Use It? Or Lose It?: Narrative Cliches

This is the first of my three-post blog series, “Use It? Or Lose It?”, where we’ll discuss common cliches in the writing process and what exactly we should do with them.

Use it or lose it

We all know what cliches are, right? Alright. All of the blog posts I have read on cliches say pretty much one thing about them: kick ’em to the curb. I try not to be as hasty as that, because cliches can be pretty awesome if you give them the chance.

So, cliches in a book’s narrative.

Narrative cliches might look something like this:

  • Dead as a doornail
  • Dog days of summer
  • Tip of the iceberg
  • White as a ghost
  • Hard as a rock
  • If looks could kill…
  • Glaring daggers
  • Scared straight
  • Sly as a fox
  • Digging yourself a grave

Those are just a few of the many cliched phrases that make their way into writing and everyday life. You may find that you use some of these in your own writing.

But here’s the thing: cliches aren’t bad. Cliches are just misunderstood little helpers that try their best to aid you in clearly conveying your message. Cliches are popular and widely used for a reason. They make sense and usually apply to the situation.

In my opinion, you don’t need to totally eliminate all traces of cliches in your writing. They’re easy to use and they work effectively. Just be careful not to overdo it. If you have five cliched phrases on each page, you need to dial it back a little. But a cliche here and there? The reader, since they will have heard the phrase before, will understand exactly what you’re trying to get across.

Just pick and choose the times when you want to drop a so-called “cliche” into your narrative. It’s not as bad as some writers make it sound, and it’s your choice. There is such a thing as too much, but all things in moderation, right?

How about you! Do you use narrative cliches? Which are your favorites? Do you think they should be used or not? Do tell!

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2 thoughts on “Use It? Or Lose It?: Narrative Cliches

  1. I’ve read before that narrative cliches are incredibly easy for readers to gloss over. As in, their brain reads the words but the meaning behind the words doesn’t resonate because the words/phrase is so familiar. That’s generally why I steer clear of them. But great post! Can’t wait to see what the others are.

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    • That’s a great point! It might depend on which phrase is used and how. I particularly love some of these and use them every once in a while. To be honest, I don’t think the use of cliches (in narrative) makes writing better or worse. It’s just a conscious choice for each writer. 🙂

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