(Hey, it's Christmas! Have a fic. More updates to come when I'm done reviewing everyone else in the category ever.)

For all this story is titled Unoriginality, it's not actually much focused on cliches so much as things that pop up repeatedly and also are nonsense.

That said, cliches are an issue in writing, and I happened to stumble upon one that's been cropping up for years without getting bitched about.

The reason cliches are bad is largely because their impact is reduced by overuse. Yes, there's no reason why it's fair you should be held accountable for the fact two hundred hacks used a cool plot twist before you, but this doesn't change the fact your readers are still going to see it coming a mile away. Worse, cliches start to invite laziness - I suspect a lot of the "wake up and go" first chapters you find in OT fic are by writers who could do better, but are so familiar with the standard scene they don't even think about doing anything different or adding anything new.

In the end, the scenes become shorthand for real development, the plot equivalent of telling rather than showing. Of course, this being Pokemon, even things that are mainly problems because they're such cliches don't, on examination, actually work without ignoring or breaking canon. The fandom is fun like that.

Where is this going, Farla? you may be asking, having a sinking feeling.

Where else? Ralts.

(Can I use asterisks again?)

***

(Ooh, asterisks, how I've missed you. What fun we will have together.)

***

The ralts tottered out of a concealing clump of high grass, moving slowly toward the lone trainer. He stared, flabbergasted, as the ungainly white pokemon approached, its overlarge head wobbling as it struggled to keep its balance.

It came to a halt a few feet away. After a minute, the trainer slowly took a pokeball from his belt and lobbed it gently at the waiting pokemon.

When the pokeball stilled moments later, he took out his pokedex to check the data on Ralts.

"Ralts, the feeling pokemon," the pokedex reported dutifully. "This pokemon rarely appears before people. However, if it senses exceptionally positive emotions and kindness, and possibly an epic destiny brewing, it will approach a trainer."

***

The ralts used its emotion sensing powers to feel a pure-hearted person at the edge of her range. Getting up, she began heading in that direction.

This person seems exceptionally nice, she thought as she walked up to the trainer hopefully. Why, they have the nicest temperament of anyone I've ever encountered, and I can tell they're always very kind to their pokemon by sensing the fact they're in a good mood right now.

The ralts considered if she should check the emotions of the pokemon, but rejected the thought as silly. Instead, she began composing her introduction, where she would explain to the trainer how very awesome and kind they surely were.

***

The trainer's torchic had just finished off a taillow as the ralts approached. Ooh, that looks like a cool pokemon, she thought. Thinking quickly, the trainer ordered their torchic off the defeated bird. "Quick, Flamer, get it! Scratch attack!" The ralts shuddered under the blow and growled feebly. A second scratch attack caused it to sink to its knees, then nearly topple over, catching itself on thin, trembling arms. She chucked a pokeball at it and, after a bit of wobbling, the pokeball dinged and calmed.

"Alright! I've got a ralts!" She checked the pokedex data and grinned at the first two lines. "Also, this proves I'm even awesomer than I thought!" She then thumbed it off before the machine could get to It hides if it senses hostility.

***

Another trainer was less impatient. He listened as the pokedex explained ralts hide and take cover if they sense any hostility before grinning, declaring his awesomeness, and shutting the pokedex again.

A few minutes later, he ran into a trainer. "Only two pokemon?" sneered the girl. "What kind of a trainer hasn't even caught a full team of pokemon by now?"

Burning with anger, he challenged her to a battle, sending out the ralts. "Ralts, beat up that arrogant trainer's stupid bellsprout!"

The ralts grinned joyously. ~ Sure! ~ it exulted, growling fiercely at the hostile bellsprout before it, then using a confusion attack to smack the other pokemon viciously into the ground until the battered pokemon fainted.

***

When Jeremy stepped into the pokecenter, he was surprised to see the place crowded with trainers, all of whom had ralts on their shoulders, in their arms or trailing alongside them. A number were engaging in ralts against ralts matches. "Woo, mine's strongest!" yelled one as its ralts sent another confusion attack into its opponent, knocking the other out. "Any other losers wanna try? We will break you, wimps!"

"Huh," Jeremy said. "Was there a swarm of ralts around recently?" He didn't remember them being a type that occasionally gathered into swarms, but then, he was sure he remembered them being rare normally.

The boys nearest to them looked insulted. "No. Don't you know anything? Ralts only come out when they sense exceptional trainers with unusually positive emotions, which is why I've got one. I guess you're just a pokemon abuser." He looked like the sort of person who, as an adult, would go into bars with the express purpose of taking offense so he could get into a fistfight.

"Is there a ralts convention here or something?" Jeremy persisted.

"What are you talking about?"

"Well, it's just it looks like almost everyone here has a ralts. I thought they were rare."

"He just said, they only come out when they sense unusually high positive emotions, way more than the average trainer," growled the other boy. "Maybe they're rare for you or something. God, what a moron. We caught them outside. Wanna make something of it?"

"Wait," said Jeremy. "You said something about the average trainer. But if everyone here has one, then..."

"We're all above average!" said a girl. She frowned. "Wait, that doesn't make any sense..."

***

In conclusion, way too many people use ralts as a way of saying their trainer is just that special. Much like the "hey look I oppose pokemon abuse!" scenes, it's there to hammer in that the trainer is just that much more nice than the average person on the street, and even more irritatingly, is almost never developed further, aside from the occasional tie in to their Ultimate Adventure of Ultimate Destiny. And, of course, god forbid anyone actually take into account what having a ralts might actually be like post-capture, instead treating them like some sort of girl-scout badge that trainers get for successfully completing the Being Holier-Than-Thou task that never matters again.

Some things to consider:

Ralts are supposed to be attracted to positive emotions, more specifically cheerfulness according to Diamond and Pearl entries. Positive emotions, contrary to how it's usually interpreted in fanfic, does not mean a pure heart. A ralts might, in theory, approach a trainer who's just finished kicking a zigzagoon to death, so long as the trainer is really happy about it, and in theory would avoid the trainer who saw the dead zigzagoon and began to soliloquize about how awful it is people abuse pokemon. Note that their evolution, kirlia, is powered by their trainer's cheerfulness, not their trainer's niceness. A jerk who's in a good mood is therefore a better pick for them than a wonderful person who gets sad when they think of all the jerks out there.

Ralts interpret emotions, not thoughts. They can't read a trainer's mind and tell how awesome and kind they are. They may be able to distinguish between different kinds of similar emotions and so avoid the zigzagoon-kicking trainer in favor of the zigzagoon-helping trainer if both are about as happy, as they might avoid aggression-tinted positive emotions, but even that's not set canon. They definitely cannot read a trainer's mind, let alone sense a brewing Ultimate Epic Destiny. Yes, you could have a ralts saying that the Ultimate Epic Destiny person would have an emotional feel of exactly your trainer's mind, but that's stupid and contrived, so don't. Especially if the character's Ultimate Epic Destiny is about saving the world with pokemon battles, as...

Ralts flee from hostility. This is in two different pokedex entries, the set for Leafgreen/Firered, and the one for Emerald. If your trainer is doing or thinking anything violent, it doesn't matter how special their pure heart is, the ralts is going the other way as fast as its stubby little legs can carry it. This, not the positive emotions, is what you can use to justify a block for jerk trainers. However, it means that if your trainer is the sort who goes around beating up wild pokemon, or the sort who gets angry at zigzagoon-kicking trainers, the ralts will be avoiding them too. If your character is portrayed as aggressive, giving them a ralts does not make them secretly peaceful, it just makes you look like you're bad at the whole characterization thing. It should also be nigh-impossible to train a ralts initially (are you feeling hostile? is the opposing pokemon feeling hostile? is the other trainer feeling hostile? is anyone in the vicinity at all feeling hostile?), compounded by their lack of attacking moves at low levels, and even having them out in a large group might cause trouble. It's possible a trainer can feel hostile if they're also very very cheerful about it and maybe train like that, but it's something to be addressed. Ralts are fundamentally peaceful pokemon, and no matter how much you try to avoid it, being a trainer is a fundamentally aggressive occupation.

Ralts, in sum, should appear if you want to explore the training of ralts, not as a badge of how totally nice and awesome your trainer is, and using them to say anything about how nice your character is breaking canon as well as horribly, horribly overdone. Nor should they just be popping up because you want a balanced team early on. If nothing else, these are rare pokemon that appear in one area in the games, stop having every Hoenn character trip over one.

And while ralts are an extreme example, this is really something to consider for every pokemon you use. The whole idea of pokemon fanfic is moving things beyond the idea they're all balls of stats you can slot into any spot on your team.