RARA-AVIS: cliche and convetion

From: Carrie Pruett ( pruettc@hotmail.com)
Date: 08 May 2002

I wrote:
<<therefore, i'd say that something is only a cliche if its ineffective.>>

Mr. T wrote:
>On the contrary: the majority of the reading public *loves* cliché³® >Look
>at the best-seller list. The cliché ©s effective, as is bad >writing in

perhaps poor word choice on my part. I meant "ineffective" in terms of that subjective quality of artistic success, nothing to do with commercial success. i suppose it's not totally subjective though because it would take a knowledgable reader to be able to judge whether something is a cliche or not. that is, if you're a kid or an infrequent reader or simply new to a genre, you might be really impressed by a device that actually is derivative, overused, etc. to you, subjectively, it does not seem to be trite or hackneyed but in the context of a greater knowledge of what else is out there, it actually is a cliche. this helps to explain the phenomenon of coming back to a book you enjoyed as a kid, or when new to a particular genre or subgenre, and discovering that it wasn't what you remembered. the book hasn't changed, but the way that you look at it changes. so i suppose that yes, there is some objective basis for calling something a cliche, but I still think it's a case-by-case situation.

i think the two best explanations for the popularity of cliched writing are
(a) people want something familiar and not challenging or (b) people don't read enough to recognize when something is a cliche.


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