The Big N has had a long past. Okay, not so long. It would have been written a year ago, had I not picked up Robert Doherty's Bodyguard of Lies. You see, he'd come up with the same premise I'd come up with: a spy trained without her knowledge.
Fine, fine. I re-vamped, threw out my plot. Came up with a new one, wrote a couple more chapters. (I kinda liked my old plot, though, darnitall.)
And then I discovered Ted Bell. Lord Alexander Hawke was awfully close to my character's name: Alyx Hawke.
(Kinda glad I lost that name.)
Honestly, I swear to dog and heaven, I had not remembered or known any of the above before I picked the exact same name/plot twist. So I sat stumped for two months, avidly reading everything I could get my hands on for fear I'd write something that had already been written.
As I bet you know, this made matters worse. Not only had every idea I'd come up with been done before, it'd been done better than I could do it!
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. I picked up a book. Totally cliche plot. Totally! Get this:
Abused wife; abusive husband who's a cop so she can't file charges; wife runs away.
Erm, how many books have you read with that premise? With that opening? How many storylines based on that exact same situation?
Here's one: Stephen King's Rose Madder. (You probably thought of it right off the bat.) It's taken me awhile to get back to King. When I was young and read horror, I was in the Koontz camp. Sure, I read King now and then. The TV premiere of Carrie was a Big Deal when I was young, showing on one of the three channels we received. (Hah! Amazing how time changes the world so quickly!)
Anyway, I picked up Rose Madder and couldn't put the book down. Cliche opening through and through. Not a single surprise. And you know what? It was totally freaking awesome. Amazing!
How did he do it? First of all, he never settles for cliche. He's an author that digs deep into character, so deep that you can't take your eyes away. I mean, it's so good it's freakin' insane. I'd have to quote the whole opening to you, and when would I stop? I doubt Blogger would let me post the whole entire book in one post. And I think that would infringe on copyright, LOL!
Second, he crafts a story. Hook, mystery, and craft. No, make that Craft with a capital C, not to sound pretentious. The abused wife who's lost a baby (because he punched her in the stomach) and who's almost died several times, finally leaves over--get this!--one drop of blood. One drop! How perfect is that? I couldn't tear my eyes away!
I'm clamping my mouth shut. I'll ruin perfection if I talk about it. Geezuz, it's so damn good I want to cry. Seriously.
But what I've learned? Cliches don't mean a thing, if you dig deep and craft a story.
Especially if you're as good as Stephen King.
And I'd thought I'd almost talked myself out of fearing them ...