Where are we going and why are we in this handbasket?

Emma Hart In A Straw Hat – George Romney

The road to hell is paved with cliches and other things that sounded good at the time!

Encarta defines Cliché as a phrase or idea that is boring because people use it a lot and it is no longer original.

Cliches are a uniquely difficult bear-trap to avoid when a writer is putting together a story using the stream-of-consciousness method that we all use from time to time.   They lie hidden in the foliage waiting to snare you in a passage of prose that you have a particular fondness for; and because you like that passage you hate to toss it on the verbage heap.

Cliches are like signposts; we can see them from a mile away and we recognize them as being representative of a particular time or place in our culture.  We are comfortable with them, and we often find humor in them.  If we get too comfortable with them they suck the life out of our completed work.

The author who is just starting out may be hurt to hear that her ideas which seemed so original and humorous as she was writing them down are considered by the reader to be boring and cliche.   In this era of instant communication and linguistic fads it is easy to fall victim to the inadvertent use of cliches because what is new and exiting and extremely witty today may be over-used and worn-out when your manuscript goes to the reader in its finished form.

This is why I try desperately to avoid the use of cliches and catch-phrases in my work.  In order to make a tale feel timeless you need to avoid placing it in a particular time by the casual use of slang and catch-phrases.   If you do feel compelled to use a particular catch phrase or cliche it is crucial that you use one that is appropriate to your genre!    I will most likely never write a tale in which my main character says “Dude, yer harshin’ my mellow.”

Although I would like to.



Filed under Adventure, Books, Dragons, Fantasy, Literature, mythology, Romance, Swashbuckling, Uncategorized, writer, writing

2 responses to “Where are we going and why are we in this handbasket?

  1. Dude, yer harshin my mellow! Love it!

    As always, your writerly advice is straight on and delivered in a soothing, humorous way. columns like this are why I subscribe to this fantastic blog.