This month, Fiona Harper has a little rant about one of her TV pet hates, and issues a challenge!
Picture this: on a TV show, the police burst into the home of a mild, unassuming man who your heroine is convinced has an unhealthy interest in her, but the officers find nothing untoward – that is, until they innocently open a cupboard door or decide to investigate the attic. And there it is…the stalker shrine that once and for all labels him as a deranged crackpot who needs to be behind bars forever.
You know the kind of thing I mean: there’s a wall of photos of the heroine, probably taken from behind bushes or through her bedroom window late at night. There’s probably some torn out newspaper articles, or items that have been stolen from her or scavenged from her rubbish bin. If he’s really out of his gourd, there might be some scrawled phrases in scary handwriting or lines and arrows joining the different pictures. To really freak our heroine out, he might have scratched out her eyes in some of the photos. We’ve all seen it a hundred times.
However, I’m sure that if you talked to a psychiatrist, you’d discover that having a creepy stalker wall is not a must-have aspect of that type of personality. So why do we see it all the time? In the ‘show, don’t tell’ land of television, it’s obvious why writers and directors use this device. It very quickly establishes, in a very visual and immediate way, that this guy is a crazy stalker and needs to be arrested. In fact, it’s been used so many times that it’s become a sort of TV shorthand.
Therein lies the problem – I’ve got to the point where if I see another Crazy Stalker Wall on TV I may well scream. I’m just desperate to see someone approach this in an original way. There has to be another way to show who a character is. What was a really strong idea has become a cliché, and instead of being fresh and original, I tend to think that relying on it has become a little bit lazy.
This got me thinking about writing in general. Sometimes it’s tempting to take the easy route and go for the cliché, but noticing the proliferation of Creepy Stalker Walls on TV shows and films has challenged me not to do the same thing in my own writing. I want to dig a little deeper, try to make sure I find something original, and not take the quick fix.
So… what clichés in TV, films or novels bug you? And have you got any ideas for a fresh way of navigating well-trodden ground?
Fiona's latest release is The Guy To Be Seen With, part of Harlequin's brand new KISS line!
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