Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Genre Cliches to Avoid

By Debbie Maxwell Allen

The other day I happened across a list of science fiction cliches. The extensive list (which brought to mind several novels I've read) made me wonder about cliches in other genres. Thanks to the wonders of search engines, I came up with sites for several popular genres. Check them out to make sure your plots are fresh, and not identical to every other manuscript out there.

Science Fiction Cliches
The list that started this post, is from Dragon Writing Prompts. The sci-fi list is comprehensive. You  might want to click on the label 'lists' for more like this.

Fantasy Cliches
Also from Dragon Writing Prompts is a list of fantasy cliches in four different categories. Obsidian Bookshelf has another list of most-hated fantasy cliches.

Mystery Cliches
Confessions of a Starving Mystery Writer lists detective cliches to avoid, along with links to two other lists. And the Answer Bank solicited readers' opinions on murder mystery cliches.

Romance Cliches
Writing World has a fully-explained list of romance cliches to stay away from--or retool into something unique. The Queen of Swords posted the 'semi-grand list of overused romance cliches'. And, though it focuses on movies, the Mutant Reviewers site lists some hilarious romantic movie cliches, like the 'l'-shaped blanket.

Horror Cliches
Read about Horror Stories We've Seen Too Often on Strange Horizons. Writing Hood offers 10 Cliches Horror Writers Should Try to Avoid.

Thriller/Crime Fiction Cliches
William Miekle shares ten cliches to avoid in crime fiction. And over at Petrona, you'll find another list with links to some more sites.

Literary Cliches
Are there cliches in literary fiction? Apparently so. Sean Lovelace describes what he thinks they are, and Mumsnet has an interesting thread where readers interact about their least favorite literary cliches.

Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Cliches
Writing Hood explains some of the most common urban fantasy cliches, while Geek Speak Magazine lists the top 13 paranormal cliches (with examples from current books).

Young Adult Cliches
Skerricks has a Top Twenty-Five Countdown. I guarantee you'll find something you've seen before.

Have you found any cliches that resemble your plot? Maybe these lists have made you aware of different ones. If you're interested in other kinds of cliches, check out the post here.

Don't forget the March Write Brain tonight! We've got a fantastic panel on genre, with a workshop on formulating your logline. Our knowledgeable speakers are Kathryn Eastburn, Linda Reeve, Kirk Farber, Cindi Madsen, Mark Stevens, and Chris Mandeville. 6:30 to 8:30 PM, Penrose Library, 20 N. Cascade Ave., Carnegie Reading Room. More information can be found on our "Events" tab or on our website.

Debbie Maxwell Allen writes young adult historical fantasy in the Rocky Mountains. She blogs about free resources for writers at http://writingwhilethericeboils.blogspot.com/.


  1. I've never seen a break down by genre-- what a great resource. Thank you for gathering them!

  2. You're welcome, Julie. It was fun gathering them!



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