marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

You all meet in a tavern

The immortal words with which so many D&D stories open -- and so a cliche that people try to avoid. An amusing list of alternatives here, but note that it ends: "Or the PCs could simply meet in a tavern..." Because, of course, it's an excellent way to get people to bump into each other. It's the place where travelers stay (if it's an inn as well) or eat. It's the place where locals socialize. It is therefore exactly the place where someone who wanted help would post the notice of the fact, etc.

It's less good for a story, of course, because in a role-playing game, players will suspend disbelief to get the party together. For a story, you not only have to give the characters motivations, you are starting out with a crowd and so will lack focus; better to start with one and let characters accrete.

Still, there are plenty of cliches in stories that, like meeting in the tavern, have a lot more going for them than many people assume. Take "monologuing." What could be more natural than Syndrome monologuing to Mr. Incredible? He wants Mr. Impossible's respect. He still loses his cool over being called "Buddy" by him. And how can Mr. Incredible know what marvelous things he has done and how much he ought to respect them unless he tells him?

The thing about cliches: respect them. A cliche is overused. That means it is necessarily used a lot. And nothing gets used a lot without their being reasons for it. Usually good reasons. Even if sometime clumsily deployed.

The Mentor dies. (sob) But you have to get him out of the way somehow for the Hero to grow up and come into his own. Named characters will turn out to be important, but if you clutter the story with dozens of names of the insignificant, the reader will go mad trying to remember -- and grow angry when they turn out unimportant. People tell the truth, legends are accurate, books contain the information needed -- because you don't want to spend forever digging up info in a dull and boring manner.
Tags: beginnings, character arc, cliches, death, dialog, exposition, plot devices, role-playing games, travel, world-building: food
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