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.