Avoiding Cliches in Writing

Author:
Publish date:

Don't write another cliché novel or use clichés in your novel (here are some cliche examples)! Learn what to avoid from 179 Ways to Save a Novel by Peter Selgin.

writing a novel | novel writing mistakes

A writer’s job is to write stories—not to steal or borrow them and, with a coat of fresh paint, pawn them off as original. That should be obvious, but it’s not always completely clear. Our own private thoughts, dreams, intuitions, and fantasies are inevitably colored by what Jung called the collective unconscious— the vast, reservoir-like body of shared human experiences, of myths, symbols, and legends.

Take this story set in Spanish Harlem, where Emilio Bermudez, a rookie fresh from the police academy, stakes out a bodega with his partner Joe. While on duty Emilio falls hard for Dulce, the lovely sister of the drug-dealing bodega owner.

Need I fill in the rest? In the climactic drug bust, Joe sees Dulce reach for a “weapon” and fires. The bullet goes straight through her heart. Dulce had been reaching innocently for the love note Emilio had sent her, and she dies in Emilio’s arms.

If these characters and their situation seem familiar, they are. We’ve all seen similar stories a hundred times. Most sensational subjects have been treated to death. Result: a minefield of clichés. And, as Martin Amis tells us, “All good writing is a war against cliché.”

The story’s problems might be partially redeemed by crisp dialogue, vivid descriptions, and an impeccable edgy style—but the plain fact is, they shouldn’t be solved. This clichéd rose is wilted down to its thorns. Steer clear of tired plots and you, your characters, and your readers will avoid all kinds of heartache.

This writing tip is from 179 Ways To Save a Novel by Peter Selgin. Buy this book and learn:

  • The difference between a memoir and fiction
  • How to structure your story and create a plot
  • Writing style tips

Buy 179 Ways to Save a Novel now!

Writer's Digest March/April 2021 Cover featuring Carmen Maria Machado

Writer's Digest March/April 2021 Issue Reveal

The March/April 2021 issue of Writer's Digest is showing up in mailboxes and will soon be available at retailers. Get a sneak peek of the new columns we're introducing with the expanded page count!

How to Co-Author a Book: Building Continuity and Avoiding Pitfalls

How to Co-Author a Book: Building Continuity and Avoiding Pitfalls

Co-authors Simon Turney and Gordon Doherty share their top 5 tips for collaborating with another author on a project.

Bonnie Marcus: On Being Vulnerable in Nonfiction

Bonnie Marcus: On Being Vulnerable in Nonfiction

Award-winning entrepreneur and executive coach Bonnie Marcus shares what it was like to write her prescriptive nonfiction book Not Done Yet.

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes and Dialogue

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes and Dialogue

In this article, author and trained fighter Carla Hoch answers a writer's question about how to handle dialogue during a fight scene, including pros and cons to having dialogue at all.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Trying to Write for Everyone

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Trying to Write for Everyone

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is trying to write for everyone.

Poetic Forms

Ekprhasis (or Ekphrastic Poetry): Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at ekphrasis (or ekphrastic poetry) and the art of writing poems about other pieces of art.

5 Tips for Evoking Emotion in Writing

5 Tips for Evoking Emotion in Writing

Bestselling author Rebecca Yarros coaches writers on how to create believable emotion in this article.

40 Plot Twist Prompts for Writers: Writing Ideas for Bending Your Stories in New Directions, by Robert Lee Brewer

Announcing 40 Plot Twist Prompts for Writers!

Learn more about 40 Plot Twist Prompts for Writers: Writing Ideas for Bending Stories in New Directions, by Writer's Digest Senior Editor Robert Lee Brewer. Discover fun and interesting ways to move your stories from beginning to end.

The Story That Drove Me to Write

The Story That Drove Me to Write

Award-winning author Stephanie Kane shares the book that launched her career and provides insights for how you can pursue your story.