Beyond the Words Episode 19: Cliches, with Duncan Smith

Beyond the Words Episode 18: The Dialogue-Description Balance, with Alan Baxter
August 31, 2017
Beyond the Words Episode 20: Archetypes, with Maren Robison
September 16, 2017

To use them, or not to use them, that is the question? Join Holly as she talks cliches and when to break them. Includes a review of “Cultown”, by Duncan Smith, and the title track of the book’s soundtrack, “Cultown”, at the end.

To grab a copy of Cultown, click here

And for the CD, click here

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Cliches can be one of two things when writing – they can be the easy way to explaining something, a shorthand to the ideas you want to spread, if you will, or they can be a lazy way of characterising things.

As a writer, it is your job to not only identify the clichés in your work, but to cull those that do not add to the story.

There are clichés in every story, it’s true. One of the biggest clichés is the Happily Ever After, but you can break that cliché with only a few simple tricks, as we discussed in Episode 16. Another big cliché is the hansom protagonist, swiftly flying in and saving the damsel in distress. If you want to see an easy break of that one, I suggest you watch Shrek.

There are more than just character and plot clichés. There are sentences that are clichés themselves – sometimes idioms that have entered general lexicon. Come on, think outside the box, time will tell if you are brave as a lion or weak as a kitten when it comes to clichés. The writing’s on the wall – read between the lines – all that glitters is not gold, and when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

These are not clichés that we really read anymore. Being frightened to death, or feeling something gut-wrenching is just not going to cut it anymore. These phrases have been done to death – another one – and while the need to replace these words in your work does blink into existence, just think that there are reasons people still use these phrases – they offer a quick and easy path to the reader understanding what the author is putting forward.

So while you can change the cliché – anything from plot-level to character- or sentence-level – it is recommended that you take a good look at every cliché and decide where it is there to help your story, or hinder it.

 

 

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