If things are going wrong, maybe you should take a step back and look again.
Cliche… what an ominous word. It’s enough to make authors and readers alike cringe.
For those of you who don’t know, a cliche is a common or overused phrase, like “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” or “Its raining cats and dogs”. Cliches are avoided because they “betray a lack of original thought” (dictionary definition). While this is true in the case of a novel, and the reason why authors should avoid them like the plague, I do think that the stigma around cliches is a little overdone.
For one: just because someone says something a lot, doesn’t mean it loses its truth or value. For an example, take this cliche, “not a care in the world”. Just because its a cliche, does that mean that obviously no one ever has “not a care in the world”? Of course not. There’s a reason this phrase became a cliche, because it holds enough truth that it got repeated again and again until people finally labelled it as “unoriginal”.
So, my point?
Cliches have their place.
Using cliches in writing (novels) does in fact show a lack of originality on the author’s part, and therefor should be avoided.
And yet, each cliche holds some amount of truth – why else would they have become cliche?
Let’s look at the cliche I first talked about… perspective, and how it changes our opinion. This like every other cliche has an amount of truth. You can’t look at the whole picture when you are focusing on the nitty gritty details and nothing else. And you can’t see the details when you’re out of focus.
Let’s talk about this for a moment. I like to people watch. Maybe it comes with being a reader/writer, or maybe its just me. But I like to watch people come and go, wondering what their stories are. At a glance, my mind is already spinning, creating each person their own tales. Of course, if I got to know any of these people, I would learn a completely different story. Their true story. And with a different perspective, my thoughts about said stranger would be drastically different.
So what about this situation. Once, at a birthday with my cousins, we were having pizza to commemorate the day when my little cousin would graduate into “double-digits”. I decided to tease one of my little cousins. Leaning close, I whispered to them, “This isn’t really pizza… just vegetables all mashed up and molded to look like pizza.”
The look on their face was priceless. They wrinkled up their nose in disgust, and immediately put the pizza down. Despite it looking so appetizing, they wouldn’t eat it, for fear of it really being vegetables. Because of something I said.
Let this be a testament to how much our words can effect others. But not only that, how true the cliche is. Perspective really does change how we view the world. The focus on the lovely pizza was suddenly changed by a different perspective, and this perspective distorted my cousins view of what was actually happening.
Bias does the same thing. Maybe not by much, but it distorts how we see the world. It’s like a camera filter, making the colours slightly off. It’s what makes us judge someone before we even meet them.
And all of this can be avoided by simply understanding why the cliche became a cliche in the first place.
Yes, they may be overused, unoriginal, and stereotypical, but they’re that way for a reason folks, they do have truth to them.
So are cliches just overused sentences to be avoided? What do you think?