Creative writing tutors and members of writing groups often warn against using clichés, partly because relying on clichés is seen as laziness on the part of the writer.   One of the most common clichés is “cool as a cucumber”, a description of someone’s calm reaction to an unexpected event or news of one.

At my last meeting with the local novelist group, one of the members advised me to watch out for my own personal clichés.  She was referring not to actual clichés (like “cool as a cucumber”) but to phrases and ideas I tend to overuse.   For instance, the central character of the novel sensing someone watching, lights in a house mysteriously going off or coming on.   Old ideas that appear in all my writing.

The challenge now is to create new ideas and tighten up the plot.


2 thoughts on “Personal Clichés

  1. Hi, Lawrence. I agree that tight plots are a good idea in thrillers.

    A writer’s group might have advised Alistair MacLean to avoid radio transmitters, weak women called Maria and variations of the phrase “the shapelessness that only the dead can assume.” But MacLean, who never rewrote anything, was one of the top 10 bestselling authors in the world. Forty years on, most of his books are still in print. If you read and re-read his best ones you can see why. Every sentence has a purpose. He said he never wrote the first sentence until he knew what the last one would be; and I believe he had a very detailed plan for every sentence in between as well.

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