theskyisbigtoday: (explanatory post)
theskyisbigtoday ([personal profile] theskyisbigtoday) wrote2010-07-23 09:21 pm

Cliches (Whatiswrongwithyoucomputer, why won't you let me accent that "e"?)

I feel like talking about this, regardless of whether someone reads it or not.

So, cliches: let's start with a definition, shall we?

A cliche is:

"1. 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, as sadder but wiser, or strong as an ox.

(in art, literature, drama, etc.) a trite or hackneyed plot, character development, use of color, musical expression, etc.

anything that has become trite or commonplace through overuse. "

Okay, 1. is what I'm aiming for here. (Although 2. is a discussion for another time.) And in case you can't read that "tiny" print:
"1. 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."

(Can't get rid of the bold, crap.) Continuing on, let's talk about these in relation to writing. When you're searching for a way to describe something so that people will understand what you are talking about (something that is very important in writing), cliches tend to be the easiest way out of trying to describe something. Here, let me give you a few of my "favorites":

"Cute as a button." (Go to a craft store. Trust me, not all buttons are cute.)

"It vanished into thin air." (As opposed to, say, fat air? Anorexic air? Slightly overweight-but-not-enough-to-be-concerned air? No.)

"His face went as red as a tomato." (OLDEST ONE EVER, I SWEAR. It just bothers me. Just say his/her/its face is red, or that he/she/it is embarassed/blushing! Good grief.)

To the point now: AVOID CLICHES. That should be obvious by our good ol' definition up there! These things are trite, overused, and HAVE LOST THEIR IMPACT. That means that you are not going to make a very strong picture in your readers' heads if you use these in place of normal description. And, seeing as you cannot and should not repeat descriptions of a character/place/thing in your book (unless it is being explained to another character or something like that, but even then it should be very brief), you want to use something other than a cliche.

I really hate cliches. Onward we go!

So what do you do to avoid these cliches? Well, the easiest way is to just SAY WHAT YOU FRIGGIN' MEAN. Really. It's that simple. For example, instead of "It vanished into thin air," try "It disappeared," or "It vanished."  Or instead of something like "He's about as useful as a lead balloon," use "He's useless." 

Very simple.

See, that's all cliches do. They replace simple description.

What? You want to to be more ornate than that? Or do you want it to reflect how you write?

Okay, well, the first one's easy. Although I don't recommend it, you could take one of those simple sentences and go at it with a thesaurus. Add adjectives, and hey, while you're at it, add desciption specific to how it happened. (It disappeared? What is it? How did it disappear? Where? When? Why? If it's in dialogue, is the character explaining these things? If so, make it interesting--get into their head and  talk about it.)

You could also spice up the replacement for cute-as-a-button (she's pretty/beautiful) or whatever cliche you're avoiding and use it as an opportunity for character description! There are many things you can do, and I'm going to assume you're smart enough to figure it out.

And as for putting your own writer's voice into it? Well, that depends on you. Me, I tend to write serious things with touches of humor (sometimes more than a touch, I guess) and sarcasm and such. Here's one I used sometime ago in a story in place of "He went as red as a tomato/apple/insert overused object of comparison here.":

"He blushed a deep red, about the same color as the red heart-print boxers he was wearing." (A very specific phrase, but good in the moment I needed it.)

That certainly gives you a better image than that dumb tomato, right?

So, in summation (blah blah blah):

AVOID CLICHES. LOOK UP LISTS OF THEM IF YOU HAVE TO SO YOU CAN AVOID THEM. If you think it sounds like a cliche, don't use it. But don't go overboard on description, okay? That's a subject for another day.


P.S. Did I mention that I hated cliches? (Oh, hey, bold is gone...) They are annoying to read in writing, too, in addition to showing that you are being lazy. While most people can avoid them easily, they tend to slip in. CHECK YOUR WORK. HAVE SOMEONE EDIT IT. Just don't let them slip in, okay? Unless you are attempting to make fun of them, in which case this post is not for you. :) Good night.