Monday, April 14, 2008

Inverting the Cliche

I was reading a contemporary review of ET when the author of the blog mentions this:

"Invert the cliche" is Bob Dylan's advice to the writer. ... If you're making a flying saucer movie, make the saucer-men friendly. If you're making a WWII movie, take the most irreverent approach possible to the war and its causes. If you're making a haunted house movie, make the house an anonymous suburban tract house. ... In the case of E.T., if you're making a movie about contact with an alien, start by telling the story from the alien's point of view.
Which is sound advice for a writer. Inverting the cliche...taking what is common and twisting the idea into something unique. It's something I've striven to do in my writing for many years. Whether or not I've achieved that goal...we'll see. But in Babbletongue, I made the "normal girl saves the universe" less of a cliche by adding in a desire--a cure for her grandmother's Alzheimer's--that is unachievable for the heroine. It's not that there's no happy ending...it's just that there's no cure, and that's life. Also, I added in a blue penguin. Bit random, that. In The Red Thread, the heroine's brother turns to the side of evil to feed an addiction that is paralleled to drug abuse in the real world. It's not preachy--as a sister to someone who died of an overdose, I don't intend to preach but to show reality.

So there you have it. If I've succeeded in my job as a writer, I've inverted the cliche. If not, I've simply got to keep trying.
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