Writing Experiment pt 1: Start w the Cliches
part 1: the character arcs
There’s a line from Anne Carson (I’m pretty sure) that goes something like
How do you blow up a cliche? from the inside.
I’ve always liked that spirit, and seen it executed well in work that feels fresh and alive. You can’t simply avoid cliches and tropes when making fiction—work that’s totally original and without precedent doesn’t evoke anything. It’s alien, but in a boring way.
It might be a fun writing exercise to start by being as cliched as possible, and work from there. Take the seed of the story you want to tell, and let it slide out on autopilot, zero thought to making it original or avoiding common tropes—then use that as a map of pressure points for how to make the final story more interesting. I’m going to give it a shot with this base idea:
A mash-up of two genres that basically can’t exist without their cliches. Let’s see how those interact.
The second I say “buddy cop time loop” to myself, the broad strokes of a story come up automatically:
There are two cops (or at least authority figures) who are polar opposites and hate each other. One is probably a big-shot federal agent with a lot of combat training and superhuman levels of competence at everything he touches. The other is a beat cop family man, probably never worked a case bigger than a gas station robbery before.
They’re working a case together (details unclear) and they end up at a warehouse on the edge of town where they both get killed—after some weird shit has gone down, but before they’ve seen anything that helps them understand what’s going on.
Of course, they wake up, it’s the day before, they’re at the beginning of the loop again. They meet for the first time again on this weird case again.
(For some dumbshit reason, time loop stories tend to treat the first repeat as a freebie, where the people inside the loop spend a lot of time going “huh, weird, this feels like deja vu?” despite the fact that deja vu feels NOTHING like physically reliving an entire day of the exact same events. So… I guess we’ll do that too, keep that in the cliche version.)
They go through the first loop, both of them wary of each other (“is this… are you getting some deja vu here? No, of course, me neither. Stupid question, my bad.”), but they do end up at the warehouse a bit earlier, since they’re moving through the case faster the second time around. Arriving a bit early, they see some different weird shit this time—completely separate type of weird, and unclear how it could be related—and then they’re killed and reset again.
On and on, they work the case together, trying to figure out if and how it’s related to the time loop. They start to understand each other, respect each other, all that shit. Hypercompetent fed-guy teaches beat cop some valuable skills, beat cop teaches hyper competent guy how to loosen up and let people into his heart, be considerate of others.
(I’m getting an inkling here that these two are brothers-in-law. Beat cop married Fed’s sister, Fed is in town visiting for a holiday, he came with beat cop for a ride along out of the wife/sister’s insistence, that’s why they’re on the case together)
If there’s two of them in the time loop, one of them has to get kicked out of it before the other, leaving the other person to wrap things up on their own. Hmm. I can see a few ways it could go, and to a certain degree it depends on the cause of the loop… but if I’m sticking to the more-cliched feeling side of my brain: the hyper-competent fed gets kicked out first, and beat cop has to solve it on his own using the skills he learned, thus regaining his self-confidence and manhood and blah blah blah.
In the end he gets out of the loop, his brother-in-law doesn’t remember the loop, but he does, and he decides to build a better relationship w his brother-in-law, and help the guy sort out his issues, get close to him with all the stuff he learned in the loop—and surprise him/gain his respect with some of his new skills from the loop.
Roll credits, until the end-credits scene where Nick Fury and Emperor Palpatine are having a romantic candlelit dinner on the banks of the Seine.
Alright, there’s the base. Pretty cliched character arc, almost no information about the time loop’s cause, the crime, or the relation between the two.
I’m gonna go do dishes and let the next bit simmer. I’ll post the next bit either in a couple hours or a couple days, who knows.
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