Lesson Nine from a Manuscript Red Line: Written Any Good (Bad) Cliché’s lately?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

I found this photograph on Wikipedia with the definition of Cliché.  It’s pretty old, and the copy right is outdated.

You can tell, even with how old this cartoon is, that if they were making fun of some clichés this long ago, what would they think now?

I must admit, I am guilty myself of using the last one.  Now that I see it in a picture, I have to giggle.  Sometimes, I think you need to have something drawn to see the “funny” in it… Like tossing your head in the air.

The publisher who redlined the Gold Mine Manuscript marked “in a split Second”, “Looked her in the eye”, “Laid low” and “in all shapes and sizes” as  clichés.   They also said that eyes don’t meet, but gazes can meet.  (Can you picture two people’s eyes actually meeting?  Now that I have that visual, I stop every time I start typing it.)

There are a lot more that are common, that we probably aren’t even aware we are using.  For me, now that I think of it… My characters always drop their eyes.  I guess I can change that to “lowered their gaze” since they aren’t actually dropping their eyeballs out of their heads.

I’ll also mention that they weren’t crazy about colloquial expressions either, as they thought they wouldn’t be understood by everyone, so use those sparingly as well.

Write on!

6 responses to “Lesson Nine from a Manuscript Red Line: Written Any Good (Bad) Cliché’s lately?

  1. Clichés are so pervasive in our culture, its hard to catch them. But, I do agree that unless you want to sound like the “Three-volume novel at a glance” (which I love), they must be caught (by going over the manuscript with a “fine-toothed comb” – smile). Thanks for sharing all that you’ve learned from the feedback on the manuscript. A “stinking gold mine” of information indeed!!

  2. Pingback: Lesson Thirty from a Manuscript Red Line: Finale! Summing it all up | Jennifer M Eaton

  3. If I keep reading your blog, I’m going to have an endless list of things to check. These are all great reminders to keep us from getting lazy in our writing and using the first words that come to mind.

    • The sick thing is, I am only on about page 25 or so. This publisher really went nuts with the comments, but it’s to our benefit! I am still thrilled that the author shared this with me!

  4. I think the ‘eyes’ thing is a little over-dramatic. Readers know that the writer isn’t actually talking about their eyes physically meeting. Which sounds better:

    Their eyes met.
    Their gazes met.

    Same thing with “she tossed her head back.” the reader knows the character isn’t removing her head and tossing it behind her. I read all the times in books about ‘eyes meeting’ and ‘throwing heads back’ in laughter. I would have to debate them on this one.

    other cliche’s: spit-shine, seconds later, hot as hell, smooth as honey…yeah, they’re right. those need to disappear for good.

    I read a great post on Editor Beth Hill’s blog on cliche’s and how we should avoid them. check it out here:

    http://theeditorsblog.net/2011/01/26/cliches-are-they-really-that-bad/

    Jenny