Friday, October 12th, 2012

Writing Prompt: Jump Starting with Clichés

A while back, I wrote a post about clichés (and why you should avoid using them when you write). The post is old by web standards, but the information is still timely.

A cliché is a phrase or an expression that has become overly familiar through use. I’ll use my favorite example here. Two cliches should jump right out at you :

The car barreled down the road at breakneck speed.

General criticism states that a writer who uses clichés fails creatively; that he resorts to tired — easy — language rather than struggling to find the right words.

One of the nice things about clichés is that they provide a common reference point for people. In dialogue, clichés are great shortcuts for understanding. When the TV announcer tells you Superman is “faster than a speeding bullet…” you get a really good idea of how fast Superman flies, without having to hear the technical details.

It’s these mental pictures that make clichés such good prompts.

Here’s Your Prompt:

Below is a list of common clichés. Read them over. Stop when your mind creates a mental picture after reading. Write for ten or fifteen minutes about what you see. Don’t use the actual cliché in your prose.

  • Slow as molasses.
  • A bone of contention.
  • Fanning the flames.
  • Food for thought.
  • Nose to the grindstone.
  • The eleventh hour.
  • Pissing into the wind.
  • Cast pearls before swine.
  • Old as dirt.
  • Zigged when he should have zagged.

If you need further inspiration, here are two Web sites which have long lists of hackneyed phrases and expressions. They are:

Good luck!

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