Thursday, May 29, 2014

Real People are not Clichés

"The character is dealing with the death of a parent or sibling. That's so cliché."
"Another story with an alcoholic family member. How cliché."
"Yet another tale dealing with abuse. Cliché."

I understand that readers get bored of seeing the same things over and over again in fiction. But let me tell you a story.

One day, when discussing a novel, a student lamented the fact that she had just read yet another novel where the character was dealing with the death of a sibling. "That's so cliché," she said.

And the girl next to her flinched. Cliché girl had forgotten that her fellow student had lost her brother to suicide just the year before. How convenient. I promise you, the student who lost her brother won't ever forget. And reducing down her very real conflicts to a cliché is harmful.

I've been a reader for a very long time. It's easy to forget that new readers are born every single day. What we've seen often, they're encountering for the first time. But many of them, unfortunately, may actually be dealing with the day to day reality of the events we only know about through books.

In my experience, literature leans in and whispers in my ear. I understand. I've been there. It's okay. It's one of the reasons I read. And things become cliché because they are true. So before we easily dismiss something, we should remember that while it may not speak to us, it probably speaks to someone.

It illuminates a truth he has never heard before. It reminds a reader she is not alone.

We must never make a person feel cliché.

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