You hear it all the time—Don’t use clichéd writing! My sweet mother in law gave me a fun book: THE DICTONARY OF CLICHES. It has over 2000 entries—crazy right?
What exactly is a cliché? It’s anything that has “lost originality, ingenuity, or impact by long overuse.” I think we all know not to use “the cat’s out of the bag” or “caught red handed”—unless we are being ironic or humorous. But along with cliché phrases I think we need to watch out for cliché characters, situations and scenes.
Agent’s write on their blogs all the time about this cliché or that cliché and it always surprises me. Here are a few:
- Damsel in distress
- Hero saves everyone from danger
- Wicked step-family
- Wise grandfatherly figure that has all the answers
- Emotionally scarred super villain
- Bad boy who is secretly soft and sweet
- Girl who doesn't realize she’s beautiful
- Annoying younger sibling
- Misunderstood misfit
- Spoiled mean rich girl
- New kid at school
- Prince or princess posing as a commoner
- Two people start off hating each other and then fall in love
- Hero must save the world from and evil villain
- Someone is transformed with make-up or clothes into the popular kid
- Moody gunslinger type comes out of nowhere and helps family beset by baddies. (Good addition Tony:)
- Chasing down your true love in an airport
- Meet cute by bumping into someone.
- After-life scene in billowy white clouds
- Nerd getting shoved into a locker or taped to a flag pole
- Beer party on the beach
- Confessions of love in the airport, at work, in the rain, at the train station, after throwing rocks at someone’s window—I could go on.
It isn’t that any of these ideas are bad—they’ve just been over used. Any could be a great place to jump off—just make them different—change them to something unexpected.
Does anyone have any other clichés? If so post them on your blog and leave me a link in the comments and I will link it with this post—or just write them in the comments and I will add them to this list. I think the more clichés we know to avoid the better our writing can be.