I avoid clichés at all costs when writing. However, the chance that I find some clichés in a first is undisputed. After carefully rereading the text, I can track down and eliminate them. A trusted group of fellow writers will also help point out those that I’ve missed. Mission accomplished. No clichés in my text.
Predicable and Meaningless
So here I am with my cliché free text – or so I’d like to hope – and I think, are they really that awful? Those sentences have been around for a long time and have been used much too often. At a certain point in time, people must have liked them. Perhaps they liked them a bit too much, making them become both predictable and meaningless.
And that is certainly not what a story should be, nor what I, as a writer, aim to achieve. To that extent clichés are better off for those bad B-movies and TV- series that might need to be predictable, since they only have an air-time of say 30 minutes. (I suppose it’s a valid reason for series, not so much for movies.)
When describing a character as ‘dark, tall and handsome’ it might be a good idea to go for something less chewed out, even though it might be true.
The description should give the reader an idea of Prince Charming’s looks, but these words don’t really give substantial information at all. What exactly is dark? Eyes; hair; complexion; his clothes? (Funny how this description is not depicting a female character.) Is there a standard profile out that can be considered handsome? (Not that I need it – I don’t need an inferiority complex right now.) And what is tall? I’m five foot fourish so anyone above five foot five is tall.
Dark, tall and handsome 2.0
Clichés can be used. For instance, the character can be the one using the phrase to describe himself or someone else, and then it becomes part of the character.
Another possibility is to take advantage of clichés. Since they are predictable and readers will have certain expectations, then meet those expectations with a twist – hooray a full grown cliché. In case of the earlier example such a described character would, when walking into a public place, draw all the attention. Especially from the ladies. The reality could be the exact opposite. Or turn the man into a woman. Turn it around. It sounds easy but it can effortlessly turn into an annoying method of deliberately misleading readers.
Every genre has its own Mr Darcy, or an everyday John Smith turning out to be the Chosen One, or not so very bright students entering a haunted house. As writers we should be aware of them and avoid re-using them entirely, while bearing in mind that escaping them completely might be next to impossible.