“Most of my clichés aren’t original.” –Chuck Knox
A word to the wise, dear authors: avoid clichés like the plague. I’m not going to beat around the bush. You’re overusing them. It might drive you up the wall to hear this, but each cliché is standing out like a sore thumb. So how do you minimize them? That’s the burning question. Comb through your manuscripts and wield your red pen to your heart’s content. Bite the bullet. I know it’s easier said than done, but I have faith in you. You’re a force to be reckoned with. You can hold your own. You got your feet wet with your debut novel, but now it’s time to go the extra mile. Think of your readers. If the shoe were on the other foot, would you want to keep seeing the same phrases over and over? It goes without saying that your readers will be happy as clams that you put your best foot forward. Mark my words, you’ll knock their socks off. Just my two cents.
Okay, so that was me playing around, stuffing as many clichés as I could into one paragraph. I was inspired to write about them because I recently finished a romance where the characters turned or spun on their heels so often, I wondered if I’d accidentally purchased a book on dance lessons.
Not all clichés are bad or an indication of laziness. Some are purposeful and efficiently express an idea. Writers often want to take readers on a journey grounded in the familiar, and the occasional cliché does just that. For example, saying someone is a “broken record” succinctly conveys that the person’s constant repetition of a statement or idea is annoying.
But others slip past us because they’re so natural. (Heck, if I’m not careful, my characters would “lean in” more than Sheryl Sandberg.) These are the ones to be mindful of. They’re like crazy Uncle Gus who always seems to duck unnoticed into family gatherings and inevitably passes out on the couch, snoring after imbibing too much Pabst Blue Ribbon. We love Gus, but he needs to be put out to Pabsture.
Since I read a lot of lesbian romance, what I really wanted to do was have fun incorporating as many clichés that are specific to the genre as I could into a tiny story snippet. It’s a mini celebration of sorts, a Vanna White wave to the phrases we see so often that they’ve become old friends. My guess is this story fragment will sound familiar simply because you see these expressions as frequently as I do. Feel free to add your favorites in the Comments. Better yet, share your own snippet!
Emma had been investigating Rotham City’s superhero, Sly Owl, for over two years. Unbelievably, all paths seemed to lead to her friend, Tori, whom she’d had a major crush on for what seemed like forever. Having finally confronted Tori about her findings, Tori’s only response was to smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes.
“It’s why you’ve never admitted what’s between us, isn’t it?” Emma asked.
Tori reached for Emma’s hand. When their fingers touched, Emma felt a shiver run through her. Her breath caught as Tori pulled her close, their bodies fitting perfectly together.
“If anyone finds out how I feel about you, they might…” Tori tucked a strand of Emma’s hair behind her ear and dropped her gaze to Emma’s mouth. “I can’t let anything happen to you,” Tori murmured. The electricity between them was almost palpable, and Emma wanted nothing more than Tori’s full lips on hers. Just as Tori closed the distance between them, the distress signal projecting a flying owl symbol lit up the Rotham City skies.
Tori dropped her hand, and Emma instantly felt the loss of the touch. With a shy smile, Tori said, “We have a lot to talk about.” She turned on her heel and was gone in the flap of a wing.