Advice For Younger Writers

Don’t Use Cliches

You’ve probably heard many times over, don¹t use clichés in your writing.

First of all, why not? What’s wrong with using clichés? Well, they can get boring, and they don’t always explain what you mean. They lack originality. So, what is a cliché? It is usually a phrase or word that stands for an event, situation or something you want to describe and instead of actually describing it, you use the phrase. It is a sort of verbal shorthand that is effective when you and your listener/reader both know what it means. For example, his eyes were bigger than his stomach. It doesn’t mean he has huge eyes or a tiny stomach. We all know it means, he took too big a helping and couldn’t eat it all.

As far as clichés are concerned in writing, you have several choices. You can avoid them. Or you can make up your own. Or you can use old trite ones very carefully, as for a character who is not very original. But the secret of good use of clichés is to make that phrase or word fit the character who uses it. Make the cliché fit into the story and help tell the story. For example, what if you wanted to describe the rain that falls very hard with large pellets? Could say it was raining like cats and dogs. How else could you say it?

Let’s brainstorm this rainstorm. Sky’s the limit. (Oooops that’s a cliché too!) What I mean is, don’t be limited by what you usually think about rain, just let your mind expand and try new comparisons, new ways to say it. This rain was coming down soooooo hard, it was like soft hail. It was a sheet of water. It was impenetrable. It blanketed the earth and my eyes. It was raining very very hard and I couldn’t see through it. Now what kind of character would say it each of those ways? Would your characters say that, or would they say it was raining really hard some other way? I would be delighted to hear what original way you would describe the rain. And what kind of character said it. If you want to share it, call June Read ­ (336) 854-3597.

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What’s a Timed Writing?

Sounds scary and to some it is, but it is always a challenge. This is one way to encourage creativity and writing skills. Usually, it is done with one person providing the prompt and others writing from it. In person. However, it can be done without another person present. Try it this way.

Write down several phrases on a piece of paper. They could include: the short gray cat; the rickety old fence; the bright clear moon. Or you could write something like: the door creaked even before he opened it, something, or someone was downstairs; the dog barked twice, yelped once, then all was silent; “Now what do you mean by that?” she asked. Or you may write something else.

Cut your phrases apart, fold until you can¹t see the writing and place in a box or other container. Don¹t watch yourself as you pull one from the container. Set a clock or notice what time it is, and write for the next 15 minutes. Write as fast as you can, though you may take a few minutes from time to time to think what to say next.

Stop at the end of the time, and read over what you have written. Sometimes, you’ll be surprised at how good it is; other times you’ll know this was just a fun exercise. Either way, lay it aside for another day, and pat yourself on the back for trying out a new way to be creative.

Written by June Read