Let’s just talk cliche for a minute shall we?
What is a Cliche?
Well, you know my head was in the clouds when they gave out the blue ribbons so I missed the meaning. I dug deep and tried as I might, but I simply couldn’t pull a definition out of thin air so, like a civilized person, I went to Wikipedia.
A cliché is an element of an artistic work, saying, or idea that has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.
There, is that clear as mud?
Yes, I knew you’d see the forrest through the trees and understand the bigger picture.
What’s Wrong With Using a Cliche?
Well, I guess you can actually do whatever you want but to use a bunch of catch-phrase cliches in your writing shows a bit of a rookie attitude not to mention, aptitude.
Why use some old-fashion, fuddy-duddy, lingo when you can make up your own. After all, you’re a word artist and you want to paint your own pictures (or scenes) with originality dipped in your own personality–not someone else’s.
As the definition says, cliches can be irritating and trite. Don’t you love the word “trite”. For me a one syllable word that is so strong always resonates with me. Cliches can be trite….stale, overused, and lack any true consequence because readers simply don’t care.
That is such a picture perfect way a framing a cliche.
Is There Ever a Time to Use Cliches?
If you have a character in your story that is a “walking cliche” then it’s part of their personality. That’s fine. Just don’t go overboard as you could risk alienating the reader–unless of course that’s your goal, then by all means have at ‘er.
Another time you may use a cliche phrase or two is when you’re dealing with a character who is condescending in nature. Let’s say the character is a real jerk of a doctor who pats the patient on the hand and says ‘here, take these pills. You’ll sleep like a baby and it’ll all be better in the morning.’
The words are very cliche but they’re also very telling as to what his personality is like. In that type of circumstance you need to illustrate that others recognize his cliche and roll their eyes or something. If you don’t then it’s a reflection of the writing and not the characterization.
Who Cares? Like, seriously?
Well, I think you should care especially if you want to be a good writer.
No one wants to read “it’s raining like cats and dogs” or “the room was so messy it looked like a bomb went off, or “he was as clumsy as a bull in china shop”. No. No. No.
Remember those are trite and stale. Think of week old bread…it’s smelly and moldy and you don’t want it included in your beautiful work because it’ll cheapen it.
Okay. Okay. I hear you. Cliches sometime slip out and take over but there needs to be awareness and if in doubt do some checking.
The best list I’ve ever seen is here on ProWritingAid blog. Here you’ll find so many cliches that it’s…well, its cliche.
Don’t Let Cliche Take Over Your Voice
As a writer your individual voice is a reflection of your writing personality. Cliche can cheapen that.
Find your own comparisons and descriptions instead of using others.
Here’s an easy exercise for you:
Sit in silence and listen.
What do you hear?
Is there a clock ticking? Maybe the furnace cutting in and out? The fridge motor? what?
Now takes those sounds and try and associate them to a personal experience. Perhaps you have a memory of not being able to sleep as a child and you’d hear the ticking of the clock…or ???
By adding in your own personality-whether through memory, experience, or imagination, your writing will be stronger and more unique.
Do this exercise on a regular basis no matter where you are. Try and engage all the sense… When you’re at a restaurant and you smell bacon–what happens to you physically? emotionally? memories? Note it all down in your trusty notepad.
Have a great day. I hope you enjoyed this wee lesson in cliches. Please feel free to share, like, follow, and of course comment. I love chatting.