• http://byronscurse.blogspot.com Ashley Prince

    I love this post, Suzannah. It is kind of sad how often I find myself using cliches, but there are times when what I’m writing just calls for it. 

    And as for stereotypical characters, I find that I like them more if the journey itself is unique. But one that is driving me absolutely crazy every time I pick up a teen paranormal fiction book, is the cliched vulnerable, insecure girl who falls in love with a guy who treats her terribly because he’s trying to save her and ends up being a vampire or a fallen angel. 

    Enough with my rant though. Thank you for a wonderful post!

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      Yes, that would get annoying with the YA fiction! Don’t read much of it myself—hated Twilight and refused to read the rest of the series :)

  • http://twitter.com/Later_Bloomer Elle B

    Great roundup, Suzannah. I’ve been finding glaring cliches — oops, there I go again :) — in my work recently but I’m happy that I’m noticing them now.

    I think the only antidote is rewriting and rewriting. I find reading the draft out loud helps also, because cliches sound more obvious when verbalized.

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      You know what they say: writing is rewriting. So true!

  • JJ Toner

    Good post, Suzannah.

    Of course, it almost goes without saying, that the cliche landscape is not constant. It changes all the time. My mental store of cliches is probably old-fashioned, and I often write stuff that readers tell me is cliched nowadays, without realizing what I’ve done. As far as plots are concerned, I refuse to be limited by what other people regard as cliche. If I paid heed to that sort of thinking I would never write another word!  

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      You’re right. To a certain degree, we can’t avoid all cliches all the time. They’re just too ingrained in our language. Interesting observation about cliches changing over time, but so obviously true!

  • http://www.thewritingapprentice.com Miss GOP

    I just blogged about this topic the other day (or at least the basics of cliches). I’m especially focusing on figures of speech this week and how they can easily turn into a cliche.

    I’m so glad you mentioned stereotypical characters; as a writing teacher I see so much of that. Thanks!
    -Miss GOP

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      Cliched language is probably much easier to remedy than cliched characters, so I don’t doubt that you see them constantly within your students’ work!

  • Anne-Mhairi Simpson

    I hate describing things the normal way so I often go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it, which helps me to avoid cliches in descriptions. I also like the idea of turning cliches on their heads (tiny, cute girl is also bad-ass shapeshifter). I really wanted to work a passive aggressive werewolf into one of my stories and I think I might actually have done it, after giving up on the idea. Playing around with cliches can be great fun – they’re a good place to start, then you look at how you could turn them around to make something new and unexpected.

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      Great tips! I’m sure these will come in handy for other readers.

  • James

    A cliche I am tired of reading or hearing–It’s not rocket science.
    I just write this cliche in my own words.
    It’s basic or It’s not complicated or It’s simple
    I suggest when you read or hear a cliche,
    rewrite it in your own words.

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      That’s good, simple advice, James. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    I agree cliché’s can be a nuisance.  I am a hopeless
    critic of this; I always analyze and edit my work in progress to see if there
    is any cliché’s -if so I oust them immediately.  I wish my over-analytical
    brain would stop there but it also does the same with the films I watch, the
    books I read and the artworks I view -maybe it’s a good thing to have an
    automatic honing device for these! :)

    Thank you for a lovely post!

    • James

      Since you mention your analyze  films. Writers for movies and TV  are not creative. They write the same cliche plots, dialog and characters.  Please don’t use films for ideas or example. I am sure if you keep weeding out cliche, your writing will be original.

      • Anonymous

        James, thank you for your response; I did not mention the
        analyzing of film as an example of clichés found in writing -I was just stating
        a fact; I  tend to analyze in general and
        always try to pick apart anything I watch, read etc…  So, in effect I
        was trying to emphasize how my brain functioned when it came to clichés (in
        everyday life). 

        I am fully aware TV and Films have a different structure and
        tend to market to the vast audiences needs; however, it would be good to note
        that there are some original films out there that try to abandon clichés -be it
        in their writing of the script or the actual filming process/method of the
        subject matters; Memento would be a good example.

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      You’re welcome! Thanks for stopping by. 

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  • Cher Green

    Suzanne,

    Great post. Thanks for all the links. I try to avoid cliches, but they normally show up in my drafts and I have to squash them during rewrites.

    Cher

  • http://twitter.com/krissybrady Krissy Brady

    Thanks for the thorough post!  I try my absolute best to avoid cliches, but they are so commonplace in every day conversation, that when you’re writing (get ready for it), sometimes cliches slip through the cracks (see?!).  I make a point, when writing dialogue and descriptions, to be as original as possible. I appreciate this list–will be going through my chapters while editing and ensure that I maintain this goal.

  • Fading-dream

    Great advice and I love how you make a point to show that cliches can be used for the good as well. Except comas, those are NEVER a good idea. One point I have to say, though, is don’t try too hard to avoid cliches. When you do, your story just ends up alienating the reader and causing the reader to think the writer has lost it. I’ll sum it up: Avoid them if you can but twist them if you can’t.

  • http://twitter.com/Mommy_Authors Rachel Law

    Wow, WONDERFUL post!  I’m looking forward to studying all of the links you offered and “getting my [inserting arbitrary object]… writing into gear”  :)

  • Mroachsmith

    Cliches make great place holders, however, as you work through your vomit draft. Never underestimate the power of moving on in a piece, instead of laboring over a phrase in that first draft; you merely have to go back later, replacing each cliche with a phrase that is uniquely yours.

  • Dave

    One phrase I see a lot of is the sure […] but […]. The usual formula seems to be take something obvious then quickly negate it. “Sure he’s a great writer but great writers don’t use cliches.” Annoying.

    Your “sure… but” above in the article wasn’t as bad as the ones I’ve seen though which is good. Watch for it, it appears a lot.

  • Gene

    Funny – I found this post by searching for an alternative to the phrase “Check out this…”. It is becoming cliched and yet is used here to link to three articles including 500 cliches to avoid. Help!

  • Emma

    I love this article! sadly – I know A LOT about clichés! :O( that is why I searched this site for articles on them.
    Last year, after a decade away from any kind of writing I decided to get back to it. Took a few workshops which were great. In Autumn I took a workshop and wrote a quick story which I volunteered to read. It wasn’t until I read the very last word of my little story, to the 60 some odd people, that I realized I wrote one HUGE cliché. Mortified! I was completely mortified! and did not intend to go back but was dragged by my cousin last Autumn to another workshop.
    Figuring I was already embarrassed I might as well ask if anyone has any ideas on how to avoid clichés.
    The advice I got was that if you can’t help the clichés than let them flow – write it all out and concentrate only on the scene or story. When you are either going over the scene or working on the 2nd draft than fix the cliches – expand upon the ideas.
    Not only did the advice work but it helped me to relax and finally enjoy writing again. I am in process of fixing the obvious clichés but might need to reach out to the ‘world at large’ (cliché intended! *hah*) for the ones i miss.
    I really appreciate this article! Thank you!!!!

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