Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Sandra here with some coffee.

Chocolate Velvet of course, hot chocolate, and hot tea--all designed to wake you up or give you a boost if its afternoon.

Have you ever had contest judges or editors tell you that something in your writing is "cliche"?


I hate that. Especially when its true.

So what do they mean when they say something is cliche?

Cliche usually refers to something that is so overused it loses its impact.

So the judge/editor/crit partner could be referring to plot cliche, character cliche, or narrative/dialogue cliche. There are even settings that are cliche.

In other words OVER USED

An example of plot cliche could be the overuse of small town hero or heroine leaves town-goes to big city and leaves behind true love to find themselves--returns to small town and realizes should have never left. This is the plot line for almost every Larry Levinson / Hallmark movie.

Or A will is left by a well-meaning relative that the hero and heroine must live together.

Or An amnesia plot.

Or I find in Christian novels either the poor heroine or hero are widowed and must find help raising children.

Now does this mean one can't use these plots? After all there are only 20 plots out there according to Ronald B. Tobias who wrote 20 Master Plots (And How to Build Them)

Many of these sell or they wouldn't be overused.

The secret if you use these plots is to find a fresh and new way to present them. What the reader/editor/judge doesn't want is to be bored. So if you have an original solution, situation, or outlook, these will work.

For example, The heroine was widowed in both of Mary Connealy's books MONTANA ROSE and THE HUSBAND TREE. But the way she handled both characters was totally different and definitely unique. You wouldn't call those books cliche. smile


The wimpy heroine who must find a man to take care of her.

The hero or heroine who are apart because of a simple misunderstanding.

Or the hero or heroine who allows some information held over their heads to keep them apart.


Things like: "swept off her feet" "played hard to get"

You can get away with cliche when used in dialogue, especially if the character is known for using cliche.


Okay your turn. What cliches get your ire up? What plot, character or narrative cliches have you noticed lately when reading/critiquing/judging?

All who post a cliche will be included in a drawing for a Seeker book of your choice. Be sure and include your email address and a comment that you want to be entered.

Winner to be announced on weekend edition

"Let the best man/woman win." naaaa can't use that one.


Iapetus999 said...

I avoid cliche's like the plague. I just can't help myself.

Anywho, here's my least favorite plot: the Evil Twin Episode!
When the Hero is confronted with a doppelganger who is in some way a polar opposite.
I don't care what spin you put on it. If the same actor plays 2 roles in the same film, it's the Evil Twin episode. And if one version wears a goatee...

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Cliched purple prose is quite annoying...but in general cliches are lazy writing.

Her stomach churned...

Her heaving breasts..

Her heart raced...

His stomach roiled...

Lisa Jordan said...

I'm guilty of using a plot cliche in my first novel, but I'm fine with it because it's a story that needed to be written. And I'm hoping the house I submit to will be fine with it--one of the editors listened to my pitch at a conference and said it held all of the elements her house was looking for.

Off the top of my head, I'm not sure what cliches bug me. I think narrative cliches bug me more than plot cliches.

Through My Book Therapy, Susie Warren teaches us to look at the heart of the emotion and find a physical response to what the character is feeling. It's so hard at times, but takes my writing to a deeper level.

Great post, Sandra! Thanks for sharing!

Sandra Leesmith said...

lapetus999 You are too funny. To start with a cliche. How cliche.

I agree. The Evil Twin can be boring.

So it is up to us to make it "fresh"
Hmmmm that almost sounds like a cliche itself.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Tina, Have you read the category romances of the seventies? They are sooooo full of purple prose.

But then again, I used to love reading them.

Pass the coffee.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Lisa, I'm sure you presented your plot well. Like it is said, there are only 20 plots anyway so the basic element is going to have to be cliche.

If the editor was interested, I'd go with that opinion. smile

Anyone hungry?

Its pouring down rain here. How about some apple fritters to go with that early morning coffee.

Ruthy should be on board soon with a feast.

Janet Dean said...

Excellent topic and wonderful points, Sandra! Cliches are easy to fall into. In a few short words our readers know exactly what we mean, but of course they're yawning. :-0

Finding a fresh way to describe emotion is difficult. Physical reactions are easy to write stale. I like to use a memory or an incident to ratchet up the emotion for the reader.

I brought apple fritters. Mmm. Just had to have one this morning!!


Janet Dean said...

Sandra!!!! You and I are on the same wave length this morning. That means twice as many apple fritters!! Yum!!


Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh, Tina, now I have to go delete all those phrases from my book! You're making this hard, Russo. Writing should be easy, shouldn't it?

Okay, I have one. I really hate the "simple misunderstanding" scenario. UGH! But there's a story behind why I hate them. Here's the story: I read this one book and thought the writing was phenomenal and the characters were incredibly original and lovable. So I read another one of her books, and I loved it too! It was even better than the first one. Loved it. The only thing that bothered me was that in both books, a little misunderstanding was what was keeping them apart after they fell in love. So I read her third book. The characters and the writing were still phenomenal, but the H/H jumped in bed together too soon (ick) and then a simple misunderstanding kept them apart until the very end! AARGH! And triple AARGH! Believe it or not, as frustrated as I was with that book, I read a fourth book of hers, and bam! The same thing. They hop in bed, then a simple misunderstanding keeps them apart until the very end.

NO NO NO! I felt like the little boy in The Princess Bride when he says, "Grandpa, you're messing up the story! Get it right!!!!!

So that's why I hate that.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tina said breasts!!!!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Janet,

Oops don't let anyone think apple fritters is becoming cliche. We can NEVER have enough of those.

When I read Courting Miss Adelaide, Courting the The Doctors Daughter and The Substitute Bride, I loved how you showed us emotion without cliche. I really felt for the characters. Great job.

And your plot situations were really fresh. Loved that too. Can hardly wait for your next book.

Kav said...

Your comment about making cliches fresh is really interesting. From a reader's viewpoint I have to say that there can be comfort in a cliche plot.

If I'm reading a romance that guarantees a happily ever after, for instance, I'm happy to settle into a widow/widower needing help with his children plot because I know that everything is going to work out in the end. That's one of the reasons I'm reading the book in the first place. What I don't know is what issues the characters have, what is going to pull them apart and eventually what will bring them together. While the plot might be considered cliche, the rest of the story isn't thanks to many multi-talented authors.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Melanie,

Yes, I have to admit I find the misunderstanding the most frustrating. I mean why don't they TALK about it or get it out or DO SOMETHING?

Thanks for sharing.

Ruthy, breasts is all we get this morning from you? Oh my.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Kav,

You are so right The situations and issues that make the characters alive and believable are what make the story "fresh" and interesting.

And yes, there are elements of cliche in genre. You have to provide what the reader expects. For example, if you read a mystery that never got solved or the characters weren't even making sense in their exploration of clues, you would be totally turned off.

And yes, romance readers are expecting certain plot developments too. Like the happy ever after-sigh
which we know is fiction anyway--right?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sorry, it took me a minute to get beyond the heaving breasts. :)

I'm with Sandra, I hate cliches, and then I go ahead and overuse other parts of speech or plot devices and become just as bad but I don't REALIZE it, so I'm really not all that guilty, right?????

GRRRRRRRR on me. My least favorite plot device or cliche in Christian fiction: The overwhelming desire of some authors to SAVE everyone.

I can't even go there, it annoys me so much because I don't see it as real even though I'll jump on board and acknowledge God's amazing grace and love and willingness to forgive.

STILL... Are ya' kiddin' me? Sometimes bad is bad. Move on. Nothing thins a plot quicker for me than being expected to fall in love with a character the author wanted me to hate previously.

An obvious egg-on-Ruthy's-face exception to that is Wade in Mary's trilogy because I've actually come to like him. I think part of that is he was just a boy in Montana Rose, a misguided teen like I've seen and worked with and he came into his own through grace. Or Mary's skill level at weaving a story and allowing time between the initial story and Wade's... We see a bit more of his growth in The Husband Tree and he becomes more mature, more identifiable, less peevish and whiny.

You know how it KILLS me to admit that, right???? Enough I might send a mouse to her via parcel post just to get even for making me admit my faults in public.

Oh my stars, humble pie doesn't taste nearly as good as lemon cream.

Pepper was just privy to my red pen so I'll share a few things that may or may not be considered cliche but strike me as 'thin' when used:

Unusual movements:

She spun around.
She darted.
Heart heaving...
She bobbed...
She gulped. (I mean, really... just the sound of the word 'gulp' should set it apart from normal usage.)

Do you notice that very rarely are men subjected to thin verbs and over-the-top actions?

He studied her...

He maintained his silence...

He paused, weighing her words...

He hesitated, his expression saying more than words ever could.

His quiet stare sent shivers of awareness coursing through her...

(He gets to quietly stare and assess, SHE gets to shiver awareness... Coursing shivers, no less...)

I think it's easy to minimize the characterization of our heroines by using words that diminish their strength.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of fourteen other very smart, adorable and beloved Seekers.

Grabbing coffee, chocolate velvet, sooooooo good, Sandra!!!

And I brought a cookie tray since I'm late for breakfast. Some with chocolate and some without just in case some of us gave up chocolate for Lent.

The peanut butter chip cookies are delightful. Very yum.

Ruthy (in tyrant mode it seems)

Audra Harders said...

But Sandra, it's so easy to be cliche! Afterall, we've heard the old adages for so many years, they're embedded in our brains.

So, time for spring cleaning, right?

You're right about the 20 main plots, the problem is often the author doesn't build them and them their own. Since we're in the thick of contest season, I've read so many interesting synopsises, yet the uniqueness of the story doesn't translate onto the entry page.

The plot can be as overused as they come, but it's up to the characters to make the situation their own.

Interesting characters equates to unique plots.

Thanks for the chocolate velvet coffee, smells sooooo good! And scones, I brought scones. Strawberry and blueberry. Hmmm, gotta love 'em!!

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Sandra!!! I have been WAITING for a blog like this, my friend, and was even tempted to write one myself because there is one phrase that pops up SOOO much in books I read that it has become cliche. I would say that I have read it in about 30% of the novels I read.

Now, don't get me wrong -- it's a great phrase, one I have even used myself and when I wrote it, I thought it was WONDERFUL!! Little did I know that almost everyone else thought it was "wonderful" too, and therefore, used it in his or her own writing. So here it is ... or a variation of what it is. Are you ready????

... but the smile didn't quite reach his eyes.

Come on now, how many of you out there have used this phrase??? I know I have, so I will be the first to admit it. Fess up, guys ... :)

And, Tina, I also confess that I have used one or two of those cliches you mentioned in your comment as well. Unfortunately I DO tend to turn to a cliche every now and then, but mostly in dialogue. But ... sigh ... sometimes cliches feel just so darn comfortable, you know??? :)

Thanks, Sandra, for letting me get this off my chest (another cliche, you will notice)!


Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Melanie ... move over, sweetie, because I am right there with you!! Nothing grates me more than a simple misunderstanding or lack of communication that keeps the hero and heroine apart. I almost find myself screaming -- "Grow up and communicate, will ya???!!!" Simple misunderstanding or hurt feelings does not a plot make.

Sorry, just needed to vent ... :)


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Julie's stinkin' adorable when she gets her dander up, isn't she????

Julie Lessman said...

And one more thing ... like Ruthy, I tend to "overuse other parts of speech or plot devices" A LOT. So sue me!!

But the bottom line (and God knows how I love the bottom line, cliche or no) ... cliches are part of the human condition. Like sins, they're bad, but everybody does 'em ...


Tina Pinson said...

I have to admit I like cliches sometimes in I have a character who speaks in them. I like the word gulp and have my characters do so even when their breastises are heavinating

Debra E Marvin said...

My blood ran cold when I saw Julie mention 'his smile didn't quite reach his eyes'. I use that more than I can say, more than you can shake a stick at!
I also use "her stomach tightened" like there's no tomorrow. And I have to say I am using a very cliche plot device in my WIP. I've put all my eggs in one basket and I don't know if I can change it now, so I go with the flow.

Thanks for the breakfast spread Sandra. I'm green with envy.

If I can think of any cliches, I'll get back to you.

Erica Vetsch said...

Morning, Seekers!

Lovely post, Sandra. :)

I think the plot cliche gets me, but more often in contemporary stories than in historicals. Maybe it's the Hallmark/Levinson thing, or maybe it's just personal preference. I love the way Mary Connealy handled the plots of Montana Rose and The Husband Tree. Perhaps it is because the stories are so much about the people who are not cliche than the plots?

Debby Giusti said...

I recently critiqued submissions in GRW's March Workshop, which helps members tweak their pages for Maggie entry. One submission was so, so fresh. The writer did a great job with unique description and unusual twists that caught my attention. Then she used one cliché. Only one. Yet it stood out because everything else was so special. And I knew she could do better because her writing was so strong.

To strengthen our writing, we need to delete clichés and always work to find a new ways to express "old" ideas. IMHO!

Pepper Basham said...

You know, Ruthy listed all of my examples - probably because she got them from my wip ;-)
Daggone it!

Would it be considered a plot cliche when the ending is so predictable and sickeningly sweet you just want to throw the book across the room? I kind of get like Mary when that happens - I want to literarily kill someone...or at least mame them.

I've read Christian novels before, where from chapter 2 you see the cliche unfolding so that it's painful to complete the book. Just because you know the ending and the 'misuderstanding" isn't really that big of a misunderstanding to keep hero/heroine apart (as Melanie and Julie have already mentioned)

Oh dear, now I'm going to have to go through all my novels and see if I'm the pot calling the kettle black. AHHH!

"Pepper darted from the computer but spun around to retrieve her chocolate before dashing from the room. Her breasts were not heaving, but they would be soon if she kept up her Nascar pace. Oh well, maybe she would burn off the chocolate. She gulped. Naah, too much work."

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Sandra!Interestingly, plot "cliches" like you mentioned are tried and true reader favorites. That's what editors are referring to when they say they want "the same BUT DIFFERENT." And you're right--it's all in the presentation. The twist. The characterization. The quality of the writing. The freshness and orginality an author injects into it. Amazing, when you think about it, that so MANY books have been written and are still being written--and SOLD--with these classic themes!

Lisa Karon Richardson said...

I'm one of those weirdos who hate first drafts, but love revisions. SO on the first go around I give myself permission to use lots of the narrative cliches. It's almost like shorthand for the concept that I'm trying to convey.

On subsequent drafts I try to make those things fresh or rewrite them so that they convey more power.

But the hardest are the physical reactions. I mean really. How many ways are there to say 'he rolled his eyes'?

Susan Anne Mason said...

Thanks for this post, reminding me to go through and edit specifically for cliches. I am very guilty of this - probably because I talk in cliches! LOL.

Pepper, you made me laugh. Thanks.

And Julie, I will go and remove every mention of a 'smile not reaching his eyes' (if I have one).

Maybe we need a class on how to describe emotional reactions without cliches. I'd sign up for that one.

Thanks for the goodies, ladies. Have a great day.

(trying to be cheerful even though it's been raining for DAYS!)
sbmason (at) sympatico (dot) ca

Sarah Forgrave said...

Since I'm preggers and getting bigger by the day, how's this for a cliche...I feel as big as a beached whale.

I guess narrative cliches bother me most, although I know I slip them in my writing WAY too much. That's what the revision process is for, right? :-)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Ruthy, Thanks for coming through with cookies. And Audra brought scones.

Have to confess I snuck out to breakfast with my spiritual mentor and not only fed my body, but my spirit.

so thanks girls for coming through and "holding down the fort" oops another cliche

And don't I know what cliches you hate Ruthy, because you red pen them in my writing ALL THE TIME. You'd think I'd learn to figure it out myself. sigh

Pamela Mason said...

This is one cliche I can think of that I don't like: "-- gave a tight smile."
Tight smiles make me think somebody's undies are too tight, cutting off their circulation. Ouch!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Yes, Julie is adorable when her dander is up. (Is that another cliche?) ah aha

But I must confess, I've used about every cliche there is especially in romance writing. Probably because I read so many romances, they seem to just come naturally like speaking another language.

So the challenge is coming up with the "fresh" way to say the same thing.

Just like coming up with a way to say the same passive sentence in an active way.

Writing is sooooooo much fun. Like Pam said earlier. A puzzle to put together.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Tina P, I had to gulp at your admission. LOL

Debra, please don't tell me you use cliches. Oh my smile is not quite reaching my eyes, but I thought you were close to perrrrrfect

Oh dear, I think I ate too much corn last night as my comments are pretty corny.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good point Erica, It does help cover up those sameOsameO plots to have super characters.

Good advice Debby, but the trick is recognizing a cliche is a cliche.

PEPPER, that last paragraph. What great characterization. I could soooo picture you darting and gulping and breasts eventually heaving.

So Glynna, you're right. Cliches are part of our language. The reader loves them even though we get tired of them. Its like the plot cliches. You're going to pick up a romance because you KNOW it has a happy ending.

And Lisa Karon did he roll his eyes down the bowling alley, or across the field or around the race track? I love the moving eye thing because I can just picture them out of the body doing these things. Yet the expression is so descriptive of a feeling.

And Lisa, that's a great concept to use the cliches in the rough draft so you know exactly the feeling you want to convey and then go back and "refresh" them.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Susan, Yes, we need to get a class going on how to do that. The trouble is once someone finds a unique way to describe something it becomes popular and then becomes a cliche itself. sigh

Sarah, Good one. Sure made us know how you feel. When is the baby due? Get those revisions made before he/she arrives. smile you'll be as busy as a bee.

Pamela you are toooooo funny for this early in the morning.

Myra Johnson said...

Oh, Sandra, you touched a nerve with me today (is "touched a nerve" a cliche???)!

All right, at the risk of stepping on toes (another cliche) if any of our Seekers or Seekerville friends have based their stories on this idea, I'm going to come right out and say that the cliched plot device that grates on me the most is . . .


You know how it goes. Heroine's baby was fathered by her long-lost ex-boyfriend, and now she's forced into a situation that throws them together again, only she can't bring herself to tell him that the cute little boy or girl he's so charmed by is HIS VERY OWN CHILD.

Not sayin' a talented writer can't give this story an interesting new twist. I've actually read some good ones. Just make sure it's realistic and makes good sense why the baby was kept a secret in the first place.

Off my soapbox now. (Another cliche, obviously.)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh my stars, 36 comments and only noon...

I'm ordering lunch from the Greek diner. Beek on kimmelweck sandwiches. If you don't know what that is, imagine the best roast beef sandwich you've ever had and magnify it.

Horseradish to the left. Mayo, too. Also au jus.

Adding fried potato casserole, totally loaded with cheese and bacon. Do not get a free cholesterol check this week after partaking. I'm not kidding. Unless you LIKE and COVET a hospital stay. And a diet...


Diet soda, sweet tea and fresh coffee...

And lemon cake for dessert.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pepper, 32 A's don't heave...

They just kind of ....

You know.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sarah raised a good point.

Why do we say beached whales to intimate bigness?

Whales are big even when underwater, right?

And yet, we have to literally almost kill the poor things, strand them without food or water, to analogize them.

Shame on us.

If we're going to beach them, the least we could do is like, eat them or something. Whale bone corsets????

Whale oil for lamps?

Whale meat? Does it taste like chicken? I wonder.

Sarah, I bet you're adorable preggers. Just looking at that face makes me quite sure of it, honey.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ooops, typing fast, make that beef on kimmelweck sandwiches.

And Myra must KNOW I'm writing a secret baby story.

I love 'em.

Love 'em.

Love 'em.

I crave stories of second chances, new beginnings, of facing reckoning.

Oh yes, I do... Truly. No matter how cliche it is.

And if you throw a COWBOY in with the SECRET BABY?????

Oh how much better can one story get? Poo, I'm a cliche in and of myself.

Stomping off to pout while I spin about, dart around (every time I read that I think 'fish swimming')
heave my chest, sigh and gulp to my heart's content with my secret baby story.

And a sandwich, of course.

Sandra Leesmith said...

RUUUTHY, I'm going to have a heart attack just thinking of those fried potatoes and the sandwich. yum. Good thing I live across the country from you or I'd be like Sarah, a beached whale, and wouldn't even have a secret baby to blame.

Myra, love that you were so honest. But I too have read some good ones. In fact I'm reading one now.
And it is so well done I don't mind the cliche plot part.

Remember there are only 20 plots. LOL

It the characters. Yep, Gotta love'em

Vince said...

Hi Sandra:

After reading a few assigned plays, the college freshman had this to say:

“What’s all this fuss about Shakespeare? He’s just one cliché after another.”

It’s all a matter of perspective. (Which end of the telescope you're looking into.) I don’t view plots as being cliché. I see themes -- not plots. I buy themes -- not old wine in new bottles. Indeed, the theme's the thing wherein you’ll catch the attention of the reader -- at the point of purchase!

It is the ‘cliché’ themes that are the bread of romance. (What’s the status of a half-cliché? Is the cliche half-full or half-empty?)

I wish there were more ‘runaway bride’ themes and more ‘plain Jane’ themes. I don’t think the Seekers are helping me here. : )

When I went to school there were only three plots: ‘man agaist man‘, ‘man against nature‘, and ‘man against himself‘.

In reality the number of plots one finds depends on the resolution one uses. (Think dots per inch.)

It’s not about the clichés. It’s about the reading experience. Give me a mystery where the butler did it? Fine…but make every page highly entertaining. Reward me for reading it. Janet Evanovich could do this with ease with the help of her wisecracking Stephanie Plum -- plus her usual cast of wacky characters.

You can use every literary device, read every writing book, follow every rule, but in the end it all comes down to the quality of the reading experience. (Unless you’re James Joyce.)

Being original -- in and of itself -- does not make
prose better nor verse worse.

Cindi Cliché
was original
In every way.

About Cindi you could say:

She could hide in plain sight.

Her dittos had dittos.

When she went over the edge, there was actually a cliff there.

When her toes curled, she could actually hang on a tree limb by her feet.

When on a date she always carried bread and peanut butter in her purse for the times when her knees turned to jelly.

She could carry a misunderstanding to the edge of enlightenment.

Cindi Cliché wishes you
A good day.


Sandra Leesmith said...

Vince, Please tell Cindi cliche that I love her idea to carry peanut butter in case her knees turned to jelly.

Too funny.

Of course I would love peanut butter no matter what my knees were doing.

And you're so right. even high action suspense dramas are one cliche after another. How many times will a car roll over when being chased? Or how many times will the bad guy be involved in drugs? But almost every prime time tv show has em. Must be a reason.

Debra E Marvin said...

"When on a date she always carried bread and peanut butter in her purse for the times when her knees turned to jelly."

this one just made my day

mary bailey said...

It's fun to read everyone's fresh takes on old cliches!

Here's one that appears in 9 out of 10 books I read: "She lifted her chin."

As in, she lifted her chin in defiance. It is so nondescript but it grabs my attention every time and it is soooo annoying!

I also dislike the "simple misunderstandings" that keep the heroine and hero apart. It creates unnecessary (and annoying) tension.

Fun topic! Please enter me for a chance to win a book---Thanks!


Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Mary,

Yes, can't you just picture someone lifting their chin like you would do with a pair of weights? LOL

Good choice.

In that vein, I get critted a lot for: Her brow furrowed.
He shrugged.

Pepper Basham said...

LOL Vince, I carry a lot of things in my purse, but not peanut butter and bread.

And Ruthy,
The only time you really SHOULD use the phrase 'heaving breasts' is when a woman has a bust size worth the word 'heave'. Don't you think?

One of Ruthy's editing comments (which didn't make me cry;-) was to make the reader feel the emotions of the writer. Describing what the character does isn't as 'evocative' as getting inside her head.

So my question - if the cliche comes from the character's pov naturally, is it just as awful? Just curious - probaby because I just wrote 'the third time is definitely a charm' and want to justify myself ;-) But it's very much in character with the...um...character :-)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Pepper, Articles I've read on cliche's say that if a character uses cliche in the dialogue and it is "in character" for that character, then it is okay.


Myra Johnson said...

As I said, Ruthy and Sandra, I've read some good "secret baby" stories, too. Like Vince mentioned, it's about the reading experience, not so much whether the plot is cliched.

But when you're reading through 8 or 10 contest entries and every third one is about a secret baby, well . . . it gets tiresome. Especially when the writer doesn't convince me the heroine had a good reason for keeping the secret AND that there's a logical reason she can't tell the hero now. Which kind of falls into the "simple misunderstanding" department.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I like cliches in dialogue and internal thought when they fit.

House uses them all the time and it cracks us up.

Ziva David butchers them and Tony corrects her and we crack up.

When used that way, they're invaluable because everyone recognizes their use, disuse and over-use and snickers because of it. It's totally relatable.

So Pep justify away.

The problem comes in when they're used to tell the story...

Like this:

She knew she should try again because the third time was reputed to be the charm.


Should she try again, a third time? Was the third time REALLY a charm?

(Slightly better)

"Go for it." His eyes prodded more than his words. His gaze slid to the ripcord then back to her, one eyebrow up oh, so slightly. A tiny muscle in his cheek twitched, early Clint Eastwood, total seventies but still worthy of note. "Third time's a charm, babe."

Was it?

Didn't matter. No way on God's green earth was she going to shrug off the dare in his tone, his gaze. And should she fall to a sorry end on the rocks below? Well, then, obviously it was her time.


But to be scraped off the rocks wearing last year's Loeffler Randall's???? In taupe, no less?

Surely too much of a price to pay.

Pepper Basham said...

All the more reason why you're my adopted writer-mom ;-) LOL...

LOVE the examples and who could ever argue with a younger Clint Eastwood?

Btw, Cathy Marie Hake butchers all sorts of cliche's on purpose in her novel Forevermore. It's part of the heroine's characterization. LOOOOOOVE that story. It's my favorite Hake book :-)

Off to teach a night class. Have a wonderful evening ladies. I leave you with Chocolate Silk Pie and a bowl of strawberries.

Virginia said...

I try to avoid cliche's myself but sometimes you can't avoid them!


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Chocolate silk pie...

Here, guys, we can split this. We'll all be better for it.

(Ruthy tastes pie, rolls eyes, obviously over-the-top ecstatic and to-die-for appreciative....)

Oh. My. Stars.


Send us that recipe. Please.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oooo Pepper, Chocolate Silk Pie.

Ruthy, you better have left some for the rest of us or I'll think of some real life cliches to pound you with. LOL.

And Virginia, nice cliche.

Tina Pinson said...

Oh man reading these new post just made my eyebrows pucker and pinch my brain.

I like your take on Cliches and themes, Vince.

Cindi is pretty funny.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

What is a cliche?

Just kidding LOL!

Don't really have a cliche that bother's me more than the average portrayal of Cajuns as backwater hicks who barely speak English, ride around in pirouges and play with (or aggrivate) alligators. AAARRGGGHH

Get real people! We've moved into the 21st century just like everyone else regardless of what Hollywood and New Yort think/say.

Cliches are a natural part of life and writing - although I do try and rephrase or reword to make stronger - I think they are cute in dialogue...

"You are bad to the bone, Ace Harris."


"Now would I do that to you, my only son?"

"Does a bear hibernate in winter?"

You're all correct, best-selling plots are all cliched, but the characters are what make a story stand above the rest.

Even Nora Roberts uses cliched plots - do you know how many books she's written around the power or number 3? Regardless she is still the queen of romance because her characters are SO real and lovable and descriptions so authentic.

JMHO of course :-)

I'd love to be in the drawing for a Seeker book.

pthib07@yahoo.com (that's zero7)


Sarah Forgrave said...

Sandra - I'm due in June and working on my manuscript like mad (cliche?) because I know my life will be quite chaotic for a few months afterwards.

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

I love brown eyes but can we find some other word to describe them other than "chocolate" How about walnut or something? I like chocolate but sheesh I'm going to get diabetes as much as I see it used in books! LOL that's my opinion but what do I know?!

XOXO~ Renee

Camy Tang said...

Great post, Sandra! OMG I'm dying laughing at everyone's comments! You guys have been the best entertainment I've had all day.

I actually just recently posted about cliches in a lesson for an online class I'm giving right now. Sandra, I hope you don't mind if I use some of this info for my next online class. I'm giving one on Characterization next month and I'll use this to beef up my cliche lesson. :)


Janet Kerr said...

I am amazed at how many cliche's there are.
One of my least favorite is:
"My way or the highway."

Yes, please enter me in the book drawing.

Project Journal said...

Hi Sandra!
I have to admit that sometimes cliches make me laugh! I think that probably sounds terrible, but occasionally they do one of 2 things....1) catch me off guard and it just sounds funny to me, lol! or 2) I so know it's coming and then BAM! there it is! ; )

However, what gets me even more than cliches in novels is cliches in essays (because we usually peer edit in our english class) or short stories. I mean really!? In that short of a piece of writing, the author couldn't come up with anything better!?

I do have to agree with Julie, though, that everyone does it. So, usually I can give a little slack ; )

I think I can actually enter the drawings now! Woohoo! Lol....

Lovely post, Sandra!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Pamela, You're so right about stereotypes. However in defense, my only visit to New Orleans on a steamboat included a tour of the swamps with a Cajun tour guide acting and talking like you just explained --even played with an alligator. So the stereotype carries on.

But I know that it is a tourist gimmick because in the Southwest they do the same presentations of the Navajo and Hopi--guided by Navajo and Hopi guides, but definitely carrying on stereotypes and not portraying real life.

So that's where good research comes in handy. smile

Thanks for the comment.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Sarah- June is a great month to be born. I was born in June so know for a fact. smile

Is this your first? Congratulations. And June will be here before you know it. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Renee - I hear what you're saying about chocolate. I break out in zits every time I read this blog. LOL

Some of us are addicted and I won't name names. ahem

Camy- this has been fun. Please feel free to use what you want. I need to read what you post so I'll know what other cliches to watch out for.

Janet don't you know its always my way. Ruthy keeps trying to say its hers, ahem and Tina too. But really its my way or the highway. LOL

Hi Hannah, Yes, we'll give some slack and you're entered. smile. Essays Yikes. I agree. In that small space the should at least find something original to say. But maybe they don't read enough to know what is cliche.

Janet Dean said...

Fun day in Seekerville!!! Loved reading all the comments.

Vince, you've put cliches in perspective. Themes and the reading experience trumps rules every time. We're here to entertain! You're a wise man. Bless you.

Sandra, you made my day with your sweet words!!! Sorry for the cliche. But its true.

Hugs, Janet

Carla Gade said...

The independent/stubborn/prideful heroine of historical fiction can be cliche. This is very over used, and I use it myself. However, I think the key is to have enough other personality characteristics so that those other qualities don't always predominate her character. Without them, she will stand out like a sore thumb. Thumbs down.

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Hahaha Sandra! I love this blog but I guess I'm not addicted to chocolate. Is that blasphemy to say that here? :-P

XOXO~ Renee

Walt M said...

I missed the discussion today. Can't believe I was absent with such an ample disucssion of the "b" word.

As for cliches, I work on eliminating them, but, try as I might, I just can't seem to cut the mustard when it comes to getting rid of all the cliches in my writing.

Ruthy, House uses them because he makes fun of them and it fits his character.

I admit to liking the word "gulp," too.

I actually don't mind cliches, unless it's the ending.


KC Frantzen said...

Thanks for this! It's a pet peeve...

One fine person who blessed me with a critique said if my main character shivered & shuddered any more, she'd wonder why they hadn't taken her to the vet.

Soooo. Guess that was a bit much cliche there.

However, it HAS been fun to change them up like: "on the other paw"


I've been absent and have catching up to do.

Glad the coffee's on. Sure smells good, even at this late hour.

KC Frantzen said...

And do we love Vince or WHAT?!

I forgot to put in my ksf895 at citlink dot net

y'all have a great one!

Teri Dawn Smith said...

I'm here very late, enjoying the comments, but throwing a cliched monkey wrench into the works.

James Scott Bell teaches in one of his fine writing books that it's possible to take a cliche and tweak it. I believe the example he gave took "a million dollar smile" and tweaked it to "a million dollar smile, tax free."

I tried one in one of my books. Instead of 'knocked his socks off", I wrote, "knocked his Fruit-of-the-Loom socks off." Hope it worked.

Anyway, it's a fun idea. We did this as an exercise in my creative writing class one day.

Vince said...

Hi All:

I want to thank everyone who commented on my post. I try to read every post every day and I appreciate each comment. Especially since everyone is so nice here.


Sandra Leesmith said...

Carla, Good point you made. Thanks

Renee- sh sh sh sh mums the word

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hey Walt, We missed you. Better late than never. Oops another cliche. But true. Gulp. And at the end of the day too. yikes.

Yes, KC there's still plenty of coffee. And I need a cup after laughing so hard at the shivers and shudders and going to the vet. LOL

Hey Teri Dawn, Love the Fruit of the Loom socks. Which book is that? Tell us. Tell us.

Vince, you were quite the hit today with Cindi Cliche. Thanks for livening things up.

Sandra Leesmith said...

So folks, its late for me on Pacific time now because most of Arizona doesn't go on Daylight Savings time. So good night and thanks for all the laughs.

I'll announce the winner in the weekend edition. Lots of contestants. Not only do we love chocolate but contests/drawings too.

Cindy W. said...

If the writer takes an old plot cliche and brings a new freshness to it I love it. But if it proves to not have a newness or twist to it I usually can't finish the book.

A word cliche that I seem to read over and over lately is "she jutted out her chin" or "jutted her chin out". It drives me crazy. Sorry.

I'd love to be entered into your giveaway.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.