Cliché Makeovers


I’ve heard “blind as a bat” so many times, I’m ready for that bat to be “dead as a doornail” just to put him out of his misery.  Clichés seem to invade everything from first drafts to finished novels and they will continue to do so until writers stop relying on them.

I’m just as guilty as everyone else, but a piece of wisdom I picked up a couple of years ago has reminded me to be a little more diligent about recognizing my cliché habits.

If it sounds like something you’ve heard before, you probably have and many times over.

This is not a new idea, but it’s one every writer should consider.  I don’t want to bore my readers and I certainly don’t want my writing to fall flat because I chose to use a cliché instead of conjuring something original.

While reading through Rip the Page by Karen Benke, I came across an exercise that fosters the ditching of clichés in a very interesting way.  Instead of avoiding them altogether, she challenges writers to put the zing back into these worn-out phrases:

  • Cold as snow
  • Hot as fire
  • Light as a feather
  • Pretty as a picture
  • Clever as a fox

Benke insists “your own golden language” is hiding underneath all those layers of cliché antiquity. Clichés are simply a place to start digging until the individual voice can speak.  She offers a little encouragement, by creating small prompts that give a new direction in which to think about each cliché.

  • Cold as the edge of . . .
  • Hot as the front row of a . . .
  • Light as the inside of . . .
  • Pretty as the sound of . . .
  • Clever as the way my dad . . .

I found this challenge irresistible and was immediately inspired to give these clichés a makeover. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Cold as the edge of a busy snow shovel.
  • Hot as the front row of a livestock show at the state fair.
  • Light as the inside of an angel food cake.
  • Pretty as the sound of pine needles sifting the wind.
  • Clever as the way my dad can get any old Chevy to start.

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How would you remake the above list of clichés?  Join in the fun and post your creative makeovers in the comments or post a link.  Stay inspired!

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For a great list of clichés, go here. I was surprised at some of the phrases that made the list and you might be as well!

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c.b. 2012