Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When the cliche is turned on its head . . .

The season finale of Boardwalk Empire was this weekend. It's a violent, slightly depraved, awesomely written show. I can't watch it. My husband, however, loves it, and invariably, I end up in the room during scenes of it.

This week, I was walking through when I saw a creepy conversation between a man and a woman who did not look so comfortable. The conversation was sexual . . . and disturbing. I wasn't really listening to the words, but as the conversation went on, she grew viably frightened.

It's set in the 20s, it looked to be a woman without much personal power, in the presence of a man who clearly had the advantage and looked willing to take it.

Frankly, I got creeped out and bolted. I knew what was coming next. I got my water, grabbed my bedtime snack, and started to sneak back through the living room without actually looking back at the screen.

But you know those train wrecks? When you just can't help but looking?  I looked . . .

This frightened, powerless-looking woman was in the process of strangling the man with his own belt.

I burst out laughing (which believe me, drew a strange look from the hubs). But it was just exactly what I never expected. I was prepared for the cliched female victim, who is run-over by the powerful male. I was prepared for some horrible assault.

Instead, she took the power, and flipped the whole scene on it's head. It was amazing.

Now, as anyone who does watch the show already knows, and which I found out later, it was actually some kinky sex they were having, rather than her killing him as I had assumed (rooted for?), but that didn't lessen the emotional ride the brief moments took me on.

I was emotionally ready for, and expecting, one thing, and bam! I got hit with the exact opposite. It's an emotional roller coaster I would love to take my readers on.

Anybody have any examples of when a cliche is turned on it's head? Ever get hit emotionally by a surprise you never saw coming? Do you love it or hate it when you get the opposite of what you expect? Got any scenes in your book where you lead reader's one way, and then whack them over the head with the opposite (and any advice for the rest of us trying to add one in)?

11 comments:

MsHellion said...

I usually love it when the opposite of what I was expecting occurs. *LOL* The closest I can think of in books is Julie Garwood books. Not cliches, really, but I love it when one character is thinking one thing and all is well, blah, blah, blah, and then the start of the next chapter shows the character the first character was thinking of is doing the exact opposite of what they thought this character would be doing. (That's such an awkward sentence. I'm so sorry.)

I think I do have a scene where the cliche is put on its head actually. My stagecoach scene with the Indians. The whole thing is a cliche but almost everything that happens in that scene is the opposite of what is expected (I think.) Unfortunately I think its the ONLY scene I have like that. *LOL*

Haleigh said...

I get what you're describing, Hellie :) I agree that's very fun. I like the idea of a stagecoach and Indians scene being the opposite of what's expected. I can envision that being hilarious!

Haleigh said...

Though I will say, one scene in a book seems good. I think this is one of those careful areas where one or two can be awesome and surprising, but there's a line where too many become boring and expected, and well . . . cliched. haha

TerriOsburn said...

Sorry, it's party week. I'll be back as soon as I can!

MsHellion said...

Ahhhh, too much of a good thing. You're right. I'm not very subtle, so I always think bigger is better, more is better, etc, etc, etc.

TerriOsburn said...

I'd have to think hard to come up with an example for this one, but I'm loving the idea. And I think I tried to watch that show when it first started but it was too violent for me. There's a brutality that runs through a lot of shows these days. Game of Thrones is the same way. That brutality, though realistic, just doesn't appeal to me.

I have a character who turns out not to be the cliche you're expecting. Which I think is kind of fun. But if I say any more then I'll give too much away. :)

Janga said...

As much as I love it, I find romance largely a convention-bound genre--not the same thing as cliched but distantly related. Books that turn the conventions on their head leave me cheering wildly and wearing a big smile. Eloisa James has done a wonderful job of this in her fairy tale books. In the most recent, The Ugly Duchess, for example, the heroine effects her own transformation, and it's a matter of having the freedom to employ skills she already possessed; the hero, who is gorgeous, undergoes a reverse transformation and ends up scarred, tatooed, and rough. I loved it!

One of my heroines is an ordained minister, a former wild child who has retained a touch of wildness that surprises even her. I hope she challenges the stereotype.

haleigh said...

Ter - I feel the same way about Boardwalk Empire. The premise is interesting, it seems well-done, but I cannot stomach it.

Now you've got me all curious about your character - can't wait!

haleigh said...

Janga - a reverse transformation from gorgeous to not? I'm intrigued!

Your minister heroine sounds amazing. I love the idea of a fully-rounded, fully-human minister, with her own wild-child past and impulses. What a great idea!

Maureen said...

I've read about Boardwalk Empire and I am happy to see a long time character actor get such a juicy role. I don't watch it because we don't get that channel! I probably would if we did...

But nice switcheroo! I've been thinking if I've read that sort of thing before and I'm certain I have, but swiss cheese has a tight hold on my memory today...

In my writing, I suppose my cliche turn around is the pirate who has more honor than the honorable men... But that is almost an expected thing anymore! I'm actually more surprised when I run up against a pirate in a romance who is really despicable...

haleigh said...

You know, Mo, if anyone of us watched it, I'd figured it was you :) I think you're absolutely right that come change-ups become the new normal, like honorable pirates. And suddenly despicable is exciting again . . . I love it!