So now you’re a writer. You qualify for the title because you’ve 1) published your first book, 2) finished your first book, 3) begun your first book, or 4) decided to begin your first book. Doesn’t matter which, you’re well on your way. I offer my congratulations. Don’t let anything stand in your way.
You’ve read the How-To books and know beyond any doubt you should never use clichés. Why? Because it labels you as a lazy and/or unimaginative writer. Yeah, I know the How-To folks might give you fancier reasons, but I like mine best. If you want to be lazy, take up another avocation/vocation, something like (cliché alert) watching grass grow. No room at the inn (cliché alert) for lazy writers.
You’re determined to never use a cliché. And your critique group is quick to point them out, i.e., any metaphor they’ve ever heard before. Nope. That’s not it.
If not, just what are clichés? My Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines the word this way: 1. a trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse, as sadder but wiser, or strong as an ox. 2. (in art, literature, drama, etc.) a trite or hackneyed plot, character development, use of color, musical expression, etc. 3. anything that has become trite or commonplace through overuse.
Note that each of these three definitions contains the word TRITE, defined thus: lacking in freshness or effectiveness because of constant use or excessive repetition; hackneyed; stale.
With these definitions in mind, let’s re-look clichés. First, what is not a cliché. Not every simile or metaphor qualifies. The fact you heard it before doesn’t drop it into that bucket. It has to be trite. So, don’t condemn without a second look. But, if it does qualify, get rid of it—FAST. There is always a strong way to write it. Find it and use it.
With that ground plowed (cliché alert), I can bring up the most overused cliché in our modern society. It appears in almost every book, every movie, and on every street corner. Recently, I started a book by a “name” author. He used this particular cliché at least once (often twice, thrice) in every paragraph. After a few pages, I threw the book across the room. Talk about lazy. It was my first by this person and my last. This writer used his favorite cliché in lieu of original writing. His lack of imagination stood out above his story and his writing. How it got published is beyond my understanding. Of course, he was a “name” author, meaning, I suppose, he’d had successful sales with past books, at least enough to keep him in print.
So, stay away from clichés less you want to carry the label of a lazy writer with no imagination. And a lazy writer is most often UNsuccessful.
Oh, the cliché that author used and overused—the F Bomb in all its permutations. The laziest cliché of our time. Can you write without it? For the future of the published word, I hope so.
Randy Rawls is a retired US Army officer and Department of Defense civilian. He is the multi-published author of the Ace Edwards, Dallas PI series, as well as short stories in various anthologies. He also wrote Thorns On Roses, a South Florida thriller. The first in his Beth Bowman mystery series, Hot Rocks, was published in November 2012 by Midnight Ink. Number two in the series (Best Defense) will be out during the Fall of 2013. Living in South Florida, where fact and fiction run together, gives him a rich environment in which to harvest plots. He smiles because life is fun.
(The Killer Nashville Guest Blog series is coordinated by KN Executive Director Beth Terrell (http://www.elizabethterrell.com/). To be a part of this series, contact Beth at email@example.com.)