That could be said of clichés, yes.
Everyone knows what they mean, making the message being conveyed as clear as a bell . . . but as dull as dishwater.
So, what’s a writer to do about those pesky clichés? Avoid them like the plague, right?
Yup! But that’s easier said than done. Those stale sayings seem to sneak into our stories like a thief in the night.
Have no fear. There is hope.
Three Tips for Dealing with Clichés
1) Write your own.
A fun way to deal with clichés is to create fresh ways of conveying the same thoughts contained in them.
I have a scene in my historical romance in which my hero says something to the heroine in front of her young daughter, something his mother deems inappropriate for a child. I wanted his mother to give him a reminder to watch his words.
The cliché that came to mind was, “Little pitchers have big ears.” Eager to avoid using it, I put a new spin on it.
“Son, I don’t think now is the time for this.” Mrs. Rutledge pursed her lips and inclined her head toward Tildy. “Little pitchers needn’t be filled with sour milk.”
2) Make them part of a character’s way of speaking.
I have a barber in the story who is one of the hero’s good friends. Abe has a down-to-earth way of speaking, one that includes interesting sayings and clichés. I establish his voice the first time he appears.
The following is from a scene in which the hero arrives late at the barbershop, clearly preoccupied with thoughts of the heroine.
Abe Fitzsimmons rested his clasped hands on his round middle. “Why, I do declare, Miles Rutledge. You’re later than a snowstorm in July. And what kept you? Or is it who?”
Since I establish Abe as one who uses colorful speech, he can get away with using clichés because that’s part of his character. I’m able to have other characters use them on occasion by making reference to Abe. In the following paragraph, the hero comes inside out of the rain and responds to the heroine’s inquiry.
“I’m fine.” He stepped though the tarpaulin and let it go. A gust of wind sent it flapping, flinging water over them both. “What a violent rainstorm, a real duck drencher as Abe would say.”
3) Use them sparingly.
Every now and then a cliché, when used intentionally, can be just the thing. My favorite example, as a romance writer, is the phrase, “I love you.” Those three little words are used so often they could be classified as a cliché, but since that particular saying carries a wealth of meaning, who cares, right?
• • • • •
I wanna know . . .
Do you find clichés hiding out in your manuscripts?
What techniques do you use to deal with clichés in your writing?
Do you have some before and after examples of clichés you’ve given a new twist?