I like clichés

Sunday, April 19, 2009

There I said it.

But bear with me for a sec. Clichés are clichés because they cut right to the heart of whatever it is you're trying to get across, and they do so expeditiously without further examples/explanation. I guess I should state here that I'm talking about clichéd phrases: Sharp as a tack, et al.

The problem with clichés is they're well-worn. You've heard them a time or two or twenty... million. But, you know what? If they're used judiciously, I see no need to eradicate every single cliché from a piece of writing.

Sure it doesn't hurt to freshen up a cliché, to change it to something that adds humor, or is more relevant to character/setting--ie using 'Sharp as a Wusthof Dreizack' instead of 'sharp as a tack' in a book about a chef.

But if you have to turn the writing in knots to just avoid the cliché, if you end up with something plodding, awkward and wordy, something that calls attention to itself, or loses the author's voice and lyricism of the piece, then just leave the damn cliché be.

If the readers’ eyes glide right over it, in the same way the use of 'said' disappears with dialogue tags, maybe you should let it be, unless the cliché is meant to work harder.

I'm not a 'said' purist. I think 'whispered' or 'yelled', etc., bring more to the table, if they're needed and you can't convey the tone with just word choice. (Adding an exclamation point does not necessarily imply that someone is yelling, it could just indication force of emotion.)

Can I just point back to the near top of this post where I said 'judicious' use? 'kaitnx.

What brought this on? I just read a bit of writing someone had posted on a loop for feedback. I honestly had no intention of giving feedback (too lazy), but I was curious to read the writing and what others had to say. One critiquer in particular highlighted every single (what they thought of as) cliché. Stuff my eyes went right over. Stuff that quite honestly, in the second reading, didn't strike me as being clichés at all. Maybe the descriptions weren't particularly poetic, but since I didn't feel they were the point of the scene, nor did they distract, I was fine.

Being pedantic is fine, but one of the major points of reading/writing, is to involve the reader emotionally. Draw them in. If that means breaking a few Ritin'Rulez, hey go for it.

A grammatically perfect, beautiful writ work of art that leaves the reader cold, is a perfectly beautiful bore that most people will never bother to finish reading.

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azteclady said...

I love you.

(write faster!)

raine said...

I'm trying to make up my mind whether I want to laugh or not, since you basically just wrote a blog I was considering for the Chicas, lol.
The reason they're cliches is because they work.
Agreed, & well done.

vanessa jaye said...

AL, I was feeling a little cranky. Critiques that don't take into account whether a peice works or not, are a pet peeve of mine. It's quite literally Can't see the forest because they're nit picking all the trees, and that bush over there, and what are these strange weeds, and.... :-P

I'm not saying all typos/errors should be left as is, but I wish some peeps would take into account pacing, author voice, story structure, etc., before starting up with the: get rid of all uses of 'was'! It's passive (even though the sentences would make no sense whatsoever once you do take them out)! And the 'adverbs'(even though, you only have 2 and to replace that single adverb, you'd have to add a 6 word awkward sentence)! and the 'cliches'! And the backstory (even you've layered in the backstory quite skillfully)!

Leslie Wainger(sp?) used to be executive editor for Harlequin and she had her own 'ask the editor' thread on eharl. One of her favourite sayings was: It's All In The Execution.

I just wished more peeps went by that same motto.

vanessa jaye said...

(write faster!)Sorry, kinda went of on a little rant there, (heh) but the werewolf novella is done and has been sitting in my editor's inbox for a about a week now. Angie's been travelling (including RT this week) and she's already told me I probably won't hear back from her till *maybe* mid-May.

::fingers crossed:: it's good news.

vanessa jaye said...

you basically just wrote a blog I was considering for the Chicas, In the middle of writing this post I thought, wait a sec, it's almost the end of the month, maybe I should say this for my Chica post. *g*

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