Friday, 23 December 2016

5 Sins that Mess Up Your Writing

It was a bright sunny day with little white fluffy clouds in the sky.
Photo copyright Janet Cameron

There are clichés in all areas of writing, in story plots, scenes, phrases and titles, and mostly they need to be avoided. You can allow them in dialogue if your character would naturally speak in that way. Even so, it’s probably best not to overdo it. Here are five examples.
Once you are cliché-aware and actively watching your own writing, you’ll find similar clichés everywhere. Once you recognise them, you can discard and/or replace them.
Cliché No. 1 :Story Plots
These rules are found in the writing guidelines of most women’s story magazines:
  • Avoid anything about twins. Since, and probably before Shakespeare, mistaken identify relating to twins has been a favourite plot. (Most mags won’t look at a story if they see the word "twin" in the text.)
  • A wife discovers her husband’s lover is a man. (Or vice versa.)
  • A conman tries to hoodwink a sweet old lady, but it is she who is the heartless criminal.
  • The conman gets duped, the murderer drinks the poisoned wine, and other stories of that ilk.
  • Another mistaken identity "no-no" is that of the female impersonator, who pops up at the last moment to "surprise" us. Perhaps he’s wearing the same posh dress as the heroine or he’s somebody’s wife or lover. He has to go!
Cliché No. 2 - Well-worn scenarios

These sentences, or sentences like them, will betray you as a beginner writer. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a beginner, as everyone must start somewhere. But the sooner you discard beginner habits, the sooner you’ll be an expert! Haven't you encountered these scenarios before?
  • "She stood in front of her mirror and surveyed herself, appraisingly. 'Not bad,' she thought."
  • "It was a lovely day, with little white fluffy clouds drifting across the bright blue sky."
Surveyed is a terribly over-used word. People are always surveying rooms, each other and their reflections in mirrors, in the stories of new writers. And - why are fluffy clouds always little? 

Cliche No. 3 - Idioms conveying emotions

Don’t describe your hero or heroine as feeling...
  • Over the moon.
  • On cloud nine.
  • Feet hardly touching the ground
 Cliché No. 4 - More platitudes - overused, boring, thought-crushing... 
  • The game is up.
  • The first flush of youth.
  • Acting more in sorrow than anger.
  • Cannot see the wood for the trees.
Cliché No. 5 - Stereotypical Poetical References from Nature:
  • The Spirit of Autumn (or Spring, Summer or Winter)
  • The River of Life
Turn Clichés Around

Sometimes you can turn clichés around. The nasty little cliché, “seen better days,” was turned into the equally nasty but witty, “past his/her sell-by date.” But now, even this is a cliché through overuse. If you want to be mean about someone’s age, you need to think of a new image and make it your own.

Best answers in the comments section please! Just for fun. Ageism is the final "ism" I think, but that's another article.

Shakespeare, incidentally, was responsible for many of our present-day clichés, but of course, they weren't clichés when he invented them, but fresh, brilliant writing because they were original - then.

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