04 May 2010


by Morgan Barnhart

I received an interesting article in my inbox from Writer's Digest, who's main focus was '8 Basic Writing Blunders'. The 8 Basic Writing Blunders focused around cliche's. My favorite part from the article:

2. Answering-the-phone cliché
Another deadly cliché is how people answer the phone. This happens even in the movies or on stage. Be aware of yourself the next time your phone rings. It's such a common occurrence that we don't even think about it. But one thing you likely do not do is look up, startled. You don't turn and look at the phone. You know where it is; it's been there for years, and you've heard it ring before. You simply rise and go answer it.

If your character gets a phone call, resist the urge to have her look up, startled, then rise, cross the room, pick up the receiver and say, "Hello?"

"Hi, Mary?"


"This is Jill."

"Hi, Jill. What's up?"

(Or if you're a mystery writer): "Hi, Jill. Is anything wrong?"

Enough already.

The entire article made some valid points about things that we just don't do in real life, but feel we must put them in our stories. I'm guilty of an unhealthy amount of cliche's. Like, for example, spelling it out during a conversation when the tone of the conversation is really quite obvious. I can't help it! I need those extra words to meet my daily quota!

I try my best not to be cliche, but it's really difficult when that cliche just works so well or maybe I want to add a little extra 'oomph' to the scene. But, there are always ways around those cliche's.

The whole article is hilarious and hits the nail on the head (cliche!) and can be read here: http://www.writersdigest.com/article/Beyond_Basic_Blunders/

So I ask you, what cliche's have you been victim to?


  1. What really interests me is how the article focuses on the various writing cliches rather than cliched phrases.

    Basically, I feel the gist is "don't be boring." That's all cliche in writing is though, isn't it? Unoriginal. But, Mo, I think you've got a valid point, what if we need a little mundane to balance out the rest?

    Cliches can serve to normalize the writing when the ideas and territory become too unusual or threatening to the average reader. I'm not saying I write weird stuff (I do), but we need might need to remind the reader that the character is average.

    Example: Well-written superheros answer the phone.

  2. Exactly. Even though I agree that some cliches could be left out, I still feel that cliches are needed. Cliches make the reader feel comfortable and while there are a lot of people who don't mind going out of their comfort zone, we as humans enjoy what we know. And we know cliches.

    We may roll our eyes, but we love 'em.