When creating descriptions, it is tempting to go with something that is familiar. When making comparisons, we want to reach the widest audience and make sure they get it. But it is important to avoid clichés like the plague! Ooohhh, see how easy it is to slip into clichés?
There is a reason that clichés are cliché. They are good... er, were good. Honestly, they are still good, but they do not do an author any favors. Using clichés makes the author look lazy and unoriginal, even if that is not the case. The only time it is o.k. to use cliches is perhaps in your character's speech or to add a unique twist, when the cliche is broken. Otherwise find a better, more original way!
He followed her around like a little lost puppy.
Yes, dogs are loyal, but is it ever really a compliment to refer to your character as a dog? Isn't there a better way to describe this and convey the loyalty?
How about, he stuck to her like glue. Are there no other sticky objects? Oh, right... like a fly on honey.
Hmmm..... you had no idea how many cliché phrases would be locked out when avoiding cliches did you?
So, when describing a very loyal friend who goes everywhere with the other, how do you display that deep connection without using a cliché?
You get creative
Johnny and Leah had always been together. From the first time they met, something just clicked for him. He knew that one day she would realize it too. In his own quiet and unobtrusive manner, he was there for everything. He laughed with her and cried with her. He helped her through math and she helped him through natural science. Though she took their relationship at face value; he knew that no matter what happened, he would do anything for this girl. He would even die for her. Little did he know, that could very well be the case.
Now, I just used about 100 words to say basically the same thing as "Johnny followed Leah like a little lost puppy." (eight words.)
Which was more interesting? Which gave you a deeper feel for their connection?
Clichés may convey a similar meaning, but they are lazy. As an author, don't be lazy. Make your work as original and unique as possible. Avoid the cliché!
What are some of the worst clichés you have experienced in writing? How would you avoid them? Share with us in the comments below.
Until next time,
P.S. this is a great writers group exercise!! Get a list of clichés, pass them out and then re-write the cliché just like I did above!