Cliches, the very things that strike fear into the hearts of writers. “Oh, look, you’ve used a...cliche!” *gasps from everyone reading your manuscript. The world that you have built is unravelling word by word...* Okay, we get the point, cliches are bad. But must they always be the villain when it comes to writing? If used correctly, I believe that they can, in fact, become a powerful writing tool.
What is a cliche? It’s one of those “you know it when you see it” concepts (hey, a cliche!). The actual definition from Dictionary.com is “a trite, streotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse.” Here are a few examples of cliches that you’ve probably heard of:
And here’s a list of 681 cliches to avoid when writing.
Be wary about cliches popping up into your writing, but don’t feel like you can never use a cliche. Cliches are powerful because of their notoriety and, as a good writer, you want to be original. So make a cliche an original piece of writing by changing them slightly. The infamy of these phrases will allow you to subvert the expectations of the reader and surprise them. Check out these examples:
Each of these cliches has been changed slightly, emphasising the point being made and drawing the reader’s eye.
I caution excessive use of this technique to keep it fresh and original in your writing. As long as you use it sparingly, your writing will instantly become more witty. So give it a try!
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