How to Perform a Clichéctomy – or – How Not To Write the Obvious

Don’t Write The Obvious!

don't write the obvious

Stating the Obvious. Photograph by macca.bsch.au.com

Over the weekend, my wife and I attended a family function in Florida. As we drove down Interstate 95, my wife asked, so what did you do this morning? (I was out of bed several hours before her.)

I told her, among other things, that I’d had my morning coffee, and I did some slush reading for Every Day Fiction.

“How did that go? She asked.

“Not so well,” I said. “I read five stories and four of the five had the same story-line. I don’t know why authors seem to have so much trouble coming up with ideas that are new and interesting. The stories are filled with cliché situations and predictable subject matter.”

“Like what?” She asked. (I could tell she was going into literary mode.)

“Well today, the four similar stories were about lost love. And two of the four took place in a coffee shop. And three of the four were primarily the MC‘s thoughts with little or no action, Two of the four also involved a dream sequence. And all four ended with the same outcome; the MC is forlorn over their lost love.

don't write the obvious

Photograph by perfectionlove99.blogspot.com

My wife raised her eyebrow; but didn’t say a word.

“I don’t get it!” I rambled on. “With so much to write about in this world, why do people keep writing about the same thing over and over.”

“Like what?” She stretched her bare feet out on the dashboard.

I thought quietly for a moment. “These are probably the top four repetitious stories that come through Every Day Fiction: lost love, a confession (to a counselor or psychiatrist), an alien invasion, or a story that ends up being a dream.”

“Maybe you should write an article on this for NovelNook?”

“And say what? Quit writing these stories. They’re old and repetitious, and boring!”

“People will never stop writing about subjects that appeal to their heart. Obviously, those subjects are very appealing. That’s why they’re in the minds of writers. Maybe you should write about the concept of approaching these subjects from a new angle? Keep the subject but remove the clichés. Wouldn’t you find that more appealing?”

“That’s interesting thought. What did you have in mind, oh wifey pooh, master of my mind?”

“This conversation reminds me of the story, “La lluvia y los hongos“, by Mario Benedetti. Do you remember that one? I read it to you once.”

Don't write the obvious

Mario Benedetti

“Wasn’t that, The Rain brings the Mushrooms?”

“Do you remember the story?”

“Refresh me please.”

“It’s a short story, and it incorporates two of your clichés; but the story is told in a very different way. So different, that you probably wouldn’t even realize that the subject is cliché.

The story starts with a man talking  to a one-night-stand about his friends. He’s just picked her up from a bar. Benedetti never comes right out and says it. But it’s intimated that they just had sex and are now having conversation in the bed afterwards. As the story unfolds, it sounds like he’s in a therapy session, like he’s confessing. In fact, if you found out at the end that he was with a psychiatrist, it wouldn’t surprise you at all. But that would be that ho-hum storyline you’re talking about.

So his monologue leads to one friend in particular, a woman, a woman he stole from another friend of his, and the woman became his lover. He talks about all the quirks this woman had that made her different, made her special. He tells how she wasn’t very elegant, or very book-smart, or the most beautiful, but she had a way about her, a way that commanded attention. People were drawn to her. She was everything that he wasn’t, and he loved that about her.

So, they became lovers. And after things became intimate, it began to unravel for him. All the perfection he had loved about her as a friend, he hated about her as a lover. He felt that she didn’t appreciate him, or need him. It made him feel like less of a man to be with her because she required very little from him and gave very little back.

In the final paragraphs of the story, the man confesses the rage that grew within him and his growing obsession with her perfection. He felt a need to put her in her place and when he just couldn’t stand it anymore, he killed her.

What’s really shocking in the end is that the woman who is currently with him (the one-night-stand) doesn’t even react to this news. And the man seems even less concerned  that he just shared that he is a murderer with a total stranger.

“Wow,” I said. “Great story. And you’re right! This is exactly what I’m talking about.”

The theme of lost love, and a confession, told in a unique way.

Putting Your Thought Process

Outside the Box Doesn’t Take that Long!

My wife, and I, brainstormed as we drove down Interstate 95 in Florida. In less than five minutes, we came up with several interesting ideas.

For some reason, the lost love theme often occurs in a coffee shop.

We decided for our story with a new thought process, everything would stay the same: the coffee shop, the forlorn memories, etc. But in the end, the MC would toss their payment on the table and leave with the thought, I’m glad that bitch is gone.

Our thought process lead us to an alternative outcome.

Then we talked about the confession story. In the slush pile this ALMOST ALWAYS occurs in an office of a therapist. So, what if the confession is the same but the listener is different; just like Benedetti’s story.

Alternative ideas, the MC confesses a murder to a: child? a dog? the wife of a friend? the pest control guy?

How would these alternatives affect the story? This is what my wife and I thought…

  • a child would react with innocence
  • a dog would not react, it wouldn’t care
  • the wife of a friend would react with shock or fear
  • the pest control guy might enjoy it, breaking up the monotony of his day

Just a little thought took our story to a completely different place.

All of us here at NovelNook.com hope that you’ll spend just a little extra time thinking about your next story. Reach deep down and search for a new angle for your story; one that will make it rise above the crowd; just like The Rain and the Mushrooms!

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, “Unexplained Mysteries of World War II”, by William B. Breuer

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

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Why You Must Strike a Red Line through Your Own Story

Her raven black hair flowed like a majestic waterfall over the soft slopes of her shoulders and onto the flawless porcelain skin of her back.

(I can’t tell you how many times I have read some derivative of this line.)

Publishing

Publishing

In my introductory post, I told you that I was a slush reader for everydayfiction.com. As I continue on into my blogging career here at NovelNook, I would like to expound on that a little bit. There are several reasons for this. One, many of you may not know what a slush reader is, or what they do. Two, many of the opinions, and information, that I will be passing along to you come from my slush reading experience. Three, you can benefit from knowing what goes on behind the scenes in the publishing industry.

What is a Slush Reader?

(I’m glad you asked!)

A slush reader is the first line of contact after you submit a story for publication. Now, I’m not completely sure if every publishing house does it the way Every Day Fiction does it. But I am sure that they have some similar workflow in place.

Here’s what happens when you submit a story; It goes into a pile of unread, (and unsolicited), material referred to as the slush.

(Cool article on the origin of the term “Slush Pile”. Click here.)

The slush reader is the first line of defense for an editor’s time. Editors are very busy people, and they just don’t have the time to thoroughly read every submission that goes into the pile. So, the slush reader pulls a story from the pile, reads the story, gives it a rating, a quick review; and then passes it on to an editorial assistant. The editorial assistant then reads the story, and based on their professional opinion, and the opinions of the slush readers (stories are generally read by more than one in order to counteract personal bias), the editorial assistant will write up their own review and  either reject the story right there, or, pass it along to an editor for further consideration. Once the story makes it to an editor, it’s considered close to publishable. That editor can opt  to publish the story, pass it to another editor for a second opinion, ask for a revision, or, reject the story. There are several levels of editors leading all the way up to the managing editor. Some stories go through many levels before a decision is made.

The Editorial Workflow
editorial publishing process

Illustration by Clarisa Ponce de Leon

From my experience in the publishing industry, these are the primary reasons that a story is rejected; poor or non-existent editing, cliche subject matter, an incomplete story arc, an overabundance of descriptive adjectives, an inconsistent narrator point-of-view, too much exposition, implausible situations, and unrealistic dialog. There are more- but I’ll stop there.

What does all this have to do with NovelNook? This is self-publishing.

I’m glad you asked that question, as well! While our guidelines state that your book will be read for explicit or non-publishable content, it will not be edited or reviewed in general. This is an important point for you. While no one likes to receive a rejection notice; it does have value. It tells you that someone (or a team of someone’s) didn’t feel that your story was technically or creatively up to publishable standards. In other words, it’s not going to ring well with the public. And that means the potential for poor reviews and lousy sales.

That’s a Good point! I want sales.
Show me the Money

Illustration by Clarisa Ponce de Leon

Of course you do! We all do. So, you must take it upon yourself to be your own slush reader, editorial assistant, and editor. You must find people (not your family and your friends) that will give you an HONEST opinion of your story. You must be a ruthless editor, or find (hire) someone who can do the job for you. And finally, you must have an open mind to what these people have to say. And you must do this BEFORE you publish. Don’t be in a rush to get it out there.

Follow this blog, and we will give you ongoing tips on how to make your book, (your story), even more successful as you continue down your path of publication.

I hope you’ll consider what I’ve had to say, because everyone here at NovelNook.com wants you to be SUCCESSFUL!

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, Dracula, by Bram Stoker.

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

Bellakentuky