Saturday, November 5, 2011


Clichés can be a real kick in the pants, huh?  They seem to pop up as easy as pie.  Proliferate our writing and we never think twice about it.  When I realized I used them way too much, I had to go back and try to get rid of those nasty little buggers.  That's when I realized I had to start working my brain muscles a bit harder to get the same idea across. 

When I went to check out some files I needed to download for a class I'm taking, I found this little gem in the files section and thought I'd share it with you.  I don't think the list is complete, not by a long shot but it's a good start.  Then I went to Google and found this one. 

If you have a word and want to find a cliché that uses that word, try this site.

Have you ever noticed that commercials tend to use quite a few clichés.  For example, the commercial for Binder & Binder comes to mind.  They use "not by a long shot" for their social security disability commercial.

Sometimes those clichés say it best.  So, do we use them when they fit the scene?  I think occasionally a character can use them in dialogue.  Clichés can be that character's identifying trait but even so, you don't want to beat your reader over the head with them.  Using them in narrative?  I don't think that is a good idea at all.  What do you think?

I've seen them used in blurbs and synopses.  When I see them in the blurb for a book, I won't buy the book.  Really, I won't.  It tells me that author threw out the book with very little thought.  Do I want to read a book full of clichés?  No, I want something new, something different.  Sure, it can tell me the same thing as a tried and true cliché but it will be told to me in a new, different way.  

Now, I've read books that twist the clichés.  Futuristic books that don't use them correctly.  Or time travel books where the person is from out time and uses a cliché.  The person hearing it will say something that makes the cliché seem like an odd statement.  For example, "you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar."  The reply is "why would you want to catch flies?"  I've read that particular scene in a book.  Can't remember which one but I think it may have been one by Sandra Hill.  Or you have a character who is trying to use clichés but can't quite get them right.  NCIS uses this technique with Ziva's character.

I think using clichés is a form of plagiarism.  Afterall, they are someone else's words, even if we don't know exactly whose words they are.

Anyone notice how many clichés I used in this post?  <g>  Any other uses of clichés in any way that you can tell us about?  Are they one of your weaknesses when you write?  Do you use them often in your every day speech?  Are there any that are regional?


morgan said...

Hi Denise,
I had a creative writing teacher who would never let us use a tired cliche. We could never get away with saying something was white as snow. Instead we had be creative and come up with as white as accidentally bleached jeans when the cat knocked the open bottle of bleach on them.LOL
Great blog

Denise Pattison said...

I agree with your creative writing teacher. LOL We're not being very creative if we use the same old stuff all the time.

Thanks for commenting, Morgan.

Josie said...

It's difficult to think of something fresh, sometimes, when the cliche fits the situation perfectly.

As a child I had always wondered about the cliche "if you want something done, ask a busy person." It didn't seem to make sense, but now that I'm an adult, it does.