C is for Clichés

So last year I had a post on Clichés. I actually had fun writing a flash fic chock-full of clichés. You can still read it here, if you want to. But be warned: It might blow your brains out. Ha! A cliché!

While there are obvious cliched phrases we try to avoid like the plague (heh), there are also physical clichés that are more subtle, and we don't realize they are clichés until someone points them out to us. Or maybe no one has pointed it out to you, but since someone did to me, I'm gonna point it out to you! (Forgive me, I'm drunk on lemonade at the moment.)

Are you ready for this? Here's a couple of links to peruse:

Physical Descriptions: Cliches to Avoid (ObsidianBookshelf.com)

Physical Cliches (Kidlit.com)

Heart-hammering, tongue-turned-into-sandpaper, gut-twisting, fist-clenching...

I'm sure we've all read and written these kinds of physical descriptions at some point in our life. My question is: IS IT REALLY THAT BAD? Should we have our characters avoid lump-swallowing forever and ever?

I'm not one to get stuck in a hard-and-fast rule. When I write, I usually aim for atmosphere and voice, and the flow of words together is much more important to me than making sure I did not give my protagonist a hammering heart. If it doesn't detract from the cadence of the story, it can't be that bad, right? If used in moderation, it should be fine, right?

What do YOU think?

Found this here.


J. A. Bennett said...

As long as they are not overwhelming the story, I think it's okay to have one such cliche, but never should you over-use such phrases :)

Simon Kewin said...

I agree - used in moderation they're OK. All writers use them so far as I can see.

Connie Keller said...

I think we have to be very careful with physical cliches because often we use them to make something clear that we ought to be making clear with dialogue, other action, etc. For example, if we overuse "he ran his hand through his hair," what we might need to do is figure out how to show frustration in a different way.

Daisy Carter said...

cliches are cliches because they get the point across so well! I use them occasionally. I'm with you. Every once in a while, I'll use it if it fits the voice.

Cristina said...

I'm still trying to figure out how NOT to overwhelm my WIP with them, LOL

R.A.Desilets said...

Moderation is 100% key to anything cliche. As long as it doesn't take away from the flow of the writing, there can't be too much harm done by a single cliche -- can there?

writing blog

Angela V. Cook said...

I agree with what everyone else is saying--moderation is the key. I'm REALLY bad about over-using phrases, i.e. "the corners of his/her mouth pulled up into a grin." AHH!! In my defense, there are only so many ways to say someone "smiled," ;o)

Cheree Smith said...

With phrases, it is moderation that counts. Too many can cause the whole story to seem unoriginal and 'cliche'

Jemi Fraser said...

It's probably impossible to avoid ALL cliches - it's just the way our brains work. Some of them are so much fun too :)

Krista McLaughlin said...

Not to be cliches, but like everyone else said I think some in moderation is okay, but you have to know what too much is too much.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I think cliches have a place. They are cliches because they are familiar, and because they describe something others can understand. As long as they aren't overused, I figure they're fine.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

Wendy G. Ewurum: Blog Author said...

I think they are ok in moderation Cherie especially if you are one of those gifted writers who get a great guffawing laugh out of the reader when used. How.s the pregnancy going?

A.M.Supinger said...

Cliches are fun if a character can pull them off. But if used accidentally and/or too often...well, then it's not so fun (for me--but I guess some people might like a lot of cliches? Maybe?).

Sarah Pearson said...

They're like everything else. Know the rules, so you know when to break them :-)

Lauren S. said...

I have to admit, I swallowed a lump, my heart hammered and I had butterflies in my stomach as my sparkling blue eyes scanned the contents of this post. ;)

If I do use a cliche (accidentally, not on purpose, as above) then I think long and hard whether there's another way to say it. If there is, but I don't like it, then I go ahead and use the cliche. Otherwise I try to use the more original phrase.

Great post. :)

- Lauren @Word Art

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