Cliches (How to become a writer)


As writers, many of us will find ourselves doing an about face as we write. Actions speak louder than words when it comes to clichés. They are an Achilles heel for all writers, yet many writers feel that beggars can't be choosers if they want to craft their stories with worthwhile prose. Editors will feel as though they are barking up the wrong tree if the writer doesn't use original prose and sticks to exhausted clichés.

I am an online cover letter writer and I hope that you spotted right away what I did in the previous paragraph. I used clichés to prove just how mediocre writing can sound if a writer uses them too often or even at all.

I have chosen some clichés from, and I have rewritten them to make them sound fresh. After all, I'm sure that you've heard that variety is the spice of life.

Put a lid on it.

Put a lid on what, anyway? Has anyone used this expression since the 1950's? This cliché means that one character is telling another character to stop doing or saying something that that character has said several times.

My alternative: Enough already! This is not a cliché, and gives a direct order to the character to stop saying or doing what annoys the other character.

Everything's coming up roses.

This cliché makes me think of Ethel Merman belting out the tune with this title in the classic comedy "Airplane". While that's an amusing scene, I doubt that you want the reader to be amused by all or even any of your scenes.

My alternative: All's going according to plan. That's actually the meaning of this cliché, so I might as well just use that instead.

The whole enchilada.

Certain ethnic groups may find this cliché offensive. Is this whole enchilada considered to be a bad thing? Some may say that we live in an overly politically correct society, but lame clichés like this one may have created that society.

My alternatives: The whole thing, the entire thing. Again, the actual direct meaning of this cliche should work best.

To eat like a horse.

This cliché invokes an image of my head of a beautiful yet starving creature chomping away at its dinner. Unless your character is Aesthetically Challenged, you may not want to create an image of any horsey-faced creature for the character.

My alternative: He has an insatiable appetite. This describes the character, and avoids any cliché. I would even written a scene in a story that shows the reader that the character has this insatiable appetite:

Darcy screamed when she entered the kitchen. Pots and pans littered the kitchen counter. The tray that once held a sheet of chocolate cake was in the wastebasket. Bags of candy which Darcy had not purchased were piled on the kitchen table.

"Larry, get in here!" Darcy shouted. "Explain this to me."

Larry dashed to the kitchen and grinned. Darcy turned away in disgust. He hadn't brushed his teeth in days.

"Heya, sis, I just got hungry, that's all," Larry said. Darcy sniffed and kicked an empty egg carton across the floor. Broken egg shells fell out of the carton.

Larry stepped on broken egg shells as he walked towards her. "I'll clean it all up, I promise," Larry said. Darcy stalked out of the kitchen, fuming.

Clichés will indeed wreck your writing. You will look amateurish to other writers, and the reader will feel as though he has read your stories many times before. Editor will think, as the cliché says, that there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

What are some common clichés that you have read too many times? Do you avoid them in your writing?