Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cliches and Overused Phrases by Diana Flegal

In preparation of a workshop on self editing for the 2014 conference season, I got to thinking of the cliché.

Webster defines a cliché as:


noun \klē-ˈshā, ˈklē-ˌ, kli-ˈ\
: a phrase or expression that has been used so often that it is no longer original or interesting
: something that is so commonly used in books, stories, etc., that it is no longer effective
When we see multiple cliché's in a submission, it tells me either the writer is a novice or being a lazy writer. Even a well published author slips an occasional cliché into their story, thinking it works, but I suggest cliché's are to be avoided at all costs.
It was a dark and stormy night, he was weak as a new born kitten, high as a kite, straight as an arrow, fat as a cow.
When writing your first draft- allow the cliché and write on. When you come back for your rewrite, take the time to find a more creative way to express what your trying to say.
One of my favorite lines from The Help; is how the author, Kathryn Stockett, describes Mae Mobley's mothers thin legs. "they looked like she done growed 'em last week". How much better is that than saying she had string-bean thin legs.
Authors might want to consider these cliché's as well:
  • a speech filled with clichés about finding your way and keeping the faith
  • The macho cop of Hollywood movies has become a cliché.
What are a few cliché's you recall? Have you run across any cliché's recently in a blog or book you have recently read that caused you to moan? Please share them with us if you can without hurting or exposing the source.

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