What’s a Cliche to Do?

Writers are admonished to avoid cliches, stale phrases and over-used descriptions. Are there any circumstances under which a writer might justify the use of a cliche?
Writing Tip for Today: Writers all seem to mind cliches, but do readers notice them? The following instances are ones where a cliche might be acceptable:

  • The Ugly Metaphor. While it’s usually better to be original and fresh, a unique yet poor metaphor or simile might be better off with a trite but meaningful cliche. Clunky similes (I could go at him like a tornado, or drop it lightly on him like morning dew), ditto. I’d rather hear a cliche than an awful original description that doesn’t work. 
  • If a Character Says It. And the character is one of those people who seem to speak only in cliches, you might be justified in using cliche. (Why I haven’t seen you in a month of Sundays! It’s hotter ‘n a cat on a hot tin roof.)
  • Title Twists. Sometimes you can find an effective title by twisting or giving a new meaning to a old saying, phrase or song. “The Deep End of the Ocean,” “Some Like It Hot,” and “Running With Scissors” are examples of well-known phrases that have been given new meaning.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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