The Power of a Good Cliche
The worst writing advice I have ever received was to “Never Use a Cliche”. This contained me to a box of thinking, where I force myself to grind for originality. I wish I would have known then that Cliches are powerful when utilized as foundations for understanding.
Writing is an inherently misunderstood thing. Accepted as a form of art, expression, self-development, and story telling, yet there are guidelines put in front of us around every corner. Rigid rules laid out to us, and we are expected to follow them in our writing in the pursuit of perfect writing.
A Cliche is Effective... Because it is a Cliche
Recently, I released a poem titled “The Assassin & The Paladin”. It is a simple poem, entrenched in cliched portrayals of classic character builds. Fantasy settings see these cliche’s time and again. A “distinguished Paladin”, and an “acclaimed Assassin”. Very original, right?
I have always wanted to use Fantasy settings more in my writing. I dug into these two characters, and simply described and compared them. They exist as their traits, not their progression. Neither are celebrated for a grand victory, and neither lead the reader through peaks and valleys of a journey.
There is no arching narrative here, yet the reader instantly knows these are two high profile characters, masters of their chosen craft. The cliches the readers expect are there and gives a sense of balance.
Their profession is combat, and they both got to the top in their own way.
“The Paladin channels his weakness to bolster his strength.” Show that the, often healing focused, Paladin places his priority on strength. His perseverance will carry him through, and keep his loved ones safe.
“The Assassin casts his loved ones to the shadows.
Gold in place of light, darkness in place of protection.” Shows us that the Assassin’s priority is on stealth. By keeping his loved ones hidden, they are out of harms way.
That Reminds of That Other Thing...
This poem is written from a cliche, and that helps the reader instantly have tangible relatability. When I re-read this piece, I am brought back to my first times playing RPG’s or “Role Playing Games”. Those sensations of suspending disbelief and existing AS that character for a brief moment.
Whether you build out an Assassin character or a Paladin character, the story will progress the same way. The only difference is down to how you play. When I re-read “The Assassin & The Paladin”, I am taken back to starting a new RPG and creating my character. Choosing their motivations, and priorities.
Cliche... The Building Blocks for Further Understanding
The power of a cliche is so strong, that when I look at my piece, I am drawn in so many directions. This piece could be pulled out and into so many different metaphors. We all get to choose our motivations and priorities in our life… Paladins and Assassins in Politics, or getting to a refresh in life and imagining yourself as a “Character Build”.
The possibilities are endless, because the reader already has a building block of understanding for what I am hammering home. Thanks to that cliche I should never use.