C is For Cliché
According to the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, a cliché is:
1: a trite phrase or expression; also : the idea expressed by it
2: a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation
3: something (as a menu item) that has become overly familiar or commonplace
In the days of movable type it meant a set of letters/words that were used together so frequently that the printer didn't bother dismantling them. When letters were set one at a time, it made sense to cast a phrase used repeatedly as a single slug of metal. "Cliché" came to mean such a ready-made phrase. Books in high demand were printed from the plates until the plates wore out, just like a cliché is used until the energy of its first appearance is lost.
We have an unconscious tendency to use clichés because they have been repeated so many times they’ve become imbedded in our brains; not just our brains, but those of our readers as well. If a reader, or editor, finds a page full of clichés, their opinion of your work will decline. Reading a cliché is like reading what’s already been written, and that makes for a boring story.
You’ll most often stumble across a cliché in an early draft, when you’ve run out of words to describe an action, place, or person. Using a cliché is easy, but it's also generic and does little to add details to your writing. Read through your story with a critical eye. Delete anything that might resemble a cliché and replace it with words of your own.
A good writer will avoid clichés (like the plague).