Friday, September 18, 2009

Let's Get Fresh

I’m talking about writing here, so don’t get your panties in a wad. Sorry, I do enjoy that phrase. It’s a throwback to my younger years and those memories of mouth cleanings with Dove soap.

Now, the fresh fruit was posted because I needed a picture. If it makes you hungry, I apologize, which I do frequently. Go on to the grocery store. I’m not a fruit stand.

Okay, back to fresh writing. Have you ever read a book so dinged with cliches you wanted to drown yourself in your dog’s water bowl? Are we guilty of using them in our work? You bet your bottom dollar. If you can’t beat them, join them. Or as George Carlin would say, “If you can’t beat them, arrange to have them beaten.”

At least he spiked it.

Allow me to share the meaning of cliche, even though we know them better than our own children: A saying, expression, idea or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, rendering it a stereotype, especially when at some point it was considered meaningful or novel.

Although cliches can sometimes be used in fiction for comedic effect, we should remember a key word here. SOMETIMES. And it had better be funny. A no go and your readers might be swell enough to flip the page, but if you try again and fail, they could storm over to the fireplace, book or short story in hand, and snap a match. At least their wee bones would be warmed on a cold and stormy night.

Really, if we can, and we can, don’t socialize with cliches. They talk behind our backs, and give our readers wrinkles. Now there are loopholes, well, maybe one loophole. If a cliche can be spun around to make it zing-which, ahem..I’m guilty of- then do. But not too often.

Cliches aside, fresh prose should always be the standard. Think beyond the box. Give people thoughts for their pennies. We can always notch up our words, allowing them to sing opera, or belt out the Stones, Van Halen, Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin. The key is throwing open the door and making an entrance. Dress up those words in black leather pants and let them knock back a good stiff whiskey, then strut them around like a freakin’ peacock!

Bad peacock, but you get the point. Don’t be afraid to let your words glitter and leave your characters room to open wide and speak their truth. So what if your crazy Aunt Polly, who holds tea parties for her cats, stands gape-jawed at something you’ve written? All the better. Maybe you’ve awakened something dormant in her. Maybe she’ll slap on some make-up, down a margarita, and go out dancing with her husband Carl.

Or maybe she won’t like you. Gasp!

If pleasing the world is our writing goal, we’d best hang our letters this instant and go open a bakery. Cupcakes anyone? People will always love sugar. So Sugars, if we’re going to write, please let characters breathe without the Aunt Polly’s of the world peering over our shoulders. Do send them out for cheesecake at a bakery in Bora Bora. And remember to pluck and add fresh stuff and not the wilted crap.

For fun, here’s a bowl full of stale cliches.

My favorite, colored up by George W. Bush: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.

So true ye fiction writers!

Here’s more.

Breaking the bank

When all is said and done

Bored stiff

All hell broke lose

A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Rome was not built in a day

Please feel free to add your own favorites. Maybe if we can secretly corral enough of them and drown them in the Hudson River, we can make the world a better place.


  1. Ha! You made me chuckle. Especially the George W. Bush line.

    My favourite cliches are:

    run like the wind
    serious as a heart attack
    slick New York executive
    corrupt politician


  2. Awesome post! Fresh fruit? Cupcakes? Excuse my drool.

    time stood still
    the world stopped spinning
    an endless moment
    I'd forget my head if it wasn't attached (although, I actually use that one in reference to myself because it's so true...but replace "head" with "a$$" )
    like a chicken with its head cut off
    sticks and stones may break my bones
    the pot calling the kettle black
    multiplying like rabbits

  3. Jai, yeah, I rather miss old George's remixes. Glad to give you a laugh. That serious as a heart attack only goes so far!

  4. Thanks Lydia, but if I'm handing out fresh fruit and cupcakes there shall also be napkins. For the drool!

    I grew up hearing my Mom use the, "I'd forget my head if it wasn't attached." I've used that around here too, but the girls flinch when I say it. They aren't too keen on that one.

    Like a chicken with its head cut off is pretty graphic too, if you think about it. I grew up on a farm and know exactly what that looks like...eek. I'd hide out in my bedroom with the shades drawn tight when it was that time. I was too tender for the dark side of farm life.

    Wonder if the same person coined both of those?

  5. That's scary, D. And it probably was the same person. Too coincidental.

    Stuff hits you during the oddest of moments. I just finished cleaning my bathroom (yes, at nearly 9pm, don't ask). While I was scrubbing the toilet, more phrases popped in my head:

    light as a feather
    hit me like a ton of bricks
    quicker than a wink
    smooth as a baby's bottom

    Figure that one out. Do I need therapy?

  6. Lydia, I guess you hadn't heard there is no cleaning toliets on Fridays, past 5:00 pm. That's the rules.:)

    No therapy needed. Maybe a good concert and a beer or two!

  7. What? Why didn't anyone tell me this rule? I spent hours cleaning my bathroom last night.


  8. Now you know, Jai. I have a whole list of rules to keep life entertaining if you ever need them!

  9. Gosh, my mind has drawn a blank...Hey that was one, wasn't it? :) Another one: It's hot as hell!
    Thanks for the fun post.

  10. Two good ones, Anita. And btw... it is hot as hell in Texas today! Thanks for stopping in.

  11. Dorraine: Loved this! Your fresh fruit pairs exquisitely with your fresh words. Going to look for my leather pants now. I don't know...I kind a like a stiff bore every now and again!

  12. Thanks, Ronda. Good luck finding those leather pants. Mine have gone missing!:)

  13. My mind has gone blank but really enjoyed reading. Kate x

  14. Nice of you to stop in, Kate! Thanks.