"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Friday, January 11, 2013

Clichés to Avoid

It was a dark and stormy night...

Clichés are boring. Writing is supposed to be a creative process, and there’s nothing creative in overused phrasing. We’re all guilty of falling back on them. Here are a few clichés I’ve caught in my own drafts:

1)      A chill ran up her spine.

2)      His blood turned to ice.

3)      Thoughts raced in her head.

4)      His gut twisted.

5)      He/she released the breath they didn't know they'd been holding.

6)      His eyes swung to her.

7)      It's a nightmare.

It's okay to write your first draft with clichés as long as you go back and change them in revisions. Then you won't stall your writing looking for the perfect word(s).
For more examples try BBC's list of  20 most hated cliches or this list of 681 Clichés to Avoid in Your Creative Writing.
What clichés would you like to see disappear? Which ones have you caught yourself using?


Author Joe Perrone Jr. said...

That's great advice about it being okay to use the cliché initially, as long as you go back and change it later.
I might add another suggestion tied to that piece of advice: Mark or highlight the cliché in order to make it easier to go back and make the changes later. I use this technique in many ways. If I have a particular passage that needs embellishment or perhaps I need to fact check something, I simply highlight the passage so that I can go back through the manuscript later and attend to things.

Jessica Ferguson said...

Good piece. Unfortunately, I LOVE cliches. I have to force myself to watch for them. Still, sometimes a writer gets so far out avoiding a cliche that they stop me in my tracks with their creativeness. I like Joe's advice about highlighting the cliche--I'm going to try that. I usually highlight THAT and WAS and some fo the other unnecessary words hadn't thought about the cliches. Thanks guys!

Angie said...

I agree, it can be really tough to write without using cliches because they are so ingrained in our vernacular. I do try to avoid them, but honestly, I think the only people they annoy are editors and thus writers. I doubt the average reader could care less.

Kristin Baker said...

I've noticed my characters are ALWAYS holding their breath! Or they're gasping in surprise. Or chuckling nervously. I think they're all just neurotic. I know I have more cliches I'm guilty of, but I haven't revised anything in a while so they're not fresh in my mind.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Happy to say I've never used any of those!

Annalisa Crawford said...

I'm okay then, my chills always go DOWN the spine :-)

Annalisa Crawford said...

I'm okay then, my chills always go DOWN the spine :-)

Nicole said...

Good list! I try to never use these as a writer. What's weird is that they don't tend to stop me while I'm reading...at least not if it's in an action scene. I just skim over them and keep going. ;)

Sylvia Ney said...

Joe - I really like your idea about highlighting to remind you to change later.