1. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    How do you Feel about Trite Lines?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Atari, Nov 28, 2009.

    Wait a moment, let me pull out my list.

    Here it is:

    1. You will rue the day.

    2. We have to hurry!

    3. Out of the way!

    4. Who do you think you are?

    5. I'm gonna make you wish you were never born.

    6. You can thank me later.

    7. The word 'digging' in reference to researching a person's history.

    8. If you play with fire, you're going to get burned/you're playing with fire.

    9. The phrase 'worthy opponent' in any context, whatsoever.

    10. I, <insert name> will defeat you/ <do something> (Though, admittedly, this can be used very well to sound. . .well, cool.)

    11. Win the day.

    12. Arise victorious.

    13. The word 'lightly' in reference to being flippant about something, I.E. Do not take me lightly, for I am a master of deception.

    14. He's/I've been to hell and back.

    15. Saying, "What are you/what is he doing this for," when what you really mean is, "Why are you doing this?"

    16. Using the phrase it looks like in place of I noticed.
    I.E. It looks like you cut your hair. (Personally, I think saying 'I noticed' or 'it looks like' is just superfluous. I would merely say, "You cut your hair," since the phrase is always just a statement of obvious fact, anyway.)

    17. You little. People are always starting their insults off with 'you little,' but they seldom have anything good to say afterward.
    "You little-- brat? You little jerk. You little so-and-so." It's all very lame. An expletive is the most effective word to use afterward, but if you don't want your characters to swear, then I would forgo this phrase altogether.


    18. You'll pay! (They'll pay, you're gonna pay)

    19. I guess.

    20. This is nitpicking, but the use of the word ‘hard’ for ‘difficult’. The three levels should be: Easy, intermediate, and difficult.

    21. As good as ever. My gripe, particularly, comes with the word ‘ever,’ and the fact that some of the words (As good as you have ever been) are omitted.

    22. Calling people ‘guys’. For example; if someone is surrounded by men, and an onlooker knows the person in the center, who is being surrounded, but not the rest of the men, he might say, “Who are those guys?”
    I prefer, “Who are those men?” Or, “Who are those people?” Or you could be more specific, depending on the story, “Who are those swordsmen/street fighters/prostitutes/salesmen.”

    23. I don’t believe it.

    24. Like a moth to the flame.

    25. Is something the matter? (Is something– the matter? That doesn’t even make sense.)

    26. You’re out of luck.

    27. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

    28. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

    29. Once and for all.

    30. This is no joke.

    31. That was no picnic.

    32. That has nothing to do with it.

    33. Prepare to die.

    34. It all started with [something].

    35. Here we go again.

    (Note: I put the list in the spoiler tag because it stops the super long post.)

    When I write, I intentionally attempt to START with the -real- way to say something, and then I will invent more 'relaxed' way to say it if I think that the character should use some sort of slang.

    Instead of, "Prepare to die," a simple, "I am going to kill you" will do. A statement of fact.
    Prepare to die is sort of a sarcastic remark, and is overused to the point of blistering triteness.

    How do you go about your writing? Do you even CONSIDER the fact that "Here we go again" is as cliche as it gets, or do you just go with it, heedless?

    Let's hear what you guys think.
     
  2. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think trite lines are trite, naturally.

    I don't think all typical lines are trite, though.

    It depends on how long time the character had to think about what to say, really. What I find as bad as trite lines, is when a character during the most stressful and pressed moments of a story somehow finds the time to come up with long, well-formulated expressions of ideas, with build-in ironies and allusions. Fact is, when people are pressed hard, their communication is reduced to bare minimum, "trite" or not.
     
  3. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use a number of those in my dialogue, because quite honestly, that's how people speak. Most dont have a prepared script to go by, and they're speaking on the fly. And most people, when speaking quickly, often without much thought, and conversationally use those cliches. You mention it yourself in number 17. If you make your characters sound like they're all expert public speakers, articulate, and always say exactly what they mean correctly, the first time, without stuttering or using a cliche to help demonstrate, it's never that believeable.

    I actually go about people watching and eavesdropping and will sometimes write down expressions that I hear often --and sometimes phrases that I hardly ever hear-- and integrate them into my writing.

    I would never, ever use those sorts of cliches and overused lines in my writing outside of dialogue. That writing is supposed to be hashed out again and again and again. There's rarely an excuse for thoes gag-me lines in those areas of writing, but dialogue is another story. :)
     
  4. Jal Phoenix
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    Jal Phoenix Member

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    I try to avoid such cliches whenever I can. Very,very infrequently, they are appropriate. More often, they are tools of those who have few original thoughts. Don't forget to add "storm: references to your list. "A storm is coming" or the like, especially used metaphorically when a literal storm is approaching, will always make me fling a book across the room, or stand up and leave a movie.
     
  5. Twisted Inversely
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    Twisted Inversely Senior Member

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    I agree some of those line's you bring up are overused Atari. But that's the point. People do use them! To quote the great Terry Pratchett...

    he has a knighthood so he must be right :D
     
  6. Phantasmal Reality
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    Phantasmal Reality Contributing Member

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    What Twisted said. :D
     
  7. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Re characters--authenticity trumps cliche concerns.

    In the narrative, I wouldn't write many of those, if any--not because they're cliche, but because they lack the power to evoke the reaction I desire. The "gathering storm" is a good example.

    If I'm writing a fantasy story and I want to foreshadow some terrible upcoming conflicts, such as a nation divided and at war with itself as invading armies arrive from afar, mercenaries, deserters, rebels, outlaws and the criminally insane roaming the country, raping and pillaging and murdering as they please, armies sacking villages and farmsteads by the hundred, taking everything they can carry and torching the rest before the enemy can get to it, (AKA foraging) men dying in the hundreds of thousands, through treachery, deceit and bloody, burning carnage, and then the whole bruised and crippled, half-dead lot of them facing a winter fit to freeze hell as they starve to skin and bone and, eventually, to corpses, and some desperate, half-mad knots of the hopeless turn cannibal--all this because they torched their own crops--as a horde of mythological creatures of nightmare come to the Thanksgiving feast, so artfully arranged for them, I think I could come up with something a little better than a "gathering" frickin' "storm."

    The image of a storm, or any natural disater that could be called a storm, (hurricane, tornado. . .) doesn't come close to doing it justice and doesn't even feel very ominous. I love storms. And no matter how brutal a "storm" might be, it won't destroy an entire country or a world. That's not only cliche; it's lousy writing. So, that's why I wouldn't write it. But a character might say it, and that's fine. I don't see why people get so upset about what characters say, since people do say these things all the time. . . and if they weren't believable, we'd just complain about that. Your characters are not writers! (I assume) And if the story is olde-world fantasy, they've probably made up superstitions regarding all manner of natural disasters, just to scare themselves silly or take advantage of each other, as most people tend to do (with different things now--not usually natural disasters, but we still have those theories floating around, too).

    Anyway. . . end rant.:redface:
     
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  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    be as original as possible, in the narrative, if you want to maximize your chances of being published... and if using cliches in dialog, make sure you have no alternative and it fits the character's character to be so trite...
     
  9. Operaghost
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    Operaghost Contributing Member

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    I try to avoid clichés and it is true that some lines (your example is perfect of this) are indeed overused, admittedly some cliches are cliches for a reason and some people do genuinely talk like this (take a look at the British Chav culture, who seem to think it is common practice to talk in a ghetto rap style, to the point that even when this was parodied by Ali G, they didn’t realise this and ironically started adopting even his speech, that being said there are some lines that are used so much that even if said in real life cannot be taken seriously any more and unless you are writing a comedy these are the lines you need to avoid.
     
  10. candafilm
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    candafilm New Member

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    It really depends on the character. I always go back through dialogue and think of another way it could be written but sometimes the cliche lines work. I think children characters get a bit more leeway when it comes to this. They grow up learning cliches and most of those are overly dramatic as a child sometimes will be. Also overly sarcastic characters tend to fall in this category as well, but they are childish anyway. :p

    I do write a lot of cliched lines in my work in the first draft. I then go back and review each line and think of a better way to say it based on the character I've created.
     
  11. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I had to smile at this. I am actually beginning my story with #34. "It all started with an email." Normally, I don't use cliche type phrases, but that one, well, it really fit my character's inner dialog. My MC is a writer, and is well, writing about the events that take place after the fact. Something about this girl made me write it that way. She's a little bit tomboyish, a little bit sarcastic, and has that type of humor about her. She starts out that way by using a cliche style opening for a reason. Because, it's just so her.

    As for the rest of your list...yeah, I don't use those phrases. While they could work individually here and there pertaining to a certain character's personality, if they were all used together, except in the context of extreme humor, the work would probably be, well, trite.

    I guess I'm on the fence about phrases that are cliche. We all use them in everyday speech, so naturally some characters may use them as well. It would really depend on the piece of work.
     
  12. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Actually, I added them to the list after seeing the opening to your story.

    Please note that there is not, necessarily, a negative connotation with being on the list. It is merely a -- list.

    The thing is, there are better ways to describe things than using phrases that we always use.
    There are ways that can be expressed using the ACTUAL WORDS that describe those things.

    Some of them, the ones on the list, are just statements of fact.
    "It all started with <something>" is just a statement. It's not a phrase or anything. If "it" all DID start with an email, then why write it differently? HOW would one write it differently?

    Ah, now we get to where I am.
    How would one write it differently? And then I begin thinking.

    I decided, a while back, to attempt to avoid all popular lines, and either invent my own, or just use real words and sentences to describe things in a plain manner.

    Instead of, "I have a bad feeling about this," one might say, "I am feeling anxious."

    If you are writing a story in modern day (or in any of history) then you would use the vernacular and speech patterns of that time.

    In fantasy, well-- I simply find it silly when a fantasy story in a completely different world has the same expressions (or slight variations thereof) that we have.
     
  13. Unsavory
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    Unsavory Active Member

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    I think you have to seperate the lines that are said a lot in real life from those that are said a lot only in fiction. Most of your examples fall under the latter and should be avoided because they sound artificial and silly. On the other hand, "I guess" is just a simple two word answer that comes up frequently in casual conversation. For that reason I don't have a problem with it.

    As far as fantasy worlds having similar expressions to our own, I usually don't have a problem with it. If the dialogue is going to be in English then the choice to invent world-specific slang and curse words is merely stylistic. Bit of a double standard.
     
  14. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Atari, I didn't figure using something from your list was a bad thing. :) It is what it is. I often find that when a phrase, or a statement, or type of wording that is commonly said, is over analyzed and the author tries too hard to come up with their own unique way of saying it, the idea can get lost in the fluff.

    I find myself drawn to stories, authors, and writing that is, well, kind of on the simple side. Not that the concept, plot, or characters are simple, but the wording used isn't all fluff and stuff. Pulling words out that people have to go searching for a dictionary to understand the meaning of the sentences is not my intention. While some writers think that makes for a better story, using words that no one really uses in everyday language, because they are in a way showing how great they are by having an more expanded vocabulary than the average joe, is something that bugs me.

    I like to think I have a pretty good vocabulary. I find myself looking for the right word to use in a sentence to convey a certain feel, thought, attitude, or physical surround, but I try not to use too many words that the average person (the typical person who would be reading my work) would have to go look up.

    I don't remember now, the short story that I read back years ago in lit class, where almost every sentence had a word I had to look up the meaning. After I finished reading it, I commented to the class that the author could have written it with everyday language describing the same things and it would have been much better. The teacher (yet another pretentious academia type) said I was just too beneath the writing style to appreciate it. And, well, I can't repeat on here what my response to her was because it was littered with four letter words of the unsavory type.

    I like unpretentious, not authors who are trying to show off. I want to read a story that takes me to another world, or place, or time. I want to be able to read it without needing a freaking dictionary next to me to understand it. I get enough of that reading through philosophy books and other such academia.

    I don't over think my choices when I write. I write it as it naturally flows. I don't purposely keep a thesaurus next to me to look up strange ways to say something I could say simply.

    I don't know. That is the way I like to read, thus it's the way I like to write. The words in a story, while being read, should become like the background music of a movie. We know it's there. If we concentrate we can hear it. It adds character and depth to the visuals, dialog, and various non action scenes. Words on the page are like that for me. They are the background music, while the images being produced in the readers mind by the words provide the visuals. Reading words that I don't know how to pronounce, or know the meaning of take me out of the story. And most times those words could have been replaced with a simple word that means the same, but the author was trying to hard to be unique.
     

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