A reader recently emailed me and asked: How do you know when you've fallen into writing a story that is predictable or cliche? And how can you avoid that?
Good question! In a world of forbidden cliches, this one can be tricky.
See, I just used a cliche there and didn't even realize until I closed the sentence! ha!
Avoiding cliche phrases can be hard enough, but its often even harder to avoid cliche or predictable IDEAS. I think the main thing to remember is to keep it fresh, and keep it true to you and your voice. If you do that, you won't be repeating a worn-out idea.
If you think about it, romance novels all follow the same pattern or formula. Boy meets girl or re-connects with girl. Boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again, boy and girl live happily ever after. Of course there are variations, such as maybe the girl loses the boy, or maybe the boy only gets the girl once at the end, instead of twice in a book, etc. But the premise is the same. Yet how many THOUSANDS or more romance novels exist today that would be considered fresh, enjoyable, unpredictable reads?
I've heard it said before that everything has been done. There truly is no completely unique idea anymore for novels. I find it hard to believe in one regard, but in another, it does make sense and is probably true. The reason it doesn't seem this way in the industry is because each author has her/his own unique viewpoint, outlook, perspective, and voice keeping their idea and their story fresh. And you do too! :)
I think if you've started writing a novel that seems to you to be cliche or predictable, then it probably is. So if you recognize that, change it! Add a twist. If its suspense, kill off the person that seems the obvious culprit. If it's a romance, create a love triangle. Add some surprising element of backstory that deepens the plot and gives the character new motivation or conflict. Take time to plot and see where your story is lacking. Then brainstorm a cure.
If anyone has any specific ideas/plots they are concernred about and feel comfortable sharing them, feel free to do so in the comments section to this post. I'll try to answer each one as best as I can. :)