Hello, and thank you for joining me for the second Installment of my Writing Tips series. Today’s lesson is about cliches and how to cut them out of your writing.
What is a cliche? A cliche is an expression, idiom, or trope which has been overused to the point of losing its meaning. In this lesson, we will specifically be tackling cliched phrases (cliched tropes, such as the Damsel and Distress or the Knight in Shining Armor, will be relegated to a separate post).
Cliches often come about when a phrase so perfectly conveys a particular idea or emotion that it becomes a fixture of everyday language. You can think of cliches like the linguistic equivalent of memes: the first time you see one, it seems clever and innovative. But when a meme becomes pervasive, it stops feeling original and starts feeling lazy and unimaginative.
Most cliches were once seen as brilliant turns of phrase, leading to their subsequent overuse and loss of effectiveness. For instance, the line “It was a dark and stormy night” was once considered hauntingly evocative, but because it’s been so overused, it’s been relegated to parodies and bad fanfiction. Other cliches, such as “the best thing since sliced bread” and “easy as pie” have suffered similar fates (although, as someone who has never successfully baked a pie, I have trouble believe making pie is indeed “easy as pie.” But I digress).
With that in mind, let’s look at this quote by Gary Provost, author of 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing:
“Clichés are a dime a dozen. If you’ve seen one, you’ve
seen them all. They’ve been used once too often. They’ve outlived their
usefulness. Their familiarity breeds contempt. They make the writer
look as dumb as a doornail, and they cause the reader to sleep like a
log. So be sly as a fox. Avoid clichés like the plague. If you start to
use one, drop it like a hot potato. Instead, be smart as a whip. Write
something that is fresh as a daisy, cute as a button, and sharp as a
tack. Better safe than sorry.”
In this instance, Provost is using cliched phrases to prove about point about cliches, which is why it works. Often, the best way to make use of cliches in your writing is to deconstruct them. (Remember that thing I said about the pie? Yeah. Like that). But in most cases, it’s better to replace cliches with more original phrases.
Before you can eradicate cliches, however, you have to find them. The
best way to do this is to hand your work over to a betareader (a
“betareader” is someone who looks over your writing for flaws before you show your writing to other
professionals or post it where the general public can read it).
Alternatively, becoming a betareader for someone else can teach you to
identify cliched phrases in your own writing, thus allowing you to
filter them out before passing your stories along to your own
How you fix cliches will depend greatly on your intention, your writing style, and your culture (cliches vary by language. For instance, there is a French cliche which translates to “the drop that overflowed the vase,” and is roughly equivalent to the English cliche, “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”) As with skinning a cat, there are many methods for cutting back on cliches, all depending on context and intention, so my advice is simply to be willing to stretch your creative muscles. No matter how vigilant you are, you’re not going to be able to eliminate all cliches from your writing. Even the greatest authors sometimes fall victim to such things, and while you should try to snuff them out, don’t let your worry over cliches stop you from writing.
As an exercise, I have included a number of cliched phrases in this post for you to find and correct, if you are so inclined. In the meantime, I hope you found this lesson helpful, and thanks again for reading.
Summary: Fresh out of high school you go on a trip to Egypt with your friend just to witness an ancient corpse be brought back to life.
The crew that you were packed up with had decided to station outside of one of many tombs that surrounded the area in which you were located. You were to be camping out here until tomorrow or the day after, seeing as to how there was a bunch more to do before you guys left. Although this was not your area of expertise, being fresh out of high school and soon to be starting college, you ended up here with your close friend Jimin who was invited on this trip by his friend, jin, who was an archeologist.
Jimin perched himself next to you extending his arm out to offer a bottle of water, to which you accepted gladly, taking big gulps and not placing the the bottle of warm liquid down until it was less than half-way full.
“Hey do you wanna go look into one last tomb before we head off to get some shut eye?” He asked wearing a wide yet soft grin
You were convinced to reject his offer, but who could resist the smile of Park jimin? Definitely not you and so you nodded your head standing up, with your flash light in hand
You alongside four others observed the brown and worn out walls of the supposed to be “tomb”. But inside of this tomb there was nothing: no treasure, no jewelry, and no sarcophagus, save for the writings on the walls. You tried to decipher what story it was telling but not only was the writing hieroglyphics but some other ancient writing form.
“what does it say?” hoseok asked, walking up behind you to study the wall that you were extremely concentrated on
“ i’m not entirely sure. its in some other type of language.”
“oh, I see.” he started, his face growing even brighter “ It’s in hanja, a ancient korean type of writing.”
“But why would it be in korean.” jin pitched in
“I guess we’ll have to find out.” said Jimin and everyones heads whipped in his direction just to see him leaning on a wall which sat beside a staircase going down. You don’t recall that being there before so it must’ve been hidden. As you guys walked down the dark stair case hoseok was reiterating what story the writings on the wall above was telling.
“Once upon a time there was a princess whose name was Bektamun, she eventually married a korean prince by the name of jungkook. Thats probably why some of it was written in hanja. But anyways they got married in secret because neither of their families supported their relationship. But there was nothing that they could do about it because the ceremony and ritual was already complete. Jungkook and Bektamun ruled over some kingdom for a solid year, where most people saw them as a god and goddess because of their “powers”.
“oh so lots of family drama and then death after a year of being married.” you rolled your eyes “ sounds like the perfect love story”
You ended up in a candle lit room where finally there were two sarcophagus’ sat side by side. One of which was completely empty. Thats odd but not only that but there were lit candles scattered around the room. you squatted down to feel the white substance that lay on the ground in a an almost perfect circle. It had a powdery texture.
“Hey guys, look” Jimin called out and every one in the room gathered around the golden box that you assumed belonged to jungkook. Where was Bektamun’s body then?.
Hyuna, one of the bunch of you who tagged alone to explore this last tomb began to whisper something that you couldn’t quite make out. After awhile of her just straight out whispering you figured that she was chanting something which kind of creeped you out. Eventually she grabbed your hand and placed it on the corpses chest, as her chants got louder. the necklace wrapped around the dead man’s neck began to glow and you tried your hardest to pull away but to no avail could you do so because Hyuna had a tight locked grip on your wrist, you looked down in horror, wandering why no one was doing anything about your current situation. Finally she let go as you let out a horrendously loud scream and jumped away from the sarcophagus. She and everyone else in the room fell into a fit of laughter, as you rubbed your wrist, not very happy at Hyuna for making you touch a corpse.
“Come on (y/n), it was just a prank” said jimin trailing behind you as you stormed off
“It wasn’t very funny.”
you ended up in some unknown room that held a bunch of scrolls and you rolled your finger against the rough material called papyrus. Hearing rustling from behind you, you snapped your body to face your guest.
“Look Jimin, I don’t feel like-” you started but soon stopped realizing that the intruder was not Park Jimin nor was this guy anyone from the crew that you were stationed with.
“Who are you.” You asked and the tall dark-haired stranger gave you a cute bunny smile
“Bektamun?” he asked and upon seeing your confused face he uttered out another name
“How do you know my name?”
His grin got bigger if even possible, before he spoke something in a foreign tongue
“JIMIN, I SWEAR TO GOD IF THIS IS ANOTHER JOKE.” you threatened
Jimin alongside the rest of the group came trailing into the room and the mystery guys eyes lit up instantly in recognition
“Jimin?” he questioned and the latter turned to face him before he engaged into a conversation with the guy, all the while you not knowing anything that they were saying
The unknown man walked towards you lifting his hand to place it onto your cheek which somehow felt very comforting and warm
“Bektamun, my love, it has been over 5,000 years, It is I, Jungkook.”
This had to be some kind of a prank. You ran off to the site where jungkook’s corpse was located just to see it empty. For some reason you refused to believe that the man was just brought back from the dead. Jimin came from behind you and placed a hand on your shoulder.
“Where is the body Jimin? This is not funny.”
“(y/n), I’m gonna need you to listen to me.” He began and you turned around to face him your lips quivering and your eyes starting to water from shock, disbelief, and fear.
“You are a reincarnation of Bektamun and you have a history with Jungkook. The memories will come to you sooner or later because he has awaken.”
You slid down until you sat down on the cold hard ground, trying to process the information that was just fed to you, before everything went black.
It was a normal hot and sunny day, you stood beside a man and woman who appeared to be of high class. These two were your parents. You looked up and instantly locked eyes with chocolatey brown orbs, getting lost into the foreign boys eyes while he did the same.
“(y/n), this is Jungkook and his father Jinwoo, they are of royalty from a foreign land and we will be housing them until they are able to get back to their home.” your father said, snapping you out of your trance.
“It is my pleasure to meet you both.” you spoke before your mother chimed in
“(y/n), why don’t you show Jungkook around. We have stuff to discuss with his father.
You and Jungkook walked side by side, strolling through the food markets
“This is a really beautiful place.” he said and you flashed him a smile
“It truly is and someday I will be the ruler of this beautiful kingdom.”
“ A beautiful kingdom, for a beautiful girl, whomever you shall marry will be very fortunate.” You both wore uncontrollable smiles
in this day you taught jungkook how to do some traditional dances such as belly dancing and body rolling, you introduced him to your cultures style of food, and even taught him a few words in your own language, while also telling him of some old stories before your time. In the end you both had a ton of fun and couldn’t help the giggles that fell from each of your mouths.
“How about we meet again, tomorrow maybe?” Jungkook asked and you beamed
“Tomorrow sounds perfect, meet me by the courts.” And with that you both went you separate ways anticipating the meeting that you both sat up for the following day.
Your eyes snapped open, scanning your surroundings, just to figure out that you were in a tent.
“How are you feeling?” a voice to your side snapped you out of your thoughts
“ Oh Jimin, you will not believe the dream that I just had.” you cried out getting ready to tell him of your rollercoaster of emotions.
But just as you were about to spill to Jimin about you extremely odd dream you locked eyes with the same guy that haunted your mind at the moment, Jungkook,. You stared at him for a few minutes trying to process in you head what was happening and while you were doing so he smirked at the same time that Jimin let out a small chuckle. That was when you knew that those supposed “dreams” that you had just experienced were indeed real.
A couple days ago, my sister and I were all dressed up in this really beautiful anarkali. We looked HELLA good. We were on our way to an arangetrum which is like this graduation type thing for bharatnatyam (a tradition Indian dance).
We got to the town earlier than we expected to so we thought we’d go to the mall and take a look around. When we were walking into the mall we could see people starting at us and this group of guys laughed at us. In the mall when we walked store to store I could feel people’s eyes on us and judging us because of how we were dressed.
I’m sorry, I didn’t realise that wearing my own traditional cultural clothes out in public was such a bad thing! I never really cared if white people did henna or wore bindis, but now I do. People can wear bindis and tattoos their hands and go out in public because it’s fashion (the new trend), but I get judged for wearing my own clothes! I’m sorry America doesn’t really have a unique culture anymore or your own traditional clothes, but that does not mean I should be judged for wearing mine. No one should be judged for what they wear whether it is just your style or your tradition cultural clothes!
Who cares if people don’t accept your style, your culture, your religion or just how u are because you’re not living for them.
I wear a hijab and the amount of racism I encounter is absurd, but tbh every negative remark makes me even more confident with my choices.
For all the ladies that’ve struggled with thick brows because of ridiculous societal trends. For all those ladies who’ve proudly worn their cultural clothing and religious garments.
DONT BE AFRAID OR ASHAMED. . SHOW THEM WHAT YOU’RE MADE OF!