(no, not really, just an unofficial guide.)
The Cliché List has always bugged me a bit, because I think many readers misinterpret what it is for.
The Cliché List is not:
- A list of ideas you should never write up
- A list of ideas you should automatically downvote on sight
- A list of ideas that absolutely can’t be written well
So what is the Cliché List? Generally, it’s a list of ideas that are harder than most to write up well, especially for inexperienced SCP writers. There are many reasons ideas can fall into this category, and I’ve tried to explain them below. When you read this, remember that the list is advice not rules, and there are exceptions. Bad ideas can be made to work with exceptional writing. It seldom happens, mostly because 99% of the people writing up bad ideas don’t realize their idea is bad, and are therefore unlikely to be the one to write it well enough to succeed.
Here is the Cliché List, rearranged by category, with commentary:
The Thing You Should Actually Never Write
5. Things what you saw on TV/ in a movie/ in an anime/ read about in a book / heard in a song.
Plagiarism, whether from another SCP or an off-site source, will get your SCP instantly deleted, and may get you banned from the site. This is the one thing on the list that you actually should never do.
It should be obvious that if you discover something close to your idea has already been written as an SCP, you should change that idea significantly.
Taking something from another medium and “SCPifying” it without adding a major twist never goes over well (not even as a –J). Therefore: Don’t write up your favorite Lovecraft critter, or D & D monster or magic item as an SCP. No Slenderman. No Pokémon. You get the idea…
Things That Don’t Fit the Tone of the Site
1. Things What Let You Fight Good, Guyz What fight good, heck, anything involved with Fightan Good.
We don’t generally write up "people with cool powers that you would like to have" or objects that are too useful. Tacking on a disadvantage doesn't help. Read So You Want to Write a Humanoid SCP Object for more details.
2. Reality Bending pplz what can make the world change with their mindz.
12. Things what are ancient and evil, so vast that humankind cannot comprehend it, yada yada yada you can only have so many.
Read Eldritch Application for more insight into why these overpowered SCPs don't usually work well. We also have SCP-343, who is only contained because he chooses to stay. We don’t need another one of him.
Uncontainable SCPs can work… sometimes. You'll see a few where the procedure amounts to "track it, and suppress info." Also, "uncontainable" is not the same as "uncontained." Uncontained is fine, as long as the Foundation is working on it in some reasonable way. Remember the Foundation really wants to contain SCPs, and has near unlimited resources, so don't be lazy in thinking up something for it to do.
3. Things what we should do what they say becuz we wouldn't like them when they're angry.
9. Things what are really pretty pplz whom everyone lieks.
The Foundation contains and experiments on abnormal things/people; it doesn't cater to their whims. If your containment procedures are pretty much "do what it asks so it will behave" you’re doing it wrong. Conversely, the Foundation shouldn't be gratuitously cruel to SCPs. Remember, it's useful to reward good behavior, as long as it doesn't breach security, or consume excessive resources.
18. Things what is indestructible just to be indestructible. We're the Special CONTAINMENT Procedures, not Special DESTRUKTION Procedures Foundation. We usually dun destroy things just to destroy them nowadays.
Destroying abnormal things is more the GOC's MO. The Foundation is a "pack rat" organization by nature. They want to study things thoroughly in case they reappear out of containment. Destroying an SCP may cause more problems than keeping it, so the Foundation tends to be wary about trying. It's easy enough to come up with an in-universe reason for keeping your SCP around.
21. Humorous addenda talking about some shenanigan the staff did and what terrible punishment awaits if they do it again. We are trying to move away from such things.
This is commonly known as "LOLFoundation." While you may see it in older articles, it makes the Foundation look stupid and unprofessional, plus it’s a big tone-breaker.
Ideas Done Well Enough that You Can (probably) Only Write a Bad Copy
4. Things what make other weird things. This includes things what make SCPs and Things what you put other things in and they come out improved.
14. Things what lead to some vast dimension of pointlessness where we lose countless amounts of D-Class by sending them in for no particular reason.
15. Statues what move when you dun look at dem. We already have one what does that and it's better than what you can write.
SCP-173, whether or not you think it’s all that great, was the first SCP, and is rated over +1000. Trying to improve on it: Bad idea.
17. Things what just tell you random information that be's all mysterious liek.
SCP-058 does this better than anything you’re likely to write.
99% of the Time, These Are Signs of Weak/Sloppy Writing
7. Things what use up excessive resources, like nucular weaponz or Class-D personnel. Blind Guards are excessive resources, by the way.
Readers expect the Foundation to come up with reasonable containment procedures, appropriate for the object being contained. Although you can consider the Foundation to have near-unlimited resources, it’s not going to waste them on excessive containment procedures.
8. Things what excessively refer to other SCPs. This includes things what are better than other SCPs.
Cross-referencing other SCPs is a pet peeve of many readers, especially if it seems gratuitously done to associate your (bad) SCP with a better one.
19. Things what caused teh INDIAN OCEAN TSUNAMI. Seriously, I think the Foundation has caused it about ten billion times already. And for that matter, quit making globes and maps that change the world when the map or globe is altered. It gets old.
Generally, associating your SCP with real-world events does not go over well, even if done cleverly.
6. Things what make you go nuts for no apparent reason.
This usually reads as tacked-on danger, as does the SCP which compels people to use it for no good reason.
11. Things what perform OTT (Over The Top) as to what they're supposed to do. i.e. Knives what cut through dimensions, audio devices what cause insanity to whoever listens to them etc, etc.
These are usually just too obvious and uninteresting to get a good reception.
13. Anything what is spherical. Or cubical. Seriously, for fuck sake, pick a random object rather than a shape.
This isn't a problem if it actually makes sense for your object to be a sphere or a cube — it's a basketball, or a space probe, or a six-sided die, for example. The problem is when you've thought of a good, weird effect, but couldn’t come up with an appropriate object to produce it. Think harder and you’ll find one…
Things We (possibly) Have a Few Too Many of
16. Things what is from DA FUTURE! We've got a whole city from there.
20. Cats and Dogs. Seriously, we've got way too many canines and felines, let's do something different! Ferrets, lobsters, squids, platypi, muskrats, beavers, komodo dragons, their are millions of animals out there, that are not cats and dogs!
22. VINDOWS TO ANOZZER VORLD! Seriously, we have four of them, and they're all the same damn article. Come up with something less stale.
23. Creepy dolls. 'Nuff said.
Before you write one of these up, do a search on the existing ones and ask yourself: Is mine really doing something different or more interesting than what we already have? If you can sincerely say yes, then go write it…
Someone occasionally suggests a new topic for the cliche list — Parasites. Creatures that pretend to be ordinary objects, and then kill you. Dice. There are over 2000 SCPs on the site, so it's worthwhile to do a search and ask in the Forum or Chat to see if your idea has already been done, no matter what it is.
A Final Note
This not a checklist of things to try to add together and make into one (-J) SCP. It's been done (and deleted) several times.