Pub Rants

Clichés Unleashed

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STATUS: TGIF. I’m off on vaca all next week but will probably still blog since I won’t be off in distant lands or anything.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE ONE THING by INXS

Before anyone gets too comfy, it’s not just the romance queries that lapse into the cliché. All the genres have their lingo but I think Fantasy has to be the next biggest culprit.

So here is my list of Bingo catch phrases for the realms of fantasy:

beloved/fresh characters

completely unique world

the plot thickens

as the journey unfolds

tempted by evil


group of unlikely heroes

unwilling heir to the throne

unwilling pawns

a power he didn’t know he had

unleashed evil

the last hope/restoring hope

story of survival

on the brink of darkness

bound by their fates

destiny in life

forced together in a quest

And yes, yes. I know many of these phrases capture common themes in fantasy but you folks are good writers. You just need to work a little harder to nail those pitch paragraphs.

Happy Friday!

25 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    Hahaha on the ‘fresh characters’ — everytime I see that, I think, the last thing I want to do is read a book where the characters spend the whole time trying to look up my skirt.

    Pass! 😉


  2. Kathleen said:

    so true! It’s funny how easy it is to slip into that. I tried to write a movie review recently, and all that came out was cliche after cliche. It’s like I didn’t know how to talk about movies in any other way.

  3. Anonymous said:

    And let’s not forget the gold standards (both of them in my original synopses of WIP, UGH!: “irristible charm” and “undeniable attraction”.

  4. katiesandwich said:

    Just took a mental glance at my latest query draft… nope, not guilty. But I know I’ve used a couple in previous drafts.

    Oh, and the characters looking up your skirt thing, anon… funny. But hey, how do you know the book’s characters aren’t the type that would do exactly that?

  5. Tawna Fenske said:

    LOL, anonymous #1. That thought wouldn’t have occurred to me!

    I’m just surprised that anyone really uses “the plot thickens” in a query letter.

    Hope you have a great vacation, Kristin. Rest well!


  6. Marie said:

    Well I’m relieved. I prepared my story blurb a few weeks ago for a fantasy novel and… I didn’t use any of those cliches.


  7. Anonymous said:

    Heh, what amuses me most is that one of my major critiques over the past year is that no one would want to read a story in which the characters begin with a knowledge of their non-humanness and strive to become human.

    The problem with cliches, really, is that often they’re cliches because they’re used so often. Chicken & egg: is this because that’s what people want to read, or do people read it because there’s no alternatives?

  8. j h woodyatt said:

    I just checked the draft of the query letter I’m planning to use when I’m done revising, and the good news is I haven’t used a single one of them. (More than half of them are inappropriate for my work, and the rest one would hope are applicable to any manuscript ready for publication, which is what makes them such clichés.)

    I’m still pessimistic.

    p.s. You forgot “complications ensue.”

  9. curious said:

    Uh, is this too cliche? It’s the last line in my query for a mystery involving buried treasure:

    “Intrigue, deception, romance and revenge interlace as the search for the treasure becomes a quest for redemption and closure.”

    I’ve got a “quest” in there, it’s a close call.

  10. Anonymous said:

    “p.s. You forgot “complications ensue.” “

    And “gets more than she bargained for”.

  11. Anonymous said:

    oops, sorry, wrong post. “Gets more than she bargained for” is romance, not fantasy.

  12. Sam said:

    So if I query about:

    Fresh characters who are transported to a a completely unique world while the plot thickens!
    As their journey unfolds they are tempted by an evil, fast-paced group of unlikely heroes including the unwilling heir to the throne, several unwilling pawns, and a power he didn’t know he had unleashed.
    In order to defeat the evil, the last hope of restoring hope lies in inventing a story of survival on the brink of darkness. Copy-bound by their fates and several pawns of destiny, (you forgot to add pawns of destiny) the (fresh) characters are forced together in a quest to save the world. (don’t forget saving the world).

  13. ya author said:

    Sam wrote: “Fresh characters who are transported to a a completely unique world while the plot thickens…”

    Awesome, Sam. I’d buy it in a minute! 🙂

  14. Anonymous said:

    Will you do one for mystery/suspense/thrillers?

    (And while we’re at it, what about those designations? Is there really any difference? Are there some mysteryies being labeled “A Novel of Supense” or “A Thriller” for some kind of marketing reason?)

  15. Luke the Farmboy said:

    Any fantasy query with the words “farmboy” and “destined to be savior” need to burned. 😉

  16. Yasamin said:

    lmao sam and lmao farmboy! thats hilarious!

    may i be the first to admit i had to cross off at least one of those from my query?

    thank god you posted this. i could have made a complete boob of myself.

  17. Diana Pharaoh Francis said:

    I’d like to read about a willing pawn. Maybe a fresh one. Does that mean s/he will have an expiration date? And then, what happens when s/he expires? Will there be spoilage? Perhaps there should be refrigeration. or blanching and freezing. Take care your fresh pawn doesn’t get freezerburn . . . .

  18. daringadventurer1 said:

    “Mystery” implies a strong puzzle component (whodunnit, howdunnit, or, in the Columbo vein, howtoproveit) that should theoretically be solvable by the reader based on the information given in the story.

    “Thrillers” tend to be more about the process of surviving the crimes or catching the criminals, and less about the puzzle component.

    “Suspense” at least to me, implies that the crime-based plot is mostly a framework for another kind of plot-romance, family bonding, etc.-or a means of showing off an unusual setting (either real world or some kind of urban fantasy/paranormal element).

  19. GutterBall said:

    You know, after reading some of these, I’m gonna stick to the no-nonsense, easy-to-use formula presented in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest:

    “Complications arose, ensued, were overcome.”

    Isn’t that everything a story is?