As the moth is attracted to flame, less-than-vigilant writers are attracted to the bright light of intrinsically dramatic situations, where the drama is preassembled, ready to use—convenient.
We’re drawn to clichés because they’re convenient. And convenience for writers—convenient plots, convenient characters, convenient coincidences, convenient settings or situations or strings of words—almost always spells doom.
A writer sets her story in an abortion clinic. What are the expectations raised by such a setting? To the extent that those expectations are met head-on, her story fails. It descends into cliché and denies the reader an authentic experience.
One expects (for instance) that a young woman will face an excruciating choice under great pressure. She may or may not be accompanied by the man or boy who put her in this position; he may be callous or callow, or he may be sensitive and confused. The drama may occur on the way to Planned Parenthood, or on the way home, but the implied setting is still the clinic itself.
What will the author do to rescue that drama from our expectations, from cliché?
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