Thursday, June 7, 2012

Clichés

A picture is worth a thousand words…Home is where you hang your hat…Experience is the best teacher…It is what it is…
I’ve been busy this week working on a book proposal, critiquing, and generally sorting out my overcommitted life. LOL. What about you? As you can see from the intro, we’re going to discuss clichés this week in Writers’ Corner. 
A cliché is any overused expression. Because we have a tendency to speak with clichés, especially in the South, recognizing them in our writing can be a challenge. There’s always a better way to express your thoughts and those of your characters than to use worn-out phrases. An editor might excuse an occasional slip-up, but repeated clichés reflect lazy writing. The exception to this is dialogue, because as I stated above, real people use them in speech. 
Here are a few examples:
All in due time                                                            An arm and a leg
As luck would have it                                                 Better safe than sorry
Between a rock and a hard place                                Cool as a cucumber
Cut to the chase                                                          Fit as a fiddle
Keep your chin up                                                      He keeps his cards close to his vest.
Knock on wood                                                         Lesser of two evils
At the drop of a hat                                                    At her wits' end
New lease on life                                                       Out of sight, out of mind
See the light                                                               No time like the present
Twist of fate                                                               Light as a feather
Time will tell                                                               Live and learn
Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, a full length novel, or a magazine article, take another look at your WIP, and challenge yourself to rewrite overused phrases in a fresh way. 
Now, I’d like to hear from you. What is your most frequently used cliché?

12 comments:

  1. I don't know which one I use most, but I am afraid of overdoing it. Sometimes words flow so easily out of me that I wonder if they're cliche. I also wonder if I misuse cliches.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Tereasa. When you find yourself writing phrases you've heard repeatedly like the ones I've listed above, try to rework them. If you decide to use cliches in dialogue, use them sparingly and make sure they fit your character. If you're concerned you'll misuse them in this situation, don't use them at all. Hope this helps.

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  2. Laura,
    I am mad as a wet hen at your suggestion that cliches in writing are a dime a dozen. Why, people as old as Methuselah and as wise as Moses use cliches successfully all the time. They're like money in the bank to a writer, as easy to use as taking candy from a baby. Why reinvent the wheel when an old faithful will do just fine? I think you need to come down off your high horse to the other side of the tracks and see how the other half lives. Not everyone can write original prose like you!

    NOTE: For those of you who are literalists and struggle with a joke, please don't send me hate mail. I'm just joking and agree "with my whole heart" with Laura :)

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    1. That's hilarious, Lori! Just like Piper said below, you had me going at first. Then I realized what you were doing. You gave a good example for anyone who is unsure about cliches. I'm sure as an editor, you see many of these. It's difficult not to use them, and I catch myself doing it. Thanks for adding a touch of humor! I needed the laugh today.

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    2. LOL great reply!
      I'm glad I found this blog- looks like I've found a few kindred spirits here! I'm pleased as punch!

      Emily
      www.weakandloved.com

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  3. As I read through the list.... I chuckled... my literal 7 yr old son has asked me what some of those phrases mean.... like "cool as a cucumber" (well its pretty cool if it were in the fridges)"fit as a fiddle"(how fit is a fiddle, really???)

    And Lori, your comment cracked me up.... I was thinking... really?? did she post this.... and by the time I got to the end... "I got it" !!

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    1. That's cute. My son took everything literal at that age, too. Lori had me going at first, as well. Good comic relief, huh?

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  4. Lori beat me to the punch. : )

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