Skip to main content

Common Clichés in Storytelling

This blog post isn't about me telling you what clichés to avoid in your novel/script. Honestly, I have nothing against them. Writing is about freedom, and you shouldn't have to avoid including certain things, especially if they fit your story. Write what you want to write, and what's best for your characters. You know them better than anyone. Here's a list of clichés that pop up a lot in movies, television shows, and books.

1) Wise Old People

Have you noticed that in stories, the old people are always super insightful. I understand that they have experience or whatever, but not all of the elderly are full of wisdom, and not all of them have the answers to your protagonists questions!

2) The black character who only Speaks Slang

And their aspirations don't always revolve around street dancing, partying all the time, or becoming the next Kanye West. This cliché is overdone in every storytelling medium. Can we please for once have a black male who wears his pants at his waist, and an black female who doesn't roll her eyes all the time or kiss her teeth (Sigh).

3) The Bad Man Tamed by a Good Girl

I can't even settle on one example for this one, because there are so many to choose from. A sweet and innocent girl cannot tame every bad boy. It would be interesting to see a story where the girl tries to change the boy, but fails miserably because - wait for it - he's BAD.

4) The Villain who Talks too Much

Okay, so, we're given this uber-badass villain who goes around shooting people like the cold motherfucker he is. Yet, when the villain comes face-to-face with the protagonist, he suddenly wants to talk, which conveniently gives the protagonist enough time to scan the room and come up with a clever way to take the villain down (such as pulling a random rope and making things fall on the villain's head). 

5) The Characters with Impeccable Immune Systems

I tweeted about this recently. Why do characters never get sick? Are their immune systems so perfect that they can never catch a cold, or get hay fever? They're human beings for gods sake (unless they're not). For once, I'd like to see a villain sneeze mid-battle or something. 

6) The Jock who has Sports Forced on him by his Father

This usually happens in YA novels, and teen movies. The Jock is a super attractive boy who wants to go to college and be a normal guy, but his father has big sport-related dreams for him. 

Who here hasn't heard this conversation:
Dad: You're throwing away your dream.
Son: NO, dad, I'm throwing away your dream.

7) The Less Attractive, Goofy Female Friend

Ever notice in comedy movies, especially Chick Flicks, that the main female characters best friend is usually less attractive, and really goofy? The same goes for the main male characters friend, who is usually a chubby and hilarious dude.

8) The Teens with Limitless Funds, and no Parental Authority

I've never understood this one. Teens in stories are usually jobless because they're still in education, yet they still have the funds to party all the time. Also, why are parents never an obstacle? It's like they don't play any role in these teenagers lives. They're always conveniently away for the teens to screw around. 

9) The Most Popular Girl in School is Usually Rich

And she's mean, blonde, unbelievably attractive, and has two (sometimes more) followers who are unbelievably stupid (but will later step out of her shadow and stand up to her). 

*Cough* Mean Girls *Cough* 

A few more clichés include:

10) The archer who never runs out of arrows.
11) The main character only has one close friend.
12) The cold boss who is never satisfied.
13) A conveniently located drainpipe, or tree branch outside the protagonists window, making it easier for them to sneak out.
14) The bad guy has a foreign accent.
15) The protagonist follows the villain somewhere, where they witness someone getting shot for doing something wrong.
16) After being knocked down during a fight, the protagonist is given an inspirational speech, and ends up knocking out their opponent (even though they could barely stand a minute ago).

What clichés can you add to the list?