Nothing Personal but Save the Drama for your Mama or What Not to Write Part 1: CLICHES


Hey, I saw a couple of you cringed.  :)

Cliches have the ability to slip in our writing because of their familiarity. We use them, we hear them used all the time and around us, and we cling to them because let's face it, trying to think of an apt metaphor for a particular scene in our novel can be intimidating. And cliches? They're part of our comfort zones.

But for a writer who wishes to get published, cliches are the plague. Run while you can. *grin* As Salvador Dali once said: "The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot."  (I got that from Wikipedia. Hope it's true. You never know with internet sources these days.)

Interestingly enough, these phrases used to be regarded as striking or beautiful before they became overused and turned into, well, cliches. Just goes to show that fame and beauty is fleeting, even for words.

So. I have a game. Let's play Who Can Spot the Cliches in the Narrative Below. [I had fun making this up.]

Disclaimer: The author of this blog is not responsible for any physical damage the readers may contract while reading this piece. Proceed at your own risk.


Laura nursed the bottle in her hand. It was past midnight and he still wasn’t home. History was repeating itself, and dammit, come hell or high water she was going to make this work. Whoever said that absence makes the heart grow fonder didn’t know what they were talking about. Or hadn’t met her good for nothin’ husband Ben.
The phone rang. With shaky fingers, Laura picked up the phone. “Hello?”
It was Mark, Ben’s partner in crime. Laura was caught off guard; she was expecting her husband to at least call her and tell her to get out of his hair. She’d already left him thirty messages in his voicemail since seven-thirty.
“Hey, Laura? Um, Ben’s told me to tell you he’s not coming home.”
Laura felt the walls closing in on her. This was it. Her mama was right. Didn’t she say Laura’s painted herself into a corner? Didn’t her mama say on their wedding day that Ben was no good for her—a man full of hot air and nothing else? Why didn’t she listen? Was she really head over heels in love with him ten years ago? Or was it because her time was ticking and she knew beggars couldn’t be choosers.
“Laura?” asked Mark.
No, she wasn’t going down without a fight. Every dark cloud has a silver lining, Laura knew it. It ain’t over until the fat lady sings and she sure wasn’t going to let that fat lady get on the stage. She was going to jump the gun on this one. No more cowering down in the corner. “Mark, is he there? Tell him to be a man and get on the phone.”
“Hey, hey…don’t shoot me, I’m only the messenger. And besides, he’s not here.”
“Where is he? Where the hell is he?” she screamed. She was madder than a wet hen. “Don’t yank my chain, Mark, or there’ll be hell to pay.”
“Don’t hang me out to dry, for goodness’ sake Laura. I’m your friend too, you know. I know you two have been fighting like cats and dogs. The whole town knows your marriage is in the rocks ever since that incident at the harbor.”
Laura cringed. That was their worst fight ever—they’d aired out their dirty laundry at the company’s yacht party. God knows they were both drunk, but that was no excuse. When she saw him eyeing out Marcy’s whole enchilada, the cat claws came out.
“Give it a rest, Laura.” Mark’s voice was quiet.
She huffed. “Well, you’re a fair weather friend, aren’t you.” Laura slammed the phone down. This was turning out to be a horrendously bad hair day. Quicker than a New York minute, she folded in on herself. This was death by a thousand cuts. She realized she loved him after all, even though she married him to keep up with the Joneses. Of course she had convinced herself back then that they were soulmates, two peas in a pod. But the years dragged on to reveal they were horses of different colors.
Laura got up and wiped her tears. She would wait for the ink to dry before doing anything drastic. She knew she was up a creek without a paddle, but it wouldn’t last long. She was a survivor, wasn’t she? Maybe it was time to pick up the pieces and move on. There was no denying she zigged in her life when she should have zagged. Tomorrow would be a new day.
She dragged herself to bed to catch some forty winks. It was now two in the morning. Oh well, better late than never.
How many did you find? Any guesses? Did you even make it to the end or did your brain explode halfway through?

Photo by Christi Nielsen


sarah said...

I may have lost count, 37? Am I close? That was fun. I do use cliches in dialogue occasionally because I think most people use them in conversation now and then.

cherie said...

You were close! My count was 41. Unless if I overlooked something. =)

I think cliches are fine in dialogue. Besides, if your character is someone who employs cliches in their everyday conversations, then yes, it would be acceptable.

Anita said...

Haha! This was awesome! I counted 45, but maybe I was wrong? Seriously hilarious and well written, wow. That had to take a while.

One thing that actually really worked well and would rock in a novel was the way you turned one of these cliches on their head: It ain’t over until the fat lady sings and she sure wasn’t going to let that fat lady get on the stage.

That rocked! A lot of voice in that excerpt. If you right this good just being silly, your real stuff must be fabulous. Thanks for the fun!

Anita said...

LOL. That's supposed to say WRITE this good, BTW. Sorry! Looks like it's bedtime for me. heh

cherie said...

Wow, thanks for the compliment Anita. And this coming from you who totally rocks! =)

*skipping off to bed. LOL.

As for the count, you know, i had it written down somewhere but i lost it. Will have to check again. =)

Jen Daiker said...

Well there was definitely more than 30 so Wowza... I think there is such a thing as TOO MUCH! I bet that took some work compiling! Not an easy task to shove so many in to one piece!

I'm a firm believer that if it's done well or for a point cliche's can stay. I use them for a mother who thinks she knows best. However the main character explains that she is indeed a walking cliche and I believe it works. I have a publishing house intereseted in it so I guess it's all in how it's handled.

I'm a newbie here! Great blog! Great first topic for me to join in on! I'm going to have a whole lot of fun here!

Happy Thursday!

cherie said...

Hi Jen! Welcome, welcome. Please take a seat, put up your feet, and enjoy the show. I'm always happy to have fellow writers drop by my little haven here.

Wow. Goodluck with the publishing house. I totally agree that if handled well, cliches can work. As with everything else in life, moderation is the key. And as I had mentioned to Sarah, if that's the quirk of a character then it is perfectly acceptable. =)

Jenny Phresh said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog--I love your post on clichés as well! So fun to see different takes on the topic. My brain hurt too much to count them, and I knew I was too late to this game to be a winner.

Anonymous said...

So so fun reading! Thank you for sharing :)

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