Overused Gimmicks and Cliche’s in Writing

Writing gimmicks and cliches makes any new author look amateurish. Hell, I’ve fallen into that trap myself a few times while I was writing my new Dystopian/Urban Fantasy book Shadow of Wrath. Thank god for brutal and unbiased editors!

Has this every happened to you? An idea — so original and earth shattering — strikes you while you’re on the train coming home from work and you race to your computer to get those words down on your word document. And then, when you google it, you find it’s all been done before.

I truly believe that writing is about personal enjoyment and one should write because it pleases them first and everyone else second. E.L. James did that for 50 Shades of Grey and look at her now.

But of course, as writers, we want people in literary circles to take notice of our works and have our pieces published in their award winning magazines. This is where overused gimmicks of Science Fiction and Fantasy can lead to publication stumbling blocks.

Strange Horizons  provides an impressive list of cliches and gimmicks they don’t want to see. Now keep in mind, this is just one magazine (but a very good one) and I stress, write whatever makes you happy. But for those interested on what’s been done before, you can find the full list at here.

Here are some of the more interesting ones on this list:

– Someone calls technical support; wacky hijinx ensue.

  1. Someone calls technical support for a magical item.
  2. Someone calls technical support for a piece of advanced technology.
  3. The title of the story is 1-800-SOMETHING-CUTE.

– White protagonist is given wise and mystical advice by Holy Simple Native Folk.

– Man is entirely blameless, innocent, mild-mannered, and unobjectionable, and he kills his awful, shrewish wife entirely by accident, possibly in self-defense, so it’s okay.

– A princess has been raped or molested by her father (or stepfather), the king.

– Fatness is used as a signal of evil, dissolution, and/or moral decay, usually with the unspoken assumption that it’s completely obvious that fat people are immoral and disgusting. [Note: This does not mean all fat characters in stories must be good guys. We’re just tired of seeing fat used as a cheap shorthand signifier of evil.]

  1. Someone wants to kill someone else, and that’s perfectly reasonable because, after all, the victim-to-be is fat.
  2. The story spends a lot of time describing, over and over, just how fat a character is, and how awful that is.
  3. Physical contact with a fat person is understood to be obviously revolting.


Well, looks like I’m scrapping my new Scifi book about a nine hundred pound sumo who turns his wife into sashimi =P. Apparently that’s an overused gimmick or cliche!

– L.