Monday, October 8, 2012

Thinking Outside the Box?



Do you eat an apple a day? Know someone who is as slow as molasses in January? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black? Avoid editing like the plague?

Are cliches present in your writing?

If so, you might want to check out Brian Klem's article, 12 Cliches All Writers Should Avoid. Brian and his colleagues compiled a list of overused cliches. See if you concur.

While I agree that some cliches are best avoided, I think that they can stretch our creativity and provide fresh ideas. Depending on what I'm writing, I like adding my own spin. If, in my historical fiction WIP for example, I wanted to say "If walls could talk." I might use a location familiar to my main character, such as a barn, general store, or corral to convey the same idea.

Here are a few links to get those cliched thoughts churning:

ClicheSite has an alphabetical listing of phrases and interesting sayings.

Garden Digest lists an assortment of garden and agriculture related cliches, metaphors, and idioms.

And don't forget one of my all time favorite blogs, The Bookshelf Muse. This post's link discusses when it's okay to use cliches, like in dialogue and thoughts. The site also offers advice on metaphors, similes, and dozens of other helpful tidbits.


A Quick Congrats

Congratulations to Rhonda Schrock, winner of Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund!


What do you think? Are cliches helpful or harmful? Do you use many?


Happy writing,

Karen

Photo credit: Stock Exchange

44 comments :

  1. When I first started writing I had to work at avoiding cliches and found I didn't even know I was writing them. Still find I am but they stick out better now. Thanks for the links!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I use them once in a while. Like your idea...if barn walls could talk.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't care for them in fiction but if you can put a twist on them, then they're really useful. :) I'm checking out those links, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the links to cliches. I try not to use them, but I'm sure a small one has slipped in somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Terri,
    I know, they do slip in, don't they? I think they can offer a lot to our thought process to generate new ideas. Hope the links ae helpful!

    Linda,
    Thank you - the barn walls thing just generates other ideas too. They just keep coming!

    Jessica,
    Yes, I agree, the twist is the best way, otherwise it just sounds, well, too cliched! lol

    Alex,
    You are welcome. I think we use them without thinking sometimes.

    Blessings,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think cliches can be used to humorous effect--especially if you have a character who only speaks in cliches, or who tends to garble them in hilarious ways.

    But I agree that awareness is key. You need to know you're using them and why.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Well, there are cliches and then there are odd, almost culture specific cliches like this: "running around in circles like a chicken with it's head cut off" which usually induces an "eww" factor, but also tells a little bit about my family background - I never raised chickens, but my parents and grandparents did.

    I think cliches can tell us something about a person, or a character.

    I try not to use them in my writing, but I've seen them used successfully to fill out characters or for humor.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I try to avoid cliches like the plague. Seriously, sometimes it's best to not try to create an analogy that doesn't do better than the original and sometimes different metaphors and similes can tell us a lot about the reader. It's easier to recognize the cliches when I critique other writers' work, but harder on my own pieces.

    ReplyDelete
  9. A little bit depends on the genre of book and age of cliche, but avoiding them is always best.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Laurel,
    You have a good point about the humor thing; they can work well that way. Yes, awareness, you can't just stick them in there and expect them to always work.

    Tyrean,
    This is true too. I think it just depends on what we're writing, you know?

    Theresa,
    Well said! I like the way cliches make me think of ways to describe things other ways.

    Diane,
    Yeah, it really depends. Avoiding the cookie cutter and predictable cliches is usually a good thing. :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  11. I like this way of thinking. I've realized that most of my stories start out as one big cliche, so my goal is to try to put a fun twist on them. Thanks for the links!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you so much for the book, Karen! Yea! I read Jody's last book and enjoyed it.

    I jotted down the ClicheSite suggestion for future reference. I'm already thinking about how I can use this in a column down the road. Thank you for this tip.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Well, I don't like cliches in writing. But I have to go back and check my own work, because I think I used "plenty of fish in the sea"! LOL

    ReplyDelete
  14. Cindy,
    I like the way it makes me think, you know? Stretches a tired brain sometimes...lol. You are right, I guess many of our stories already are cliche, so why not change it up a bit? :)

    Rhonda,
    Jody said the book would go out soon. Hope you enjoy it! Hope too, that the links are helpful! :)

    Jennifer,
    Yes, me too, overlooking them that is. I do that with other things too. That's why a crit partner or two is so handy! :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great post, and informational links! Thanks for sharing, Karen.

    I try to avoid cliches (like the plague - bet you're tired of that one...lol) but sometimes they sneak in. My son always catches them for me when he edits - usually with an eye roll and big read sharpie letters on the manuscript - CLICHE!!!! ACK!!!

    Congrats to the winner!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I am free lance writer for a Dutch Christian magazine, and each month I write a column about... cliche's. It's fun doing it, because it is my job to give the cliche an unexpected twist ;)
    Thanks for this post Karen, always inspiring, always helpful

    ReplyDelete
  17. I am very sick of "think outside the box." "Dead as a doornail" is in the first paragraph or at least the first page of A Christmas Carol. Dickens uses it in such a funny way that I couldn't believe it was the real text, but it was.

    I think most cliches should be avoided. Few people are as clever as Dickens.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Loree,
    Thank you! I'd not given a lot of thought to them till I saw Klem's article a while back. I agree, we need other eyes to review our work. :)

    Marja,
    How funny! Well then, maybe we should get you to share on the topic! Btw - Happy Birthday!

    Nancy,
    I know it, some cliches are so overdone. I agree, few people are as clever as Dickens! :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  19. Passing this post on to every one I know. Thanks, Karen! This is all so kewl.

    ReplyDelete
  20. A good cliche is worth its weight in gold. :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. I think cliches could add flavor to a story if, for instance, you had a quirky character who drove everybody crazy by using them all the time. :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Joylene,
    Oh you are so sweet! Hope the links are helpful. :)

    Bish,
    And far and few between, at least when I write. LOL! But then we can savor them, right?

    Linda,
    That's a good way to put it - flavor! I like that! :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  23. I try not to use them, but sometimes cliches say exactly what I mean--oh, and they are littered throughout my first drafts, but no one is going to read my first draft so it's ok hehehe ;)

    ReplyDelete
  24. Great post, Karen. I occasionally use cliches in blog posts, but otherwise I try to avoid them. I have to be careful because I use them a lot when I speak :-(

    ReplyDelete
  25. Writing without cliches is such a challenge--but a good one! Some will slip through in the first draft but then the fun begins when revising to something new. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Thanks for the links--I know they will be helpful :-)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Lynda,
    I know it; sometimes they just fit! But they are, well, oh so cliched...! I'm with you; the first draft is safe. :)

    Jean,
    Thank you. :) I use them when speaking too. I think you are right, they do creep into writing because of that.

    Kenda,
    I agree, it is a good challenge. It makes us think, right? Glad you think the links will be helpful! I thought they were good. :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  27. I avoid cliches like the plague. LOL! I made myself laugh like a hyena.

    Seriously, I try to rework them, such as: "I'd jumped out of the tiger cage and into the jaws of the tiger," instead of the frying pan.

    Thanks for the links!

    ReplyDelete
  28. The first book I wrote was ridden with cliches. Nowadays I avoid them like the plague.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Well, I try to avoid cliches, but sometimes slip into my writing. Thankfully I have a great writers group who always catch them and kindly point them out to me. Now, I'm off to check out the other sites you mentioned. Thanks, Karen! Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Thanks for the links Karen. Sometimes cliches slip into my writing and other times, I must admit, I am not even aware they are a cliche! I do like using metaphors and similies. Reading others gets my mind thinking of new ones to use in my descriptive writing.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I catch myself using cliches quite often. Thanks for sharing the link. I need to check it out!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hi Karen -

    What do you do when you don't even know you've used a cliche? Ack. They're such a natural part of my vocabulary.

    My critique partners have fun pointing them out.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

    ReplyDelete
  33. I try to avoid them. However, there is a time and place for using cliches... they work well when writing non-fictional humorous pieces.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Jen,
    You are too funny. Perhaps this is why you write humor. :) I like reworking them too; they don't sound old and tired that way.

    Rachna,
    I think maybe we all use them, especially to start, you know?

    Linda,
    There are a lot of things that slip into my writing when I am not looking. Or even when I am looking. :) Writers' groups are great, aren't they?

    Lynn,
    You are welcome! I do the same thing with the cliches. I think you are right; reading other things helps.

    Susie,
    I kind of run in spurts with cliches depending on what I am writing. Hope you find the links helpful!

    Susan,
    That's why God made crit partners, you know? :)

    Michelle,
    Me too, but I agree, they work in some places. Humor is one good place. :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  35. The cliches in that article are pretty worn out and well known. I don't think I've seen them in fiction in a long time. Unless the writer is trying to make that point, and they're meant to amuse. Then, it might be cool as a cucumber. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  36. Aha, cliches, I avoid them like the plague.
    At the end of the day, to be honest, you know, you know what I'm saying, cliches are my pet peeve and make me cringe :)
    Take care and keep thinking outside the 'blog'.
    Gary

    ReplyDelete
  37. I do find cliches creeping in from time to time. Oops, there's one now! Sometimes I think it's shorthand that can help you keep the reader swept up in the story or eve make it sound more natural.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Mare,
    It is a worn out list, and I think I've mostly seen them in humor writing lately too. Cool as a cucumber - gotta love that! :)

    Gary,
    I'm glad to know you avoid them like the plague! lol I do like that - "outside the blog". Will have to remember that one!

    Annie,
    Yes, they do sneak in unawares don't they? I wonder if you aren't on to something.

    Blessings,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  39. Hi Karen...I try not to use cliches but admittedly, they do slip in now and then.

    I think it's important to be cognizant to avoid them like the plague. Whoops. There I go again. hee hee

    Avoid them. Period. Susan

    p.s. Thanks for visiting and commenting, too!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Thanks for all the links, Karen. They would be good help in my editing. I've bookmarked and saved.

    Nas

    ReplyDelete
  41. So many good things. Thank you Karen!

    ReplyDelete
  42. Susan W.,
    You are funny! :) I avoid them like the plague too. In theory anyway. It's always fun to stop by your blog. How is that sweet grandbaby?

    Nas,
    You are welcome. Glad you thought them bookmark worthy! :)

    Lydia,
    Hope you find them helpful! Thanks a bunch!

    Blessings,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  43. If barn walls could talk. Our barn walls would have a lot to say. Ha. You know I have horses and write horse stories. Right? Great post. Checking out the links pronto!

    CONGRADS RHONDA! You rock!

    Hugs amigo. Smooches too.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Robyn,
    Yes, I bet those walls would have some fun stories! Thanks so much, hope those links are helpful! Take care, amigo!
    Hugs,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!