I recently saw a writing tip posted on Instagram that advised aspiring authors to never start a book with a dream. The reason given was that such a beginning is a cliché; an unoriginal idea or something that has been overdone.
I personally like books that feature dreams, so much so that I’ve included them in my own YA series. In my books the dreams are a means by which the two main characters meet, and when I had my MS professionally assessed, the editor said “One of the most powerful elements of the text is the dizzying series of intersections between dreams and reality.” With feedback like that, I certainly wasn’t going to cut my dream sequences just because they are considered a cliché.
When you’re learning to write, or trying to improve your writing, there is A LOT of advice out there; most of which will tell you that your writing is a cliché.
People who have never read your work will recommend that you don’t start with a dream, don’t have a villain who is just crazy for the sake of crazy, don’t have a love triangle, don’t info dump in the first chapter, don’t use back story, don’t have flash backs, don’t do this, don’t do that… you get the idea. While there are plenty of reasons not to use these overused elements, there are just as many reasons as to why you should.
Readers are familiar with clichés, and there is comfort in that. The trick is ensuring that you make the most of the cliché and add an unfamiliar twist to it. Lull your readers into a sense of well-known ease, and then flip everything on it’s head!
Not only does playing with the cliché make for great writing and plot twists, but chances are you choose that specific cliché because it means something personal to you—and to invoke one of the biggest writing clichés to make my point—you should write what you love. Always.
If you love flash backs, if you love good triumphing over evil, long-lost loves, and the book ending in happy ever after, then write it. Because anything that you write with passion is going to be a better read than anything written because you wanted to fit in with the “rules”. Ignore those rules, write it your way and make the story uniquely yours.
Write What You Love—it might be a cliché, but when that’s all your writing is, what’s one more?
— K.M. Allan