because you want to give us a further insight to characters lives?
    – user5881
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 17:54

2 Answers 2

  1. Rape is a very delicate issue to handle well and the reason it often seems cliche is that there are few good ways to handle it. The rest of my advice will ignore this issue.

  2. There are two ways to approach cliches avoid them or twist them. Some of my favorite ways to twist cliches include looking at them backwards (dog walks man, man bites dog) and innovative pairing (boy scout abducted by aliens while helping old lady cross street, NSA spies on FBI sting of anarchists message board).

  • @hidred Thanks I liked the backwards technique. So in my case, daughter rapes father?
    – wyc
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 2:13
  • 1
    Been done. Read in Genesis about Lot and his daughters after leaving Sodem.
    – hildred
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 3:51
  • Hmm, the Bible is more original than I thought.
    – wyc
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 15:44
  • Been done doesn't mean is unoriginal. As long as it's not frequent enough. Also, cliches used as side-motives to provide framework for the story are okay - as long as the primary theme is original.
    – SF.
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 3:15

The reason that I try to avoid cliches is because they are sometimes boring. I'm assuming that you don't purposely try to make your story boring, so my following advice fits when you hit a cliche that makes your story boring and you don't know how to get around it.

I have a few tactics that I've stolen from various sources:

  • Taken from the 22 Pixar rules of writing: "When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up."
  • When I get stuck, it's usually because I'm missing something from the other characters, or I haven't made them interesting enough. I'll give them random features (They're a librarian! A librarian of skeletons from a genocide!) until something sticks, that I want to write about. You did mention that you've re-written this book three times, so maybe that isn't really an option for you.
  • As RhysW implies, you can also look at your event as an input/output system. Can you replace your event with something else weirder that would have the same effect and same fit, but with a more interesting delivery?

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