Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why You Cliche Me?


We all speak them, be they partial or full. And, if you're a writer of stories (not songs, different animal), one of the many important things that get shoved into your head is "never use cliches". To the old way school of thinking, using cliches signifies laziness and lack of effort (unless you're a songwriter).

While for the most part that may be true, what some of those old school thinkers don't really appreciate, is that in the hands of a good writer, a cliche can be another weapon in their vast arsenal of creative goodies.

Why? Because a good writer will realize that a judicious use of a cliche template can make a story flow just as smooth as if it weren't there to begin with.

I came to this epiphany (for lack of a better term) while I was proofing my PDF for print release. One of the small reason why I got to where I am right now, is that I didn't have an over reliance on cliches. While my story does have some cliches, I did make a concentrated effort to make them pertinent to the scene in question.

I think that is the key in using cliches: making them pertinent and/or relevant to the secene question. Too often, people will throw a cliche in because it sounds nice and not because it makes sense. I mean, what good is throwing in a cliche if it don't make sense?

I'm finding that this is one of the small things that makes me grow as a writer, in that I'm weaning myself from an over reliance of cliched words and phrases. Sure I'll still use them, but I do want to make sure that when I do use it, it's relevant to the scene.

How about you? If you're a writer, do you make a concentrated effort to make the cliches that you might use relevant and more importantly, fresh for the scene? If you're a reader, doesn't matter if its a book, magazine or newspaper, do you appreciate the use of cliches, or do you find the usage a bit of a distraction?


  1. My copy of Line 21 arrived yesterday! (It takes a while for packages to cross the US/Canada border). Looks good! As soon as I've finished reading Moby-Dick, I'll start in on it.

  2. I hate cliches, and I avoid them like the plague. (HAHA.) Seriously, I avoid using them and hate reading them.

  3. Debra: Glad it finally arrived. Got worried for a moment, thinking that the USPS had somehow lost it.

    Hope you like and enjoy reading it.

    M: Cute. :D

    I don't like using them in abundance, that's for sure. But when used judiciously, it doesn't detract from the story. But that's just me.

  4. I don't mind a cliche here and there. It's not like human existence is 100% fresh and new all the time, every day. We're allowed to repeat ourselves.

  5. S.R.: This is true, but it's that over-reliance of repeating ourselves, whether its in casual converstion or not, that turns most people off.

  6. I only know you can't judge a book by the cover:)

  7. I use clichés in dialogue - because speech IS naturally littered with them and to pretend it isn't is just ludicrous. Characters should sound real and not like they've had a dictionary stuffed in their mouths:)) I do try to avoid clichés in descriptive prose though. I do consider that a tad lazy:)

  8. I don't mind cliches, but don't enjoy in overabundance. (Had to think about this one.) :)

  9. I just had fun with a piece written ALL in cliches, animal related sayings like "when the cat's away, and a Leopard can't change it's spots. Was fun.

  10. G.A.: Nor can a picture tell a story. :D

    Jane: I would have to agree, although personally, I would try to find a balance while writing a characters dialogue.

    And yes, using it in descripticve prose is being a tad lazy, but that's because there's only so many ways you can describe person, place or thing.

    Lynn: The question is a little deceptive in nature. Simple, yet the more you think about, the more difficult it becomes to answer.

    With that being said, I do agree with your point of view.

    Charles: I agree, it can be fun, and it's by far the easiest thing to use as filler on a blog.

    I do it all the time. :D

  11. Ha I think I use quite a few. Just sayin'. ;)

  12. Joe: I think we've all used a few of those. :D


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