It’s been a long time since I read a good book. A really good book. One that I have to read every word of, get completely wrapped up in and love to reread again and again. That’s how I felt about Anna and the French Kiss. It’s the well worn ‘girl gets sent to boarding school against her will and is a fish out of water’ plot set up. But it’s not just the story, but how well the story gets told that really makes it special.
1) When writing a cliche, the focus should be character based. The readers are familiar with the story, but creating a connection to the characters can make the story stand out. Example: Anna doesn’t really say she’s different or misunderstood, she focuses on who she is and what she does, which is what makes her unique and colorful. Sure, St. Clair is pretty much every wishy-washy guy with a troubled home life that girls seem to fall for, but he’s genuine in his friendship with her. It’s basically the same thing in real life.
2) It’s the little things that make a big difference. In the ‘fish out of water’ stories, the focus is often on feeling out of place in general. The book uses a different approach, with Anna going out and exploring those differences and turning it into her own world. The little things like what she does in her spare time, what she eats or what she studies are really fleshed out to truly recreate the experience of being in a new place and adapting.
3) Make the experience feel unique. Everyone and everyone’s story is unique, cliche as that sounds. In one branch of literary theory there are two types of plot – tragedy and comedy. In another, there is theorized to be only one – the main character is living his/her normal life when something occurs to take them out of their routine. Now think about how many stories there are in the world. Good, amazing, brilliantly original stories.
So go ahead, be cliche.