Monday, 25 July 2016

Cliches Do Have a Place in Writing

Writers are always being to not to use cliches (avoid them like the plague etc) as they are a sign of laziness and lack of imagination. We should all create wonderful new similes and metaphors to delight and intrigue (or confuse and bewilder) our readers.

Now, that piece of advice - or demand, depending on who you listen to - is all well and good until you start to get inside the head of your characters.  Real people regularly use cliches as part of their everyday conversations.  Most are neither lazy nor lacking in imagination.  They use cliches as a tried and trusted way of getting their message across.

Okay, so we all know a few exceptions who can't string two sentences together without having to slip in a cliche or three.  But, for the most part, a judiciously placed cliche really can enhance a piece of writing.

So what triggered this minor fit of petulance on my part?

I was reading a passage where a principle character was lamenting the break up of her marriage and, though she remained friends with her ex, the missed opportunities for them to get back together.

"That ship had sailed," was how she put it.

Now, this isn't one of the most heinous of cliches but it still ranks amongst those combinations of words that we are told never use.

The thing is though, it was brilliant.  It perfectly fitted the personality of the character.  I could easily see her saying it.

So there you go.  Used sparingly and at the right time cliches have their place.
And don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

1 comment:

  1. As a writer who loves to experiment, I'm trying to write a short story using as many cliches as I can think of. It may end up being as bad as it sounds, but I'm looking forward to the challenge :-)