“Nothing will work unless you do.” Maya Angelou
“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Vince Lombardi
Cliché: 1) a trite phrase or expression; also: the idea expressed by it; 2) a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation; 3) something (as a menu item) that has become overly familiar or commonplace.
When I sent a good friend of mine the beginning of my YA novel, he sent back enthusiastic words of encouragement that were music to my ears. But far more valuable, he also gave me some very specific notes on things to watch out for. Number four on his list: “Sometimes the language gets tired. Most of the time it is graceful and lyrical; every once in a while there’s a cliché.”
”Sometimes the language gets tired.” What a helpful comment! And what a great way to describe a cliché: tired language. That’s it exactly, isn’t it? Let’s face it, writing that’s littered with clichés — or even just sprinkled with them — is boring and fatigued; it lacks surprise and energy, sparkle and sizzle.
Once I finish my first draft, I’m going to go back to the beginning and ferret out every piece of pooped-out prose I can find. I want my story to sing, not sag! Thinking about this pesky problem, I realized that I drift into cliché country when I’m feeling lazy, uninspired, or just plain tired.
A few days ago, while reviewing a page of my novel, the phrase, “difficult brew” cropped up. BORING. Not good enough! So I turned to my trusty thesaurus and spent an enjoyable bit of time chasing down more exciting adjectives. Here’s the list jotted in my margin: tricky, thorny, troublesome, toilsome, laborious, knotty, bothersome, grueling, intricate. Anyone of these is more colorful and dangerous than “difficult” — that’s for sure! Have you ever gone cliché hunting and found more quarry than you expected?