4 Steps to Avoid Cliches

The cliché, a wretched piece of work and is so dark it prevents all who write them from ever getting their point across.  Therefore, in this day and age, and to avoid something as easy as pie, so that every writer can have their fifteen minutes of fame, I present you with a foolproof way to avoid these low hanging fruits.  I’d like to purpose a 4 step system that will surely make you become the best writer you can possibly be. 

1)     Think about what you want to say

2)     See if the phrase comes too easily or is over used

3)     Make it your own

4)     Repeat.

Sarcasm over.  Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system . . ., or it would be better to say that I . . . my point is avoiding clichés is a very difficult thing since they are so engrained in our minds. 

If you noticed I used several clichés throughout those opening paragraphs.  How did they make you feel as you read them?  If they came across as cheap and made me look like a poor and unoriginal writer then they did their job, because clichés exist for no other reason than lazy writing, and good ironic satire or teaching example. 

Everything I said in those paragraphs are true about clichés, and how they can make your work seem unprofessional and cheap.  The four-steps listed above are what we’ll discuss here in a moment, but I wanted to provide some time for you to really look at clichés and see how they made you feel as a reader.

Pay attention to your writing and how it can cause people to see you and your work as less than adequate by using an over abundance of clichés. 

Now, the steps.  Ironically this whole post is a cliché in that it is on clichés: probably one of the most over done topics in all of writing.  But anyway, I’m done not talking about them. 


Step 1:  Think about what you want to say.

If you want to say a character is running down the street, try to figure out how to say that in a unique way.  Oftentimes this is where the process will end, since you will probably figure out a way to say this without coming across as too cliché. 


Step 2:  See if the phrase or action is coming too easily. 

This is not to say that good writing can’t come easily.  More on this when we talk about the Flow State in a future post.  But, if the idea seems worn out or comes out of your mind too easily due to familiarity, such as saying, “He jogged down the street one morning,” then there could be a problem. 

At that point you go directly into step 3 until you can edit the phrase or idea into a totally original one. 


Step 3: If the phrase, trope, idea, etc. comes across too easily or seems overly familiar, see if you can change it up a little until it is your own. 

So, our character is running, and you end up writing, “He ran down the street under the morning sun.”  While that might be nice to read, it doesn’t come across as anything totally unique. 

An edit could come along the lines of, “His feet moved underneath him, carrying him over the pavement as the sun rose.”  This still feels a little unauthentic and awkwardly worded, so, more editing. 

Tommy jogged this morning, passing the brightly colored trees he loved.”  If you’re following the progression of edits here, what’s going on is I’m trying to make the act of running less of a generic instance and transform it into an authentic sentence that reveals the character, and arguably the writer. 

The first one only gives an action and a time of day and comes across as a cliché since it gives us nothing about the character other than he, or she, is a generic morning jogger.  The second one sounds more poetic, but still doesn’t give any more information about the character, though it is less cliché.  The final version gives character to the runner since it implies that he loves running on sunny mornings due to nostalgia or the aesthetics of mornings, all the while avoiding a cliché.

 This is the one of the biggest reasons to avoid clichés, because they do nothing for your story and only hamper it.


Step 4: Repeat

I would say that if you are writing and need to keep things going, mark the cliché for future edits.  But if it’s bothering you, or you get stuck, go back and fix the cliché.  And whenever you come upon the next cliché then you repeat this process until the whole work is your own. 

Sometimes reworking a cliché will reveal new things about a character or situation within your work that will allow your writing to be better.  To go back to our runner, when I first started writing this post I didn’t realize his name was Tommy or that he enjoyed the way the sun shined on plants in the morning, which raises more questions as to his backstory and why he likes these things. 


Avoid clichés and make your work your own.  A cliché is horrible and must be avoided.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have overly generic fanfic to write.  I’m coming for you Sukka!!!!! You are forever my OTP!!!!  (No Avatar the Last Airbender fanfic was written in the making of this blog post, and if you’re a fanfic writer keep writing it and hone your craft.  I have nothing against you.  You’re awesome.  Go write!)



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