I have to tell you, I think the most cliche I've ever heard is "That's cliche." I know you're rolling your eyes and scoffing at me right now, but just hear me out.
I wrote a book (an awesome one) about a girl and her boy next door. Before I'd even finished editing the book, I heard more than once "Don't you think the boy next door love story is cliche?" No, I really didn't. That's why I wrote it. But I finished editing it and the time to query came. I started researching boy next door love stories to compare to in my query. LOL. I couldn't find any. None. I met a writer friend who recently got an agent for her boy next door love story. But this is a rewrite of a previously queried project for her. She told me she got so much hell for writing a boy next door love story, and when she researched to find things to query she couldn't find any either! Yes, Beth is not crazy. They don't exist as much as you would think. We talked about it for a long time and decided that because "the girl next door" is a way to describe "every girl" and because the "boy next door" is a subplot in lots of things it has became "cliche." So because we have the notion that the concept is overdone, we're now underrated "cliche" artists for using it?
And this isn't the only reason the term "cliche" bothers me. When I was in college, the final project in my media class was to debunk a stereotype. My group chose to debunk the stereotype that all college kids party on the beach for spring break. Interestingly enough, spring break came in the middle of this. We thought we'd interview some people from our group who didn't party. Unfortunately, I was the brokest college kid in our group, had three jobs and still managed to party on the beach. I rode to Galveston with a few friends. We took a $30/night hotel room (something you can only do at 20 because once sanity kicks in you stay away from $30 hotel rooms)and because we were splitting it 3 ways it was $10/night ;). We expanded our search to the rest of the class and finally ended up interviewing random people in the student union. We found a couple of kids who went on a mission trip together and one girl who wanted to party but had to work. We edited the film to cut out the part about she wanted to party and left "I worked." Obviously not every college kid parties on spring break, but our research indicated at least at our school most of them did. Sometimes stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. So does your character being the norm make them any less interesting? Or does it just make them easier to relate to? And my guess is if 30 college kids party on the beach, some of them had more fun than others. Or they partied for different reasons. (I'd never seen a beach before and the only way to get there was to ride w/ my partier friends). Are their experiences less important because it's "cliche?" If 15 football players are rich jerks who drive convertibles, but have 15 different reasons for being a jerk does it matter? Is the guy who is a jerk because he feels like he's messed up to bad to be on the straight and arrow now the same as the guy who is a jerk, because he thinks the world just revolves around him?