The Careful Use of a Cliche
For the Novice Writer
Here is an exercise suggested by the Australian author John Marsden: write down the word 'glass'. Write under it ten words to describe 'glass'. Now cross them all out and think of something original.
For this and other wisdom, consult "Everything I know about Writing
", by said author.
At some stage I will node Everything I know about Writing. Until then, settle for this:
The best way to write is to write what is in you. Don't stop and try to find a fancy phrase when a simple one will do. But at the same time, think of every word you write as a poem. Is there a word that expresses your meaning more concisely or precisely? Have you heard that phrase before? Never rattle off a paragraph that is mediocre when, with a little practise and patience, it could be excellent.
Before you become too concerned with avoiding cliche, consider also that a cliche is a cliche because it works. Simple, everyday cliches are a way of providing a framework for communication. "Hi, how are you?" is a perfectly acceptable cliche. Don't look down on it for it's commodity! Use it as a means to understand spoken language.
Back to the other side of the argument. Just because "Hi, how are you?" is fine in the real world, there are few occasions when writing this would be in any way acceptable. It's boring. Cliches are only useful in writing when they significantly advance the plot, setting or character of a story, and should be used with discretion. An elegantly placed cliche can do many things. Please be careful with it.