Clichés are phrases that are, or were, used in everyday life too often. Everybody knows the sentence “Every cloud has a silver lining” or “It was made with my blood, sweat and tears.” Everybody knows those sentences. Everybody has heard them or read them or even used them from time to time. They are used so often that they come off as unoriginal. They are simply not wanted anymore.
The problem for writers is that clichés can sneak into your writing without you noticing very easily. It’s because they are so over-used that you’ll use them. Take what I’ve just written. I used “in everyday life” and “from time to time”. Those could also be called clichés. There is nothing wrong with using one or two clichés in your book, especially in a joking way or if you change the words a little bit to make it more your own. But still I would advise you to avoid clichés at all cost if you don’t have a good reason to use them.
To get rid of clichés you can do several things. First would be to take extra care when you’re writing and to try everything to keep them out. This however could really hinder your writing because you’d have to stop every so often and think of other words to use instead of a cliché. So my advice is to leave the clichés for what they are while you’re writing your first draft. Of course if you can easily think up some other words than a cliché while writing you’d better use those.
When you’ve finished your first draft, try to spot all the clichés while you’re re-writing. If you’re afraid you can’t spot all of them yourself, or if you have a hard time scrapping sentences even though they are cliché, because you’re fond of them; Let someone you trust mercilessly go at it with a red marker and underline all the cliché’s. Once you’ve found all of them change them into your own words.
I know that that sounds easier than it really is. (Cliché version: it’s not as easy as it sounds) It’s not easy changing something once you’ve written it. You grow attached to it and often writers fear that they’ll only ruin it once they try to re-write. Don’t be afraid. Just make sure you save a copy of your original draft and go at it. If you don’t like it you can always change it back that way.
To change a cliché into your own words means that you’ll have to think a little longer and harder about that sentence or piece in your story. It’s easier to simply use words and sentences you already know but the reader and your editor won’t appreciate it. So take that piece of writing and toy around with words until you’ve found something original and completely your own.
If for instance you have a scene in your story and you simply must, must, must use something that is horribly cliché (it doesn’t have to be a word or word-group, it can also be an event or a scene that is used countless times before) then you can always have one of your characters think or say laughingly: This is so cliché. That way it makes it alright.
I hope this helps anyone who was struggling with clichés or made people who didn’t know they were using clichés aware of the danger!
I was asked by Broken Angel to write about clichés. I hope this helped you and I’ll write about your other request later (or my post would become too long).
To everyone reading my blog so far, thank you! And requests and questions are always welcome!