I’ve been thinking much on clichés, because- well, that’s what authors do. We live in fear of that word “cliché” being anywhere near our work.
Life is full of clichés; Dumb blondes, feisty redheads, dopey dogs and sinister cats. Babies who always cry, Little boys rolling in the mud… The gasp of breath before you fall beneath the water, The last hazy thought before you lose consciousness, the vibrant orange of a sunset just as that fiery globe falls to the horizon.
These things are cliché because they always happen (Yes, with a few exceptions. let’s not nitpick). They are commonplace, they don’t stand out because they are expected. And yes, that makes them feel rather dull, if all you’re focusing on is that action, the situation. But that’s not the whole story.
Yes, this girl is blonde, and she happens to be a bit vague in the head. But why is that important? Why is she who she is? Why does it matter to the story? If all you do is throw in a dumb girl and make her blonde, then yeah, you have a problem. You have to make her relevant. Being blonde and dumb doesn’t finish her character, that’s just the start.
So you see, the problem with cliché is that you will always be cliché. It’s unavoidable. As dear King Solomon repeatedly wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Truly, there isn’t. So tell me, who is this vague-headed blonde? Is she someone I’d like? Does she do something impressive, or funny, or tenderhearted? Does she watch a fiery sunset before falling beneath the water, gasping the name of the sinister cat that wronged her??
You see, darlings? Don’t worry about being cliché; worry about whether or not it adds to the moments.