Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Platitudes, banalities, and clichés oh, my

I found this over at Pub Rants and thought I’d share. Go watch it. It cracked me up. And then I began to wonder about clichés and tropes in writing. So I thought I’d ask. Are there good ones and bad ones? What’s the difference? Do you use them? Do they turn you off when you’re reading or writing?


  1. I would have to say that as long as cliches are used correctly I have no problem with them, I'm not turned away when reading a story, sometimes it's exactly what I need, especially in romance, I want it to be silly and funny and fake, sometimes reading a real life story can put you down in the dumps and with fun cliches added it makes the world nicer!!

  2. I would never write a cliche, word-for-word. The YouTube trailer was hilarious because it spotlighted nothing but cliches, making use of them in a comical way. In writing, if you use a cliche that your reader recognizes, your work will immediately come across as tired and uninspired. However, when you take a common cliche and re-invent it, so that it is recognizable yet fresh and new, then your creativity will earn points with the reader. I even try to do that when I write emails and blog posts/comments. I just can't write things like "it was the icing on the cake," or "make a mountain out of a molehill" -- ever (LOL).

    BTW, how excited were you when you read the agent's reply about the types of genres she wished she'd see more query letters for? Literary fiction, baby! Whoo-hoo!

  3. I try not to use them. Only in dialogue would I let it slip. Because that's the way people talk. But I still try to be careful. I love Pub Rants.

  4. I try not to, though recently, I did in a big bad way and missed it until it was pointed out to me (demons reference). I hate to use them, and was disappointed I had, and published to boot.

  5. I think it's probably subjective. I love plays on words. They crack me up! But others find them annoying. I think it just depends.

  6. Ha ha ha. Thanks for the great YouTube link!

    I think it depends on the context - cleverly used is okay. Just plain cliche is icky. :-)

  7. I typically don't like cliches, especially those little sayings like the other comment about icing on the cake. But I must admit I am very fond of the brooding, tormented male love interest cliche. I'm a sucker for a sappy story :)

  8. In historical romance they abound, so you really can't escape them and sometimes I just don't want to. Heaving bosoms and all that.

    I do use them, I hate to say it, but I'm usually in rough form/first draft mode. I'm getting better at picking them out though. I hope.

  9. In dialogue, I think cliches are totally fine. that's how we talk.

    In writing, I've realized how important it is to come up with our own analogies/etc. And isn't it impressive when you come up with a clever one? Then when people start repeating it you can feel special.

  10. I don't love reading cliches, but I don't hate them. I definitely don't use them in writing, except blogging :)

  11. Hi, Jen. I think clichés work better in certain types of writing, like you say, romance. And yes, it can be a fun thing. :)

    Hi, Nicole. You're right. Reinvention is the name of the game. New and fresh is good. And yeah, baby, literary fiction. Woot! BTW, I'm glad to see you here and hope things are looking up for you. :)

    Yvonne, dialogue seems to be the one place we agree it's all right. And, yeah, Pub Rants rocks. :)

    Hi, Amy. Your writing is so exquisite that I can't imagine anything of yours being done in a big, bad way. :)

    Nisa, I think you're right. Timing and circumstance are everything.

    Shannon, You are welcome. :)

    Hi, Crystal. I think we're all very fond of the brooding, tormented (very hot) male love interest. :)

    Hi, Anne. Hee! Heaving bosoms. :) That just cracks me up. It's such an iconic image. But you're right. All genres demand certain conventions.

    Hi, Tamara. Yes, indeed. It is impressive when you've coined a new, hip phrase. It shows off your wicked awesome skillz. :)

    Hi, Sarah A. Have I told you what a great name you have? And that's not a cliché. :)

  12. I try my best not to use them but they do creep in, especially in first drafts! I think cliches have the most impact when you flip them around or use them in unexpected scenarios.

  13. omg i saw that on kristin's site too!! so funny!! it really makes you realize that cliches are traps we always fall into. sometimes they work. mostly they don't. i guess it's about execution.

    thanks so much for sharing!!

  14. Oh, that is absolutely hilarious! I will shamelessly admit that I fall for this stuff 99.9% of the time and have probably written it too, although I try not to. I've written lots of "seemingly plain girl whom all the guys secretly lust for", although that wasn't in the trailer.

    Hmmm...wonder what part of my mind that comes from.

    I'm going to point out a movie that, for me, went against what I expected as cliche--Up in the Air. It didn't go where I thought it would; the twist was in character, though. And I appreciated it.

    Excellent post and worth remembering every single time I want to use one of these cliches.

  15. I saw this on another blog. I thought it was great. It's sort of like: Use this type of line here. Ya, there are some formulas, especially in screen plays and mysteries. Know'em, use'em, and break the rules.

  16. My writing professors would circle every single cliche in every piece I submitted for grading - even if I was reasonably certain I hadn't used a cliche. That experience has kind of put me off using cliches but if I read them in something, it doesn't bother me. I'm just a little more diligent with my own work.

    Well, I try to be.

  17. Cliches are everywhere. Sometimes I find it hard to avoid them. The key is to use them in the right way and to use them sparingly-at least that's what I think. ; )

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  19. Hi, Talli. I think you're right. Flipping them around and playing off that makes them fresh.

    Hi, Tahereh. You're welcome. And you're right. Execution is key.

    Hi, Eva. I remember that you said you liked 'Up in the Air.' But I don't seem to remember you using to many clichés in your writing. :)

    Hi, Mary. Yep, be a rebel; break the rules. :)

    Hi, Elle. Writing professors are supposed to be hard. :)

    Hi, Kimberly. You're right. One person's cliché is another's well-loved phrase.

  20. I am a walking cliche.

    Happy St. Patty's Day!! (see?)

  21. Hee! Make sure you check out all the St. Paddy's Day entries for the Drunk at First Sight Blogfest tomorrow. :)