That’s So Cliché

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.



7 thoughts on “That’s So Cliché

  1. Wow! Where are you guys living? 😉 Then make sure not to read my stuff ever – I guess there’s a lot of those cliches in there, there must be. I simply don’t pay attention.
    Somehow it reminds me of music. One can easily say that everything has been invented, done or played. So it is so easy to take a piece of this or that and use it in your composition.
    I happen to be a musician who enjoys reading and writing. So the two kinda sound similar… 😉
    Are cliches like that? Or I’m thinking of an entirely different thing? 😉

    1. Hmmm, sorry to step in before you on this reply, Cecile. But this popped up in my mail and I thought I’d give my interpretation.

      Norbert, Think of a particular hook that you like, and then think of inserting it into nearly every piece of music you write. That’s similar to a cliche in writing. it’s something that used to be fresh and has now become “tired” with overuse. It’s often considered an easy way to convey a feeling without expressing it in a new way. A cliche doesn’t bring about the smile you get when you’ve written a sentence that shows someone a new way of looking at a person, situation or thing. With that said, today’s new and fresh metaphor may become tomorrow’s overused expression precisely because it is so wonderful.

      I think all artists struggle to convey meaning in new ways. For wordsmiths, we put together words (and in some cases create new words) in new ways to create a fresh expression. Musicians string together and layer musical notes and other sounds (and in some cases, create new musical instruments) to create fresh compositions. And while we are all working with ancient materials, I still think we can create pleasing new combinations

      1. Thank you so much, Jiliane! I agree with every word you’ve said. That’s what we do – things abused by time should be at least altered…. if not replaced entirely. And that is life – we become fed up with things very quickly.
        But this can and (I think) it is a good thing – it is more challenging to fall into routine this way. You fel you need to change your “cliches” and that’s it!
        This actually proves to be quite fun. So have a lot if it!
        Thanks again!

  2. So true. Cliches can become so ingrained in how I think that when I’m writing freely they just appear. It’s often a struggle to identify them, but when I do it’s easy to hit ‘delete’.

  3. Nice reminder! When we critique the writers in our group, we’ll be clipping along at speed in a story and enjoying some fresh POV or a completely original metaphor, and then we hit a cliche. THUD! A deer lies bleeding in the middle of the road, and we’ve lost the right front headlight of our car. We politely, or sometimes not so politely, ask the writer to remove the evidence and sweep the highway clean, while we repair the car and move on. I’m not a fan of leaving one in, unless the writer gives it a twist–as you mentioned. Ciao!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s