"Help! I'm Worried That My Idea Is Too Cliche!"

What To Do When This Happens

Questions that frequently pop up are "is my idea too cliche?" and "what can I do to make my story less cliche?" So for those of you facing this sort of trouble, here are a few tips to help you out.

First of all, ask yourself whether your idea is actually as cliche as you think. Stop and think: where all have you seen this idea used? Has it actually been used all that much? Or are you jumping to conclusions and assuming that an idea you've seen maybe a few times here and there is a lot more prevalent than it really is? Maybe your idea isn't actually the big cliche that you think it is.

Ask yourself what the idea means to your story, and why you're using it. Write these all down in a list. Now, ask yourself which parts of the idea might be negotiable - is there anything about them that you could change out for something else without losing anything too important?

Imagine different elements in their place. Make out a list of alternate possibilities. Don't think too hard about it - just put down whatever comes to your mind. Feel free to include elements from different works of fiction, and even elements from different genres of fiction altogether. Also feel free to include at least a few absolutely nonsensical or non-sequitur elements.

Ask yourself what would happen if you changed out the ideas that you initially decided were essential. Would everything really fall apart, or is there a way you could change something out and still make it work? Toy around with this for awhile and see if you come up with anything you like.

Try getting off the beaten path. Look at what you plan to do in your story, and ask yourself how many of these things you're doing mainly because it's just how things in stories like these usually go. Now ask yourself what would happen if those things didn't work out like this What could stop things from happening that way? And what would the consequences be? How would things work out differently for the characters? Could that be a more interesting idea to explore?

Try getting off the beaten path in real life, too. Watch or research things outside of your usual interest zones. Do a few things outside of your usual activities and habits. Go places you don't usually go.

If you're still having a hard time thinking up alternatives, try the random generators. That's what they're there for!

Beware the usual mistakes people often make when trying to avoid cliches. Check out Mistakes Writers Make When Trying To Avoid Cliches (And How To Avoid Them Yourself) for more information.

Also take a look at Borrowing & Sharing Ideas In Fiction - When It's Okay, & When It Isn't. It has more information on whether something might be too similar to something else, and some suggestions on what you can do about an idea that feels cliche.

Finally, take a look at "Is This A Good Idea For My Story/Setting/Character?" - How To Answer This For Yourself!. Because if you find yourself with an element that you're still worried might be too cliche, the question might not be "is this idea cliche?" but rather, "is this idea good for my story?"

Also, you might be interested in:

How To Break Your Creative Blocks
Reasons Your Story Might Be Stuck - And How To Fix It
Plot & Story Development Questions
Stuff You Should Cut From Your Story
Things Your Fantasy Or Science Fiction Story Needs
Things You Need To Do In Your Science Fiction Or Fantasy Story
Tips For Writing Fanfiction With An OC Protagonist

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