Monday, January 29, 2018

When a #Literary #Cliché Becomes a Reality by Mackenzie Crowne

1.      a phrase or opinion that is overused and portrays a lack of original thought.
2.      a very predictable or unoriginal thing or person.

As a brand-new author (meaning after years of penning stories, someone from the professional literary world was finally seeing my work), I recall being advised to avoid clichés. I don’t remember my specific offense, but that doesn’t matter. There are many examples of literary clichés and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of including quite a few of them in my various writings, especially in those early years. I like to think I’ve grown in my craft, but let’s face it, some clichés are almost impossible to avoid simply because they are so prevalent in real life.

In my opinion, one of the most commonly seen examples of a literary cliché is the use of cancer as a vehicle or plot element. Think about it, how many stories have you read where someone connected to a main character has died of cancer? When viewed from an unemotional standpoint, a character’s diagnosis of one cancer or another is a logical happening. After all, cancer is the second leading cause of death. People die and that goes for fictional people as well. In the romance genre, where I write, characters often project an underlying sadness that defines them. What is sadder than a hero or heroine who has lost a loved one to such a vicious and indiscriminate disease?

I freely admit I’ve been guilty of using this ready-made plot element in the past. As a survivor, I vainly believed I had a special insight into the matter. On a certain level, I guess I did, but this week I learned how ignorant I was to the horrid reality of those who have lived through a tragic loss due to cancer.

Pat, Mac and Deb
For the past two years, Deb, one of my best friends for close to thirty years, has waged a heroic battle against peritoneal cancer. This past Thursday, this amazing woman decided she was weary of the fight and said goodbye to those of us who love her. Everything I thought I knew about cancer has been uprooted and flipped on its head. By the same token, my concept of the "cancer cliché" has been irrevocably altered as well and not just because a broken heart changes one’s perspective. 

Deb's strength and fortitude, her determination in the face of cruel odds, her debilitating pain as the end drew near, and the crushing grief shredding her children, family and friends now that she has she slipped away from us are not plot elements and could never be. They are a story in and of themselves. A story of amazing courage, humbling faith, and raging grief.

Perhaps one day I will tell that story, but I will never look at the use of cancer as a convenient literary vehicle again. After what I witnessed over the past two years, I simply can't. 


When Mac isn't relishing time spent with good friends and family, she keeps herself busy weaving HEAs for her characters, like Nicki Guimond Everson, the heroine of IRRESISTIBLE DECEPTIONS, Mac’s romantic suspense available from Entangled Publishing.


Leah St. James said...

Oh, Mac, I'm so very, very sorry. It is a horrific disease, and I generally turn away from books and movies with that plot point. We lost both my in-laws to cancer, and I have to shut the doors on the memories of those struggles that were so painful to them, to my husband and the whole family. Sending prayers for comfort and peace to you and Deb's loved ones.

Vonnie Davis said...

Hugs, Mac. I know what a good friend you were to her, taking her to the hospital and for treatments. She knew you were always there for her. A friendship like that is precious and to be remembered with great joy. Not the pain, but that will take awhile. Healing from such a loss takes a different time for all of us.

Brenda Whiteside said...

So sorry, Mac. I've lost five very important people to cancer and I know how rough it is. Your insight is touching.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Oh, Mac. I'm so sorry Deb's valiant effort came to an end and you lost a dear friend. When terrible diseases take down good, young people...not only isn't it fair, it leaves the living bereft. Such plot turns, settings, characters and scenes, are too painful to write or read. Treat yourself to lots of joy, Mac. You and Deb's friends and family deserve it.

Jannine Gallant said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Mac. I wonder if there is anyone in this world who hasn't experienced the loss of a friend or family member to cancer. It's a cruel disease, and more needs to be done to find a cure.

Betsy Ashton said...

A wonderful tribute from a true friend to a true friend. She lives on in your memories.

Andrea Downing said...

Mac, my condolences to you.. Having read your 'Where Would You Like Your Nipple?" during my own battle with the disease, I know you'll find the strength to deal with this loss.

Alison Henderson said...

Mac, I'm so very sorry for your loss. I don't know anyone whose life has been untouched by that monster "C." I've never considered using cancer as a plot device; it's such a personal horror.

Margo Hoornstra said...

My deepest condolences. Having faced then survived/surviving cancer myself, and losing first my mother then a precious close friend to the horrid disease, I know your heartache, and strength. Those we’ve lost live on in our hearts.

Alicia Dean said...

Oh, Mac, I'm so sorry for your loss. My best friend of 40 plus years is a breast cancer survivor but I well remember the fear and pain of her battle. I've lost a dear writer friend and others to cancer. It's heartbreaking. She was blessed to have you, as you were her.

Mackenzie Crowne said...

Thanks, Ladies. It's been a tough couple of years hoping beyond hope she would receive a miracle, then trying to find some reason for hope with every bit of bad news. And when hope finally ran out, she was the strongest of us.

Andrea, Deb is the friend from "Nipple" who survived breast cancer before me. She was a tremendous pillar of strength as I fought my battle and the best of friends always.

Diane Burton said...

I am so sorry for your loss, Mac. How truly devastating. Cancer has touched my family several times (both sisters, a cousin, a niece, my dad & his father) so I didn't hesitate to use it in my books. But I've never had to face the death of a loved one from cancer. Hugs.