for writers and readers….

A Cliché Killing Writing Exercise: an extract from BACK TO CREATIVE WRITING SCHOOL

EVERY SATURDAY for the month of January I’m going to share some exercises from my popular writing guide Back To Creative Writing School – I want it to be a creative kickstart for the new year and a celebration that 2020 is finally over. I hope you find it useful.

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 figure of speech that created such vivid pictures in the mind of the reader 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 drawn an emotionally evocative portrait of the love between a father and son only to find when you read it again that the son is the apple of Dad’s eye, a phrase that’s been knocking around since the Dark Ages – literally.


The task is to rework a familiar (and therefore clichéd) metaphor or simile

A metaphor is a commanding figure of speech. It makes connections between things that are different, except in one particular way, and says that the connection is so strong, so overwhelming, that the two things meld together.

The truck driver was a bear.

Your room is a pigsty.

A simile is exactly the same, but quieter and with better manners. It’s pointing out the similarity between two things that initially seem so unalike. However, it’s not suggesting that there has been a transformation.

That man is like a bear.

Your room is like a pigsty.

It is hard to come up with something striking and original out of nowhere. To be effective you need some kind of context, so here are a few mini stories to wrap around the cliché – do them all if you can.

She was as brave as a lion.

Photo by mana5280 on Unsplash

A child facing playground bullies,
A student fighting off a rapist.
An old woman taking the hand of her vampire grandson

They fought like cat and dog.

Squabbling teenagers,
Married ghosts still bickering in the afterlife,
Police officers, hungry for promotion, investigating a crime.

You never know, a story could spring out of your newly minted metaphor…

This is an extract from a longer exercise in BACK TO CREATIVE WRITING SCHOOL

2 comments on “A Cliché Killing Writing Exercise: an extract from BACK TO CREATIVE WRITING SCHOOL

  1. Cynthia Reyes
    January 9, 2021

    Very interesting,Bridget.

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