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: