A Technique for Avoiding Cliche

A thing I try to avoid is cliche and being overly derivative. Sometimes, a genre has certain conventions that can’t be avoided. If you are writing a murder mystery, there has to be a murder. You might want to make the culprit someone other than the butler or the jilted lover. Here is a simple technique to avoid cliche when you are creating something in a genre category.

When you need a character, a scene, or another detail that must be interesting and you don’t want to use something conventional, write down the first five things that come to mind. Then, discard them as options. You can’t use them.

Who did it? The butler, the maid, the gardener, the vicar, the cook. We scratch all those choices. Now you have given yourself a constraint which requires you to be more creative. You can increase the number to the first seven or ten or even twenty ideas you have. Five is a good start.

This might make the work more challenging as you wrack your brain to come up with a different idea but you will be less likely to just grab the first thought that comes to mind and go with it. The comfortable and familiar may make it easier to work with but they can also make your work feel stale and derivative.

Give it a try and see if it works for you.

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