1. S S
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    S S Active Member

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    What are some clichés you avoid like the plague?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by S S, Sep 24, 2014.

    Some of mine:

    'avoid like the plague'
    'Suddenly' – if it happened suddenly, then don't delay it with this over-used adverb, just write what happened.
    'His [insert human organ here] sank in his chest' – although this is a good description of what it feels like to feel a sudden shock of emotion, I usually try to come up with a more original description.
    'It was a [insert weather adjective here] and [insert another here] night / day.' – this might have been an original opening three thousand years ago.
    Calling characters something that is blatantly descriptive of their character – not like the subtlety of Lord Voldemort, but more along the lines of 'General Grievous' from Star Wars.
     
  2. elynne
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    elynne Active Member

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    Archlord Nemesis-Doomhand's esophagus suddenly sank to the very floor of his chest, as he realized that the dark and stormy day had come, though he had attempted to avoid it like the plague itself.

    you're welcome
     
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  3. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Meh. Who cares. If you want the reader to know what sensation a character feels, then just say what sensation the character feels. Get on with the story.
     
  4. S S
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    S S Active Member

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    I agree on describing the emotion, but I would always try to do so with a little more art. Clichés may get the job done, but they kill the language. I think the great thing about descriptive language is the limitless possibilities. Fiction isn't just about 'getting on' with the story. It's about the way the story is told. Take, for example, The Wicker Man script. The original is justly named 'original'. It's Hollywood-ised remake shows that the way the story is told makes all the difference. It was awful.
     
  5. S S
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    S S Active Member

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    Somehow this combination of the clichés works. The sentence becomes so absurdly silly that it is both humorous and epic.
     
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  6. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Clichés or idioms? I think I spot a confusion between those two things. They are sort of opposites of each other.

    A cliché is something that loses effectiveness when it is repeated. It benefits from the reader being unfamiliar with it. A joke is the best example of something that becomes a cliché when repeated. On the other hand, an idiom is an expression that is only effective because it is repeated so often that everyone knows what it means. Its purpose is not to entertain the reader per se (as is the purpose of a joke) but rather to refer to something. "His heart sank in his chest" is an idiom: it does not literally mean his heart moved to a different position in his chest cavity, but people familiar with English know what it means because they are conditioned to refer to that feeling as a "sinking feeling".

    There is not really a basis for saying the use of idioms kills the language.

    Furthermore, I tend to see bland description as a symptom rather than an inherent problem. It is a symptom of the problem that the thing being described is bland. Spicing up the description masks the symptom; changing the underlying story to be more interesting addresses the root of the problem. "His heart sank in his chest" could make the reader's own heart sink in his chest or it could make the reader roll his eyes -- it all depends on whether or not the reader already feels like something is at stake and it would be a great disappointment if something goes wrong or if bad news is received.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2014
  7. Christine Ralston
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    Christine Ralston Active Member

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    I try to avoid all cliches. I've read that you should never use cliches in your writing. Yet, I do see them occasionally in published novels and shake my head. I suppose every rule is meant to be broken from time to time, cliche intended.
     
  8. elynne
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    elynne Active Member

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    I actually practiced for the Bulwer-Lytton contest... ;)
     
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  9. S S
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    S S Active Member

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    Personally, I just see idioms as things people, who are learning English as a secondary language, use to show their knowledge of 'Native English'. I agree that they are effective and their use in casual conversation is something that gives English its familiarity, but once you reach a stage where you no longer have to prove that you can speak English like a native, you start becoming sick of the sight of them. I don't see clichés as things that either lose or gain effectiveness with their over-use. To be honest, it's the over-use that bothers me about certain phrases or tendencies, therefore, whether or not they do their job effectively is irrelevant to me. Idioms / clichés should all bite the dust job well done, or not!
     
  10. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The irony of this sentence is killing me. "sick of _____" is itself an idiom. (So is "_____ is killing me" for that matter.)

    I used to be a purist like you. I tried to cleanse the English language of idioms. That was until I realized how many idioms I used on a daily basis without even thinking about them. Some things are easier said than done. (Hey look, another idiom.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2014
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  11. Empty Bird
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    Empty Bird Member

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    What's wrong with cliches? They're easy to understand and they get the job done. If they're the only thing you use, then there's probably a slight problem there, but I see no problem with them.

    Geting too caught up in being original in absolutely everything you write slows down your writing and often doesn't make it flow as well as it could do if we stopped scribbling out words whilst muttering that you've: "Read something similar like that elsewhere."

    Trust me. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt and used it to wipe the tears of self-loathing off of my computer screen.
     
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  12. S S
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    S S Active Member

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    Obviously, I accept that some idioms slip carelessly into language, regardless of how puritan we are, but 'sick of', in my opinion has gone beyond idiom in this case to legitimate adjective. I don't think 'sick' still pertains only to a medical ailment. These days it can mean physically, mentally or emotionally 'sick' of a certain ailment (in this case, that is the use of idioms). Also, in my original post I asked 'What clichés do YOU avoid like the plague?' I still like to very occasionally throw a well known cliché or idiom into my writing if I still think it holds power. I was just wondering what other people hate to see written in ink.
     
  13. S S
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    S S Active Member

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    Again, I don't have a raging problem with clichés, despite earlier jesting that I wished to see them all bite the dust. I was just wondering which ones others avoid. It may be the case that a cliché I deem OK to use, you may not. 'they get the job done' – this I do have a problem with. I think written work should be a finely honed piece of art, not a 'job done'.
     
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  14. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love adding useless stuff to common sayings, just because I like writing tacky things (don't judge me!). Here's an example from my current story:

    Instead of: "His heart leaped in his chest," I typed: "His heart leaped up from behind his ribs, crawled past his lips and was at the doorway in four staggering, wet hops. It waved a little red hand on its way out: Ciao!"

    A lot of people say detailed things like that detract from the story/writing, because those have nothing to do with the story, but I don't care and they can go lick a flaming cactus:agreed:.

    I think these common things are the most bothering when they are vague. When the Purple Whale Super Attack Knights are first introduced and become the deciding force of a medieval skirmish, I don't want the narrator to say: "They were the real deal/No soldier was a match for them/They were unstoppable." I'd rather hear a dew details of their advanced weapon or cavalry tactics, figure-distorting armour, tall black stallions, and how they just killed and killed and killed.
     
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  15. Michaelson345
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    Michaelson345 Member

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    A story, essay or article, each and every type of writing needs a good finishing, high quality choice of words and to be completed. The extra thing in a story that it contains emotions, drama, thriller and tragedy.
     
  16. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    All good points, but I'd add that anything, including an idiom, can become a cliche if it's overused to such an extent that it's original meaning and purpose is diluted or even lost.
     
  17. AlannaHart
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    AlannaHart Contributing Member

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    What? Clichés are often idioms. A cliché is a worn-out expression, which is descriptive of idioms. 'His heart sank in his chest' is an idiom but it is also cliché.
    The word originated in the French printing industry, when moulds for popular phrases were ready-made and used repeatedly until they lost all originality. It's basically a description of idioms.
     
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  18. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It also means a snapshot (as in taking a pic), so the word seems to have onomatopoetic origins, which I find pretty fascinating, excuse my linguistic nerdiness. That aside, when I entered this thread, I was thinking pretty much along the same lines as Alanna.

    Some editors point out that common idioms have become clichés, and thus less effective and in this sense their usage is discouraged. I've even seen some lists floating around the internet. Personally, I go with whatever fits the scene or character. In dialogue, it's natural to throw clichéish idioms around 'cause people use them a lot. In narration, I think I'm a tad more careful, trying to come up with something descriptive, e.g. to describe two people making peace, so I wouldn't necessary they buried the hatchet, but, I dunno, "nowadays they're so tight they must be sharing a toothbrush" (ok, I haven't used that, but I'm not at my most creative right now). Also, if the story happens in the past, I wouldn't use an idiom that has been coined way later 'cause that'd be anachronistic (unless that was my intention).

    As for other types of clichés, like scenes, characters, plot twists... There's a ton of them, and sometimes I choose what may be a cliché 'cause I think it's more realistic/plausible an option than going around it. Not sure if there're any specific ones I'd want to avoid like the plague. I've done Damsels in Distress, Supervillains, Byronic Heroes...
     
  19. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    Main characters who die, only to come back at the end as a "twist". It's been overdone, especially in fantasy / super hero stories.
    When my characters die, they stay dead, apart from that one guy who killed himself in the process of creating a digital copy of his mind...

    Characters who fake their deaths, on the other hand, are also over-used, but more plausible.
     
  20. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    1. Storyline cliche - It was only a dream. Is there any ending more frustrating?
    2. Character cliches - Newbie in Town who manages Insta-love & Insta-friends. ( Although, in one of my old novels that I'm working on I realize I'm kinda guilty of this - in a strange way, and I'm hoping to rectify it. ) Also, dependency on stereotypes - I don't mean you can't have a bullying jock, but make it fresh. I love how Welcome to the Dollhouse ( the movie ) makes all those stereotypes - nerd, hunk, bully - fresh.
    3. Word cliche's - this one is tough because anyone can make a tired cliche seem fresh if they try. The trouble is a lot aren't trying. I think what happens is there is an overload between familiar story, typical characters and not only are they in these deja-vu like scenarios they make it worse by uttering - I wish the ground would open up and swallow me - to show embarrassment. The cliche becomes the last straw.
    Also, superlative summery - He had amazing eyes, beautiful hair, a stunning body. I could do better in a game of Mad Libs.
     
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  21. S S
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    S S Active Member

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    Yeah, was seriously pissed when Rowling ended Harry Potter like that!
     
  22. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    If this thread was intended to focus on overused idioms, then I think perhaps cliché is not really the term. Hackneyed would seem to fill the bill a bit more precisely.

    As it comes to trope cliches, though, one I try hard to avoid is everyone is beautiful/handsome/buxom/muscular. In Science Fiction I find quite often that characters, when described, are often a bit over-heroic in dimension. In erotica it's even more-so. I write erotic science fiction, so it's a thing I think about with frequency. :)
     
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  23. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    That's how they ended Harry Potter? I've never read it. How weird. That's like one of those literary no-nos.
     
  24. S S
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    S S Active Member

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    I was joking.
     
  25. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Oh - lol. Well, now you know, I'm one of the few that know nothing about Harry Potter.
     
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