When Does What Works Become Too Cliché?

Consider the following:
The publishing industry likes knowing what works, but there is something to be said for invention, as well.  How are we, as writers, supposed to know when we are coming up with the next great iteration of a winning formula or when we are being ridiculously cliché, even lazy, in our storyline?  How do we know, conversely, when our creativity is too far advanced for the peons of earth at this time in history- aka, “a bit too crazy for anyone to understand”? (The people in 2156 will understand my genius, I tell ya!)
I don’t actually know the answer to those questions.  Having people read and critique our work helps- we need readers to tell us how our writing comes across.  But, I know from peer critiques in my classes that sometimes students’ critiques still don’t help each other in the way they want, which is to read my mind as the teacher (and I’m not even a “right answer” kind of teacher as far as content, just in form, if that makes sense).  So, unless we all have a really good friend who is a publisher, we’re not going to be able to figure out what publishers want unless we happened to get published.  
I think that it comes back down to why we write. If we love to write iterations of what’s been done, we should do that.  If we want to write crazy sci-fi stuff using 4th person- a concept I just made up and will later define, so I can be the person who coined this new term (dibs again!), we should do it.  Love the writing first, then hone the craft so others will love our writing, too!
I see his point, but you know what? I really liked Avatar anyway.

11 thoughts on “When Does What Works Become Too Cliché?

  1. I think there is something to be said about characterization – the reason why the same stories work over and over is because the author does something to help us care about the character enough that we want to see him/her defeat the villain the way it's always been done, and yet it feels new.

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  2. Yes, write what is in your heart! I'm afraid every story has been done, really. What makes your story unique is what you put into it that is completely your own: your experiences, your opinions, your feelings. – Lo lojwriting.blogspot.com

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  3. I agree with everyone who commented. You gotta write the story. I don't even think about craft or structure or what's “in” or what people want or may or may not understand. Not during the first draft, anyway.

    Great post! Thanks for the new follow…you've got a new one now too. 🙂

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  4. Great, I found you! Thank you so much for following me and sorry it took me a few days to return the favour – busy few days. 🙂 Love your blog ;)I look forward to your future posts 🙂

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  5. I don't think there's anything wrong with reusing a popular set if ideas, as long as we make them our own. 🙂 I definitely could see the similarities between Pocahontas and Avatar (but both are plot copies of an older Disney work, Fern Gully) yet the movie was spectacular in it's own way. 🙂

    Great post on this topic! 🙂

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