Friday, September 18, 2009
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!
Breaking the bank
When all is said and done
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.
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