As a writer, you know one of the cardinal rules is to avoid clichés like the plague. Yes, I just used a cliché 🙂 See how easy it is. So what exactly is a cliché. It is a phrase or idea that is overused and portrays no original thought; a stereotype. There is nothing worse than being accused of lack of originality.
Cliché ideas are plots or subplots that pop up again and again. They are crutches for the writer to lean on. They move the story forward without much thought.
- Having your character look in a mirror and describe themselves in great detail-This has been done to death. If you are writing in third person omniscient, it’s easy to drop a few major observations. First person is a bit harder but can be accomplished with a little thought. Put those creative juices to work.
- The chosen one-Your hero isn’t just special. He/she has been chosen by some higher force. Characters can be special without being touched by the hand of fate.
- Countdown clocks-Its a race against time. Will the hero prevail and save the day? Or will he fail, leaving death and destruction in his wake.
- Veiling your story in a dream- You are devastated and can’t believe what just happened. How can the hero and heroine be killed!? Wait a minute, the heroine was just having a bad dream. Everyone is okay, you can relax.
- Stalker love-The girl doesn’t love someone who loves her and he stalks her repeatedly. She finally realizes he loves her and falls head over heals.
- Rush to the airport-You can’t let the love of your life get on that plane and fly off never to be seen again. It wouldn’t make sense to catch a later flight and reunite with them later.
- Guy and girl hate each other for some reason, but then fall in love- One of them does something stupid and they break up only to realize the mistake and meet later at a romantic place to make up.
- Hero starts as shepherd/servant/farmboy-His family is killed and he moves on to become the all powerful prophesized hero.
- An immortal falls in love with a mortal-He is willing to give up his immortality for true love.
- Being stranded on a deserted island….
If you are going with an idea that is considered cliché, you had better come up with a way to make it stand out and read original. Get your creative juices flowing and make it your own.
Common phrases that you may not have realized were clichés are as follows:
- accident waiting to happen
- axe to grind
- humble abode
- take it like a man
- naked truth
- wreak havoc
- spitting image
- put all your eggs in one basket
- matter of life and death
- make or break
- spill the beans
- rock the boat
- push someone’s buttons
- one in a million
- life goes on
- at the end of the day
- in cold blood
There’s no way I could include every cliché in this blog, but I hope these get you thinking. Something else to look for when you start the editing process.
Online tools like autocrit, will locate and highlight clichés in your manuscript.
2 thoughts on “Cliché!”
I wouldn’t put much trust in online writing tools to identify clichés. Grammarly marked the following sentence as a cliché: “I went outside, no longer looking for an end to sea and sky but only… wondering, maybe, how long it would be until I forgot that I had ever lived anywhere else, and knowing that isolation would accelerate the fading of memory.” Yep. The WHOLE this was marked as a cliché, something that’s been said sooooo many times that it has lost all meaning. The only reason I can think of for Grammarly to say it’s a cliché is that it does mention something related to weather, but if ALL mentions of weather are cliché now, that’s gonna put a serious crimp in the writing of, say, disaster thrillers about tornados and hurricanes. Sorry, Lincoln Child, but your novel Deep Storm is a cliché through and through because there’s a storm in it… *shakes head* Far more likely that Grammarly was programmed badly and cannot be trusted to know what’s actually a cliché and what isn’t. (In this way, Grammarly is not unlike a measurable percentage of humans.)
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Thanks for stopping by. I’ve never used grammarly. I had autocrit in the past and it was pretty good for picking up on clichés, but like you, I wouldn’t rely totally on it. That’s one of the things I’m looking for during the editing process.
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