Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Beware the Cliche Plot Devices

This last weekend, I had a chance to really get through a lot of submissions. As I read through so
many projects, I found myself reading many of the same stories over and over again. Authors seemed to be relying heavily on cliche plot devices. It became very clear that so many authors are confusing the concept of literary tropes with cliche elements.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with building your story around basic tropes: hidden secrets, lost heir, and even the secret baby. You can also stick with some of the common themes including the always popular fairy tale approaches such as Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast. These are fine. Where the problems start arising would be when the authors start relying on cliche devices to tell these stories.

When we use cliche approaches, the story become predictable from page 1! Several of the authors submitted their synopsis with their query letters (which, by the way, they were asked not to do). When I read the query and their brief blurb, those cliche elements immediately starting popping up. I didn't even need to read the synopsis and I knew exactly where the story was going to. Still, just to be sure, I read the synopsis and I was right every time.

The secret to great storytelling s to keep the readers on their toes all of the time. You want them to be thinking one direction and then take them in a different direction. This is not to throw things that are completely out of the blue, but to throw them a twist that you potentially hinted at in those early pages.

As you are writing your story, always concentrate on why you are putting that element in the story. Is it going into the story because it is needed, or simply because you have seen it done before in other stories. If it is the second one, then you may be falling into that cliche trap.

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