Beware the cliche

Your writing muscles may be lean and strong, yet there is a need to constantly guard against the cliche.

What is a cliche? A phrase or expression heard in everyday speech to summarize a condition — it is popularly understood, but it can be a lazy way around expressing yourself.

Here is an example: “The wind tore through the trees like a bat out of hell.”

Anyone could write a better description of the wind blowing. And with the crisis of white-nosed syndrome, a fungal disease that has impacted wild bats in North America, the implication that a bat is from hell is outdated.

Now, the cliche might be appropriate if it is coming out of the mouth of one of your characters and reveals to the reader something about that person. For every rule, there is surely an exception.

For the most part, be alert to your own use of cliches, and push yourself to come up with original, innovative ways to get your point across. Just for fun, you can list all the cliches you hear or read for a week, and start a little catalog. That makes you more alert to your own tendency to use them.

Beads and whimsy

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