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Cliches and Overused Phrases

PostPosted: Mon Jun 19, 2017 8:35 pm
by cjr1977
What do you do when you are in your editing stage and found you've used cliches or other types of overused phrases? Do you try to get rid of all of the cliches in your manuscript? Are there certain ones you purposefully keep?

I definitely want to change the ones that are traditionally used in a different way than I mean them because I don't want to cause confusion. Just curious about the rest. Some of the shorter ones seem impossible to rephrase without getting too complex.

Re: Cliches and Overused Phrases

PostPosted: Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:41 pm
by ostarella
Well, in dialogue, of course, clichés don't matter much. They can become part of the character - as long as all of your characters aren't depending on them, of course. But real people use them in speech, so not a big problem.

If, however, you're using them in the narration, then yes, it can become a problem. When you find yourself using a cliché, step back for a moment and think of what you're actually trying to convey. For example: "He lost track of time." What you're possibly trying to convey is that the character was so involved in his task that he didn't care/think about anything else, or maybe he was finally able to relax without worrying about the crisis he'd just been involved with. Of course, it means you may need to use twice as many words - but will the story be ruined if you use ten words, or even twenty, instead of those five? Probably not. More likely it will be enhanced. Use the "extra" words to build the mood, get the reader inside the character's head, build tension or slow the pace - whatever it was you really wanted the reader to know besides the rather vague and easily misinterpreted cliché.

Yes, you do have to be concerned with being too complex, but don't confuse that with clarity or creativity. And if the occasional cliché actually does work best for getting the point across, don't be afraid to use it. You're wise to recognize that one can become too dependent on them, however. Being able to get ideas across without most of them is what makes us writers ;)

Re: Cliches and Overused Phrases

PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 8:12 pm
by cjr1977
Thanks, that's helpful. I was partially worrying about the extra words but I will use them to my stories advantage.

Re: Cliches and Overused Phrases

PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2017 8:06 am
by Oldtimer
I believe I have found the oldest cliché. The following paragraph was advertised in the December 2, [b]1723[/b], edition of The Daily Journal. I have copied it exactly as it is printed, except that I have changed the 'f'-like esses to what we are used to seeing.

Lost on Saturday Night last in St. Paul's Church Yard, a little white Dog, with one Ear black, and the other Ear half black and half white, with a long feather'd Tale turning upon the back. Whoever will bring him to the Seven Stars, opposite the South Gate, in St. Paul's Church Yard, shall receive ten Shillings Reward, [b]and no Questions ask'd.[/b]