Monday, June 13, 2011

DON'T RAIN ON MY CLICHE!

cli·ché

As defined by Merriam Webster:

[klee-shey, kli-]

noun
Something that is so commonly used in books, stories, etc., that it is no longer effective

Or as defined by a nameless agent:

SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS (Rookie Riter's current MS)

It's true. A very well respected, desirable agent finished reading my manuscript and, after telling me how strong a writer I was and how likable the characters were, said this, "My concern really lies in the predictability of the story...in the end I am afraid that editors will see the story in the same way and that as a result it would be a fairly challenging sale."

Then a second agent who was reviewing only the first chapter said this, "...I just got back from a three week trip in New York City stacked with editor meetings and they were adamant that they don't want to look at anything even remotely derivative. It has to be truly unique to garner interest at this point."

I'm not going to lie to you, I was pretty pissed for a few minutes there...my story, predictable?!
And then I started thinking about it...

And they were right.
It is predictable.
Sort of.

The main character is an angry, self-absorbed girl who, through unlikely circumstances and even more unlikely friends, discovers who she really is and who she wants to be. Sound familiar? Probably--in one form or another, but I'm not convinced that familiarity is a bad thing.

For example: Have you ever read a Nora Roberts novel? (Don't be embarrassed. We've all done it. It's no worse than farting in the grocery store and blaming it on your disabled daughter who doesn't speak) Well, haven't you ever noticed all her novels are exactly the same?! ALL OF THEM. Here's the formula:

EARLY 30's KNOCKOUT WITH UNLIKELY JOB + MISUNDERSTOOD DREAMY MAN + DANGEROUS SITUATION = HAPPILY EVER AFTER

It's the same as our favorite chick flicks: We watch them because we know the formula:

HOT GUY + TUMMY TINGLES = $8 WELL SPENT!

Are they cliche? Prolly.
Do we still love them? YES!

So, my beef is this: WHY DOES A CLICHE HAVE TO BE A BAD THING? Aren't the millions of dollars in royalties from best-selling books and box-office chart busters proof enough that cliches are, sometimes, a good thing?!

I leave you with this final nugget to chew on: (Relax! It's a 100% pure breast meat nugget. Only the best here.) My favorite television show is the biggest cliche imaginable. The dorks make Farmer Ted look cool. The Jews compare their large noses like other people exchange text messages. The jocks think with their man parts, and collectively, the cheerleaders are as bright as a box of hair. In case you haven't figured it out yet, it's a little show called GLEE. And, from what I've heard, it's doing pretty darn good in the ratings.

So, to all you agents out there, I say this: DON'T RAIN ON MY CLICHE!



Or, according to a recent agent, MY NOVEL