Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Down and Dirty of Clichés

Yes, clichés can be my worst nightmare. These insidious little gremlins sneak up behind me and into my manuscripts. The buggers muck up the works. Sometimes the ornery little clichés even disguise themselves so that I don’t recognize them right away. Since there is no Cliché-Be-Gone spray or ant-trap-esque device to use against them, I try to keep my eyes peeled for advice and help. Here are a few suggestions that I’ve come upon, just in case you, too, want to avoid clichés like the plague:

1 1. Most cliché killer experts recommend questioning comparisons and images in one’s writing. Does something sound a wee bit too familiar? Clichés are ever so easy, I think, to pick up from conversations whether in real life or from television or from movies. When a cliché is discovered, try beating it with a thesaurus. And then work on inventing a more fresh and colorful description that holds the same meaning.

2. What if a character is a cliché? Try scrambling the familiar. Say you’ve got a construction worker with a potty mouth and a gruff attitude. A guy with a enough strength to play for a pro football team. Kind of a cliché or a stereotype, right? Well, why not shake up the details?

Why not make this dude a female? Or inject some sensitivity into the guy. Maybe he’s into yoga or ballet. Perhaps his background or back-story sets him apart. He always wanted to be a librarian, but started a family or had to put school on hold and take another job to pay unexpected bills. He fakes the gruff attitude. He uses foul language because he really, really hates his job. See what I mean?

3. Sometimes plot elements can become too familiar. Is there a way to make something new and fresh? Can what happens be twisted in some way to unveil an unexpected turn of events? Such surprises can be delightful to readers and pure fun to write.

So, now the writing is on the wall. Are you chomping at the bit to search out clichés and nip them in the bud? Good luck!

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