Saturday, February 24, 2007

Lose the cliiches, please!

Once again I'm editing a work which is driving me nuts. The writing is smooth, the mechanics are acceptable. But the story is nothing but a string of cliches, one after another. I'm sure that this writer has read lots of good works of fiction, full of interesting plot events. But she's serving up nothing but a bunch of hackneyed tripe. So I ask myself why...

I think that at the root of the problem is that stories that feel real, that resonate with all that's most human in us, always flow from a particular character. There are specifics to each characters situation that make what happens feel inevitable and convincing. The character in this story is almost totally a Mary Sue. She does nothing wrong. She's always right--even when she's wrong. At least, the writer doesn't seem capable of seeing that the character is wrong, because she's pushing the characters around like little cardboard cutouts on a game board.

From my point of view what the "heroine" is doing is selfish, insensitive and plain stupid, and the author clearly expects us to see her as noble, righteous, and misunderstood. It makes me want to scream.

The author clearly put a lot of work into this loooong work of fantasy, and she's capable of writing well on the level of putting down good sentences and paragraphs. But she doesn't have a clue about what is interesting to readers (the first third of the book describes people getting up and eating breakfast and similar inanities) and she is so completely blinkered to what she's trying to force the characters to do, that she seems incapable of anything resembling insight into human character.

So instead we see cliche after stereotype after cliche. A big part of it is feministic crap, too. The women are noble and pure, and the men almost all evil and misguided. And the more primitive, noble society has men who do dishes. Give me a break.

Are people who write like this capable of learning better? I guess... I have read old novels by some of my favorite current writers and have been appalled in almost the same way. What I can't figure out is how to get a writer to SEE what she's doing.


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