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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

cliches, and why they are good.

No, really, sometimes they are. Not often. And not used scattershot. But if one wishes to get something across to an audience quickly and efficiently, one well-placed well-chosen cliche can save a metric butt-ton of exposition.

For example, say one needed a device that stops time. It doesn't matter to the plot what the device is; just that it stops time. There's no misdirection; the reader is meant to know as soon as it shows up what it does. It's not meant to have any cool value; it just needs to perform this one specific plot-related function.

If one just caves to cliche and makes it a pocket watch, already, think of all the paper one could save. (bad guy pulls watch out of pocket; clicks stem; time stops. no explanation needed. yay! trees saved!)

...of course, 95% of the time, after one presents this clever justification to one's self, one will realize that one was, in fact, just justifying laziness.

But the other 5% of the time, it works really well. ;-)


oh, gaaaawwwwwwwwddddddddd....

Please don't do that. Please.

I'll give you anything.

Actually, I have done. That specific thing. There was just too much other confusing shit going on in the story to actually have time to explain what the Device was for, so I ripped off John D. MacDonald.

You can tell me if it worked:

Oh, goodness! I may steal this line:

"well, he's ugly enough, Tamara answered. is he full of juice?"

Hee. I'm working on another Gretchen and Tamara story now. Poor hounds. They do have good dialogue.
That doesn't bug me, I feel that some ideas have a sort of emotional rationality or cultural logic and trying to avoid them is probably more trouble than their worth.

Magic stopwatches can stop time.

Magic pens/pencils/chalk/paints can create/alter reality.

Magic doors transport people to other places.

Sure, a magic door could have the power to stop time, a magic pen could transport one to new places, a magic banana could reshape reality, but as a reader, that's just going to make me furrow my brow and go "Er..that's random." for a second, a reaction I reckon most writers would want to avoid.

Form follows function, even if only symbolically, at least when the nature of the object isn't supposed to be particularly mysterious to the reader. So I fully support the stopwatch.
One of the better episodes of The Collector had a time-traveller whose magical time-travelling device was a pocketwatch. The episode was titled "The Watchmaker". (The teaser scene is online. #13)

Who looks at screwdriver and goes, "If only it were a little more... sonic?"

Pocketwatches seem to be pretty much symbolic of the ability to manipulate time.

Or is that sonic screwdrivers?

Re: Who looks at screwdriver and goes, "If only it were a little more... sonic?"

Sonic screwdrivers are more often used to fix up plots due to lack of narrative glue.

Re: Who looks at screwdriver and goes, "If only it were a little more... sonic?"

I think it's just that they're sexier than wristwatches.

On the other hand, the proper wristwatch also lets you change the altitude...!

Re: Who looks at screwdriver and goes, "If only it were a little more... sonic?"


Re: Who looks at screwdriver and goes, "If only it were a little more... sonic?"

Write that, please, so I don't have to. *g*

Re: Who looks at screwdriver and goes, "If only it were a little more... sonic?"

Maybe this fall. *g*
Object cliches don't git my chitlins nearly the way that descriptive ones do (The table groaned under the load of food) because, as is pointed out in the comments above, form really does follow function. I mean, why would you have a magic washing machine that stops time? Or a magic squeegee?
...a magic squeegee has real potential now that you mention it....
No no that's mine. The magical squeegee, the accordion of vast powers, and the mystery bunion-remover are all part of a very important trilogy I'm planning.
Mr. Pullman and I await it with bated breath.
It does!

I agree. There's symbolic logic and also visual logic, and I think it generally works better if whatever variation on the cliches you use still involves one or the other.

I just watched a show where a door is opened into another reality when a man takes his unusual L-shaped weapon, pushes it into the air (ie, the fabric of space/time), and turns it like a key. A door opens. You don't question it for a second, because even though we've only ever seen the thing used as a weapon, the instant he twists it, we think, "Ah, key."

Similarly, I'd buy a dimension-opening crowbar if it was used to pry the door open, as a crowbar does. Or, like Phlip Pullman did, a knife that cuts the fabric of reality. A clock that opens a door would be confusing.

A magic washing machine or squeegee ought to do some sort of magical cleaning. It's hard to think how it could be used other than comically, but perhaps it washes away sin. Or memories. Or tough magical stains from one's crime-fighting costume.
Washing awa time and decay...
Well, if your time machine is a DeLorean, a squeegee might come in handy.
When I wanted a time machine, I just said it was a time machine. No description, no idea of how it worked, just that it was backpack-sized. I like your watch better.

Now I must stop thinking of interesting reality-bending objects. You do not open a door into another world with a crowbar unless you absolutely have to.
Sure, but that's because the crowbar leaves some really ugly gashes in the fabrics of both realities, and then it's quite easy for the TimePolice (cliche #4,527) to find you. . .
It might be okay so long as you work on the Reality Loading Dock, and Universes get shipped to you legitimately with a reciept or bill of lading. Use of a crowbar would feel fairly harmless there. Goota pack those universes up carefully.
Oh, I don't unpack universes. I just play with the bubble wrap.