for writers and readers….

MONDAY CREATIVE WRITING EXERCISE because it’s a good way to start the week — Banishing Cliches


Cliche (Photo credit: Tom Newby Photography)

‘The most original authors are not so because they advance what is new, but because they put what they have to say as if it had never been said before.’   

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

A cliché doesn’t start life worn out. On the contrary, when the ink was fresh it was a strong phrase creating such vivid pictures in the mind of the reader or listener that it was used again and again and again.

And then it died

Or almost. It retains just enough life to creep into your writing without you noticing. There you are, typing away, convinced that you’ve creating an emotionally evocative description of a relationship between father and son and when you read it again you find that the son is the apple of Dad’s eye, a phrase that’s been knocking around since the Dark Ages – literally. There is a record of the Saxon King Alfred the Great using it in the mid 800s and it probably wasn’t new then. There’s no shame in discovering a cliché in your first draft but hang your head if you allow it to survive. Put it out of its misery, press delete. Better still work out exactly what you wanted the reader to feel and find your own words to express that thought.

That’s what this exercise is all about.

Rewrite a few familiar (and therefore clichéd) figures of speech.

Here’s an example.
Instead of white as a ghost how about as white as  milk left out overnight. Not exactly Pulitzer prise winning I admit. Give it some thought and I’m sure you can come up with something much better. You could puzzle over it when you are stuck in traffic: being a writer means never being bored again.

Is it worth the effort?
Comac McCarthy – a writer known for his spare language  – made a chill breeze run down my spine when I read The Road and he described something as white as spider’s eggs. I knew exactly what he meant and I didn’t like it. That’s good writing.

Here’s a couple similes to re-work

She was as brave as a lion.

They fought like cat and dog.

And two metaphors that need more punch.

The world is my oyster.

The sound was music to his ears.

It helps to put these phrases into a context by making mini stories in your head. Use these or make up your own:

a child facing playground bullies,
squabbling teenage brothers,
a career-driven graduate with his examination results in his hand,
a Dad listening to his unborn child’s heart beat….

Or something very different:

a starship captain approaching her very first zombie,
married ghosts who had bickered in life,
a country and western singer savouring the audience’s response,
a murderer nailing down the lid of a homemade coffin….



One comment on “MONDAY CREATIVE WRITING EXERCISE because it’s a good way to start the week — Banishing Cliches

  1. Vikki Thompson
    April 2, 2013

    I am the Queen of Cliches, so i’ll definitely be giving it a go 😉


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This entry was posted on April 1, 2013 by in Muse and tagged , , .
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