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February 13, 2008



I stand corrected.

Elaine Flinn

How does one stand corrected? You either stand naturally, or not.


JLW is correct in his definitions of icon, trope, etc.

However, there is no universal agreement as to which things are icons, which are cliches, which are archetypes, and so on. All those things are judgment calls.

If you don't like the boozing PI, you call it a cliche, and make the case that it has lost its impact.

If it speaks to your inner being, you call it an archetype, and make the case that it clearly still has impact.

If you feel neutral about it, you call it a genre trope, and make the case that without it, there's no genre.

The words do not mean the same things. JLW is absolutely correct.

However, each of them can be used--and used in valid ways--to refer to the same fictional element, depending on the perspective of the person speaking.

Which is what I was getting at in the first place.


Concur completely. I was only trying to make the point that a cliché by definition isn't the same thing as all them other things. If you call it a cliché, you've already made a judgment.


Posting in an ongoing conversation just to say nothing interesting, act bored and superior, and insult the host "is what it is" too, but one hopes an author will transcend his genre.

To use a layman's phrase.

Dave White

Do you think Walt speaks with a snooty English accent?


I think Walt speaks with slurred consonants.


Guyot, sweetheart, the only name I drop is Rin Tin Tin's.

Judy Bobalik

Not knowing the man myself, is it possible "Walt" Mosley was being funny?

Dave White

Oh, crap. Maybe I should click on links before opening my mouth.


Isn't it more likely that "Walt" has nothing to do with Walter Mosley whatsoever, but has simply appropriated his name and linked to his website?

I've met Walter Mosley several times and he's a very pleasant man. I do not see him getting snarky on a prominent reviewer's blog.

I also seem to recall this happening before -- someone posing as Walter Mosley, I mean -- on another blog a few years ago.


I pose as Walter Mosley sometimes when no one's home.


As a trainee Medical Thriller writer, thanks for the post and the discussion.
I would like to add one more cliche -:

the ex-cop/government agent/ detective looking after some loved one/child, who will no doubt be targetted by the ‘bad guys’ within the first 3 chapter = Inciting Incident.

Oh. Pass. I might use that one!
LOL More please.

Pete Daniels

What about the CLUE delivered by the 2 bad guys telling the PI to stop what he is doing before something BAD happens. Again and again I read this sequence written by some of the top mystery writers, enough is enough. Find another way to move the story along. If this device has not grown stale for others I would be surprised.


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i think,even good writers seem to rechurn the same old.i read some leonards that sound so much the same,i think,the genre is dead.we need to do focus on something else,


shit,who reads anymore,these days few people can read an email longer than 3 paragraghs,i think,the novel is dying,that's it.people want to sit down and watch for 2hrs tops,and that's it.

ok,maybe some of you guys have read so many books,and coz of that everything sounds just like a cliche

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David J. Montgomery is a writer and critic specializing in books and publishing. He is an emeritus columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and The Daily Beast, and has also written for USA Today, the Washington Post, and other fine publications. A former professor of History, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two daughters.

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