16 August 2019

More about Clichés

by O'Neil De Noux

Back when I was learning how to write fiction, I was taught to not use clichés in exposition. Using them in dialogue was OK as people speak in clichés, which meant using clichés in first person books was OK, since first person books are essentially dialogue – the protagonist telling us what happened. You following me?

Now, in the 21st Century I see a lot of writers use clichés in exposition. I see it in novels and short stories in top magazines and anthologies.

Here are some examples (I will not name the author or the book/story). I've also changed names to protect the … never mind.
It was a far cry from home.

Oliver introduced Donnie to his better half.

The blushing bride came down the aisle.

Lolly was cute as a button.

Rayson was a dyed in the wool rebel.
I was going to list more clichés but how boring is that?

OK, I'm no stickler for rules, but when did this change? I remember Elmore Leonard's, "never use all hell broke loose."

Hell has broken loose. Clichés abound. No big deal. If the reader understands what the writer writes, it's OK with me. It's just, well, with my Christian Brothers and Jesuit education, I stumble over clichés, I pause when I read them. Do any of you?

That's all for now.


  1. I don't merely pause, I cringe. One cliché that won't die is, "If I told you, I'd have to kill you." Pease… kill the saying instead.

  2. I feel like cliche usage is often lazy writing and it makes me lose interest. I do like it when cliches are turned on their head. Blazing Saddles took a lot of cliched stereotypes and made comedy gold.

  3. I think it depends on the context. Sometimes they work and I go with the flow. And other times they stand out like a sore thumb (how's that for a cliche?).

  4. In the spirit of Larry Maddox, this ain't my first rodeo and cliches don't improve with age.

  5. When cliches are most offensive to me is when I've used one without realizing it until final edit.

  6. I don't mind cliches when they are spoken by a character who OF COURSE would speak in nothing but. Otherwise... they do get old. Or is that a cliche?

  7. Let's run them up the flagpole and see who salutes.

    Sports is loaded with cliches– getting to first base, home run, 3-and-2, tip in, on the 10 and goal to go, armchair quarterback, end run, punt, bunt, fumble on the 5, and on and on and on.

  8. Thanks for the comments, y'all.


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