While these storytelling clichés can be used effectively when used in a fresh and creative way, overuse of these tropes can lead to predictable and unoriginal stories.
In this article, we'll take a closer look at some of the most common storytelling clichés, why they became popular, and how writers can avoid relying too heavily on them to create truly original and engaging stories.
Ready? Let's get started.
'The Sixth Sense'Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
The 50 Most Common Storytelling Cliches
Clichés are commonly used phrases or expressions that have been overused to the point where they have lost their original meaning and impact. Despite their overuse, clichés persist in storytelling because they are often familiar and easily recognizable, which can help to convey a message or idea quickly and effectively.
Although clichés can be used to get the desired effect a writer wants, many writers often rely on them as a safety net. Unfortunately, this is lazy writing, and the audience can tell. Not only are clichés overused and unoriginal, but audiences will often disengage with the work as soon as they realize that the story is relying on clichés. It doesn't help that these common ideas often fail to properly communicate what the writer is trying to say to their audience.
Before sitting down to write, check out this list of common clichés to avoid:
The chosen one: This is a character who is destined to save the world or accomplish a great task. This character is often given special powers or abilities that make them unique and powerful.
Love at first sight: This is a plot device where the two main characters fall in love with each other immediately upon meeting, without any development or reason for their attraction.
The villain monologue: This is when the villain explains their entire plan to the hero, giving them a chance to escape or thwart their plan.
The final battle: This is a climactic fight between the hero and the villain, where the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
Deus ex machina: This is a plot device where an unexpected event or character comes in at the last moment to solve the conflict and save the day.
The mentor dies: This is when the wise mentor figure dies, usually to motivate the hero to take up their mantle and continue their quest.
The hero’s journey: This is a classic storytelling trope where the hero goes on a journey of self-discovery, facing trials and challenges along the way.
The misunderstood villain: This is when the villain is portrayed as having good intentions or a sympathetic backstory, making it hard to see them as a true villain.
The happy ending: This is when all the conflicts are resolved, and the characters end up living happily ever after.
The damsel in distress: This is a plot device where the female character is often kidnapped or in danger, and the hero must rescue her.
The twist ending: This is when the story takes a sudden turn that is meant to surprise the reader or viewer but has become overused and predictable.
The sidekick: This is a character who accompanies the hero and provides comic relief or support, often being overshadowed by the hero.
The tragic backstory: This is when a character has a sad or traumatic past that is meant to evoke sympathy from the audience.
The magical artifact: This is a powerful object that the characters seek, often being the key to their quest.
The dead parent: This is a common backstory where the hero has lost one or both parents, motivating them to take action or seek revenge.
The chosen one prophecy: This is when a prophecy foretells the arrival of a chosen hero who will save the world from an impending disaster.
The evil empire: This is a common trope where a powerful empire or organization is the main antagonist, often being authoritarian or oppressive.
The hero's sacrifice: This is when the hero makes a selfless sacrifice, often leading to their death, to save others or complete their quest.
The love triangle: This is when there is a romantic relationship between three characters, often causing conflict and drama.
The training montage: This is a common trope where the hero undergoes intense training or preparation, often accompanied by uplifting music and quick cuts.
The unrequited love: This is when a character is in love with someone who doesn't reciprocate their feelings.
The unreliable narrator: This is when the story is told from the perspective of a narrator who may not be telling the truth or may have a biased view of events.
The forbidden love: This is when the characters are in love but their relationship is forbidden or taboo in some way, such as due to social class, race, or age differences.
The mentor figure is secretly the villain: This is when the wise mentor figure is revealed to be the villain or to have a hidden agenda.
The fake-out death: This is when a character appears to die but later is revealed to have survived.
The "chosen one" is actually the villain: This is when the character who was believed to be the chosen hero is revealed to be the main antagonist.
The time loop: This is a plot device where the characters are stuck in a time loop and must relive the same day or period of time over and over.
The betrayal: This is when a character betrays the hero or the group, often leading to a dramatic plot twist.
The clueless authority figure: This is when the authority figure in the story is portrayed as being out of touch or incompetent.
The dead love interest: This is when the love interest of the hero is killed off, motivating the hero to seek revenge or justice.
The voiceover narration: This is when a character provides a voiceover narration to the story.
The quest for revenge: This is when the hero is motivated by a desire for revenge against the antagonist.
The "meet cute": This is a common trope in romantic comedies where the two love interests meet in an unlikely or humorous way.
The villain who wants to destroy the world just because: This is a common trope where the villain's motives for wanting to destroy the world are never explained.
The chosen one has a special birthmark or symbol: This is when the chosen hero has a special birthmark or symbol that marks them as special or destined for greatness.
The nerdy character who becomes cool: This is a common trope where a nerdy or socially awkward character becomes popular or cool.
The final countdown: This is when the characters have a limited amount of time to complete their mission before a deadline or disaster occurs.
The fated love: This is when the characters are destined to be together, often due to a prophecy or magical spell.
The "evil twin" plot twist: This is when a character is revealed to have an evil twin or doppelganger who is causing trouble.
The unlikely hero: This is when a seemingly ordinary or unremarkable character rises to the occasion and becomes a hero.
The "big misunderstanding": This is a plot device where the conflict is caused by a misunderstanding between characters that could easily be resolved if they just talked to each other
The chosen one's mentor dies: This is when the mentor figure of the chosen hero dies, motivating the hero to continue on their quest alone.
The surprise family connection: This is when a character is revealed to be related to another character, often the main antagonist.
The "bad guy turns good" plot twist: This is when a character who was originally the villain switches sides and joins the hero.
The amnesia plot device: This is when a character suffers from memory loss, often as a result of a traumatic event, and must regain their memories to solve a mystery or piece together their past.
The character who refuses to ask for help: This is when a character refuses to ask for help, even when it's clear that they need it, leading to even more trouble.
The secret identity: This is when a character has a secret identity or alter ego, often to protect themselves or others.
The last-minute escape: This is when a character narrowly escapes danger at the last minute, often through luck or quick thinking.
The big battle finale: This is when the story builds up to a big battle or showdown between the hero and villain.
The group of misfits: This is when a group of diverse and often oddball characters comes together to achieve a common goal.
'The Old Guard'Credit: Netflix
Summing Up What Are Some Of The Most Common Storytelling Cliches?
In conclusion, while storytelling clichés may seem like an easy and familiar way to craft a compelling story, relying too heavily on them can ultimately lead to a lack of originality and creativity.
As writers, it's important to recognize these tropes and strive to subvert or use them in new and exciting ways to keep our stories fresh and engaging. By doing so, we can create stories that not only captivate our readers or viewers but also challenge and inspire them.
So, next time you're crafting a story, take a step back and ask yourself if you're falling back on clichés, and if so, how you can turn them on their head and make your story truly your own.
Now go get back to writing.