Friday, April 11, 2014

Avoid Them Like The Plauge









cli·ché

noun

a trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse, 
(dictionary.com)







Here’s the thing about clichés… they’re easy. Normal. They’re so comfortable and feel so completely natural, especially in dialog.
 
 And that’s exactly the problem.

I’m not usually one for hard and fast rules ( <-  and I like clichés, sometimes.) But with fiction, things get stickier. You could even argue that people in real life use cliché phrases all the time and fiction is replicating real life, right? That’s a decent argument, I might have even used it a time or two, but there is a reason we use them in speech all the time. And it not an answer you’ll like.

They’re easy. And easy is just another way of saying

LAZY.


Yup. That’s problem #1 with clichés in creative writing. It’s lazy. Take every single cliché phrase you’ve ever written and find a new way to get that point across. I guarantee, you can find a way to do it. So stop being lazy and DO IT. Think about what that phrase really means, what you want it to mean to a reader, and rewrite it. It might look nothing like the original phrase. It might even be an action instead. It doesn't matter as long as you convey your meaning in an original way, because the last thing you want is to have an agent or and editor or a reader look at your writing and think it’s lazy.

On to problem #2 (hint: it's in the definition above.) The phrase is so over used it has lost its meaning. Another thing you don’t want, is to have someone reading your hard work and then find a phrase like “Not a care in the world!” and start thinking about how their grandmother used to say that all the time. Now you’ve lost them. Their mind is somewhere else.

You’ve fought hard for your writing, your story, so don’t let one (or several) little phrases hurt your chances of achieving your goals.



(I swear I came up with this blog post title before I saw this picture! You have to believe me!)


Now we come to a new problem…. How do you know what’s cliché? Honestly, it’s hard to notice them sometimes, especially in your own writing. They’re sneaky little buggers. And a phrase that might seem fine to you might be completely cliché to someone else. (One person’s treasure is another person’s trash, I always say)

In this, you’ll have to have a little faith. Trust yourself. If something feels a little *off* about a phrase, change it. Even when it’s difficult and you like what’s being said… change it! Kill those darlings! I bet you can find a better way. And, if this is something you think might be a problem for you, ask your beta readers to keep a look out for anything cliché. (hint: the phrases tend to come up most of the time in dialog.)

As with all rules, there are some exceptions. It might be totally fitting for one of your characters to use cliché phrases. But BE CAREFUL if you go that route. Don’t overdo it. Don’t make it overly cheesy. Like all rules, it’s best to know the rule before you break it. So go through your writing and look for these little buggers. Squash them with all your might!



I came across this site that has some great examples of some of the most used clichés so check it out and see if any right a bell! http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-cliches.html

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