Fifteen minutes of perusing the worldwide internet will give you a melting pot of advice about clichés, all of which boils down to one simple statement: Clichés are bad.
Nothing ruins good writing like clichés.
It’s been said so many times, it’s almost a cliché. But…. Is it always true?
When Clichés Attack
Now, before you come out swinging, just hold your horses. You don’t want to jump to conclusions or go into this half-cocked. A stitch in time saves nine, as they say, and you should always look before you leap. Bear with me for two shakes of a lamb’s tail, and when all is said and done, we’ll see how the cookie crumbles in the light of day.
See that? That nauseating paragraph above? That’s a prime example of exactly why clichés have such a bad rap. Reading it is an exercise in masochism. (Although, I have to admit, the opportunity to write and publish a paragraph of nothing-but-clichés was more than a little amusing.)
If your prose is packed full of clichés, please ignore everything I’m about to say. But for those of us who have spent years weeding our work of accidental clichés, maybe it’s time to consider whether it’s possible that we’re doing ourselves a disservice.
A Time and a Place
Imagine, if you will, that you’re going on a date. You’re all dressed up and you’re out to make a good impression. Every aspect of the night has been planned to perfection. You pick up your date, deliver the right compliments, and make just the right type of small talk. And then you spring your sinner surprise: you detour through the McDonald’s drive-thru and ask if your date would prefer a Quarter Pounder or a Big Mac. (Spoiler: The date doesn’t end well.)