2011-04-04

A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 3

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).

14 comments:

Angela Felsted said...

Yes, it's true. I fly to cliche like a moth to a flame.

Bish Denham said...

Writing cliche is as easy as falling off a log. Lord help me....

Nofretiri said...

*hmm* I think, well used cliches can also be a great stylistic device. I think of cliches written by purpose to misslead the reader, e.g. the dark looking man is not the villain, but an unexpected help, like Strider in LOTR. The same over-the-top-written cliches! :-)

Okay, enough of that ... my topic of the day deals with C for Checklists. Have fun!

Karin

ralfast said...

Cliches are not cliches because of repetition but because they are true.

Or so I like to think.

I prefer tropes myself. ;)

Budd said...

not all cliches are bad. You can use some, but I would go lightly. Cliched novels tend to sell a lot to pulp type readers. Every bodice ripper is complete cliche, but the readers tend to go for that.

L.G.Smith said...

I had never heard that about the moveable type. You learn something new every day. :)

E.J. Wesley said...

I used a definition in my A-Z today as well!

I'll 2nd the moveable type; news to me as well!

Enjoyed your thoughts,

EJ

K.C. Woolf said...

Very true!

I find clichés hard to avoid, because I write in a language that's not my native one. Because the clichés sound so familiar, they tend to sneak into my writing and I can't always identify them for what they are.

Still, I'm learning, one cliché at a time :-)

Justine Darkholme said...

Great post!

Murugi Njehia said...

Great post. I am now well educated about which c's to avoid in my writing. Thank you for commenting on my blog.

wordyliving said...

I didn't know about the origin, thank you! You learn something every day! :)
As above said, I don't think all cliches are bad - overusing them is definitely not good though.
I've written about challenges for C. *wink*
-andrea

Rae said...

Thanks for the post!

Rae
Lie, Love, and the Pursuit of Publication

Fourth Grade Teacher said...

Thank you for stopping by Pawny's Pen! I really like what you've written so far, and look forward to more!

Callie Leuck said...

Very interesting background on the cliché. It makes sense. Thanks for sharing!