Writing Advice: Avoid All Clichés?

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I’m sure you’ve heard this writing advice before, but it always bears repeating: you should really avoid clichés  I’m certain that if you have ever taken a Creative Writing course, participated in a writing group or workshop, or even done some research on writing, you have heard about clichés  For those of you who don’t know, clichés are overused tropes and story techniques that sound hackneyed in your writing. There are many writing clichés that writers are advised to avoid at all costs, but someone has now compiled the Top Ten Storytelling Clichés you should avoid.

Yes, the website Lit Reactor has written a fabulous article about these clichés that we’ve all heard about. There are clichés regarding character descriptions, having a character be ‘the chosen one,’ and even knocking your characters unconscious simply for plot advancement. But my favorite cliché listed here is “broadcasting an upcoming plot twist.” Basically, this cliché means that you’re announcing to your readers that something big is going to happen. The example that Lit Reactor uses is The Da Vinci Code, where a passage says something to the effect of “Little did he know that he’d soon turn the tables.” Just reading that sentence makes my toes curl, honestly. You should definitely avoid broad, transparent statements like this in your writing.

Even as I write this post, though, I wonder whether “avoid” is the correct word to use here. Sure, all of these so-called clichés listed in Lit Reactor’s post would make for some pretty bad writing, especially if they were all combined in one story. But I don’t know if you should necessarily avoid them altogether.

I think some better advice would be to make these clichés your own. Use one of these clichés if you absolutely must. But add so much of yourself and your personal writing style that it’s no longer recognizable as a cliché. After all, I think we’ve all read some books that contain the “chosen one” trope that have been lauded for their engaging writing (ahem — Harry Potter — ahem). I challenge you to make these clichés your own!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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