Monday, June 22, 2009

With a cliche here and a cliche there, here a cliche there a cliche don't use a cliche!

You can find "writing tips" all over the web, in books, on blogs, under rocks, in the refrigerator behind the mayonnaise. But there are general things I think about as an editor, as a writer, and as a reader and from time to time I'd like to share them.

I want to talk this morning about things I see as "cliches." I try double dip hard not to write cliche-ingly. Those cliches can be tricky; they can be sneaky. It's not always the obvious cliche of "soft as a cloud," or "hard as a rock," etc. There are other things I think of as "cliche." Those things that are over-used or unimaginative or sometimes just, um, "lazy writing." And this does not mean one must try to be clever - if you are trying to be clever, it will show that you are TRYING to be clever. If one is constantly THINKING about what they are writing and how they are writing it instead of actually just writing, then the work will be stilted or the work won't be done or one could freeze up and feel as if they will "fail" - there is no failing, there is doing what feels right for You--and if writing with the cliches below feels right to you, then for gawd's sake write that way.

Some things I think of as "Cliches" (and yes my word "cliche" doesn't have the emphasis mark but I'd rather have none that use a ' ):

Please don’t end your story with “it was all a dream.” Or, set me up with a situation and then I find out it's a dream. As I always say: Rules are meant to be broken, but you dang sure better be good at it and convince me! I love reading dreams in a story, but I like to know they are dreams and not feel as if the author is trying to fool me or say "gotcha!" Those "gotchas" better be done in a way where I think "oh! I didn't expect that! Cool!" and not the gotcha that has me rolling my eyes and feeling frustrated and "fooled."

Watch those descriptions of characters where they look into mirrors and then describe themselves, for example: “Betty looked into the mirror and studied her strong determined chin, her curly red hair that framed a pale winsome face, the freckles across her haughty nose.” Who does that? Who thinks about themselves in that way? I can see something natural, though—the character notices something that we really would—hair all messed up or lipstick smudged or a spot of dirt on a cheek, etc. Just be careful that your character looking into the mirror to describe their physical characteristics to the reader doesn’t become a cliché--if you describe your character in a mirror, then it already is a cliche.

This is my own personal pet peeve, but, watch phrases such as when something floods a character’s mind or body or whatever, as in “Relief flooded Betty’s body,” or “Anger flooded her veins," or "Happiness flooded Betty's mind." It's just a personal thing for me - maybe it's been overdone, but mostly I'm looking for something more compelling to describe the feelings Betty is having .

Oh well, those are just a few things I am thinking about this morning. More important for you is to get the words on the page; the more you practice, the more things that come to you naturally or instinctively or through an awareness, the more you will automatically do them so that in re-writes you have less work in front of you. If I knew what I know now back when I first wrote Tender Graces, that novel would have been completed and ready to go much sooner. Do I sometimes make mistakes - hellvitica yeah! Do I sometimes mess up and write out my own pet peeves? I do and I try to catch them. Will I ever stop learning how to be a better writer? Heckles no! Writing-words and language-is alive and breathing!

Now, I am going to go work on Virginia Kate Book 2. See y'all later!

google image:


The Unbreakable Child said...

All good advice. later gator. ; )

Angie Ledbetter said...

You are the Queen (cap.Q) of made-up words (hellvitica/heckle) and I love you higher than the sky and mountains, cross my heart, you're better 'n ice cream with a cherry on top...okay, I'll stop with the cliche's now. :)

Jessica said...

Bleck. My manuscript I'm revising is one big plot cliche, but I'm trying to make it work anyways. LOL We'll see what happens.

Glynis said...

I wiped out a cliche a few days ago, I read through a previous chapter and to my horror, I had used it there too!
Thanks for the advice.

Anita said...

Very sound advice to keep in mind!

Deb Shucka said...

I agree with all of this. Another thing that bugs me is when someone comes up with a metaphor that I don't get - connecting two things in a way my mind can't follow. I hope the VK2 work is going well.

Debbie said...

Don't forget my pet peeve. When some poor protagonist has everything in the world going against her but in the end, all is happily ever after. To me, that is just as bad as the dream debacle.