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


Free Write Friday: Mathematickles


Whenever I think of words and math hanging out together, I instantly think of story problems, which were the bane of my existence in grade school.  However, after reading a short segment in Rip the Page by Karen Benke, my perspective has drastically changed.  Story problems don’t have to be lame plot lines designed to confuse my ability to add or subtract.  The poet in me has been awakened to the possibility of adding, subtracting, dividing, and multiplying words.

In a section entitled, “A Note From: Betsy Franco,” the concept of mathematickles is introduced as the fusion of poetry and math.  She gives a few examples to get the muse juice flowing:

+ under cars

where the neighborhood kitties are

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puddles – rescued worms = cloudy mirrors

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Franco’s initial idea was to use haiku as a base, but she encourages poets to take risks by playing with form and language.  The more broken rules, the better!  I found the idea of math poetry so whimsical and inspiring I couldn’t help but free write a few of my own mathematickles.

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millions of words
+ thousands of pages

reader on board

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tiny bladder  − all but four teeth + a wagging nubbin’ = one forgiven and spoiled dog

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Old stove  ×  high burn ratio  ÷  low cuisine IQ =  kitchen meltdown

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Pile of paperwork² + reluctant adults + ornery (slow) computer × surprise variables =
Yay! Taxes are done.

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 seeds aplenty
sweet peas
× snap beans

songs of spring

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Betsy Franco has written an entire book dedicated to math poetry, called Mathematickles!  Creating word equations has never been more fun!  Endless inspiration is sure to ensue and no calculator is required.

Are you inspired to be a math poet?  Post your mathematickle or link in the comments.

Happy free writing!

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c.b. 2012

Wonder Lines


A good friend recently gave me a wonderful book called Rip the Page by Karen Benke.  It’s filled with interesting writing exercises that encourage a writer to play with words and experiment with style.  Much like Wreck This Journal forced me to jump out of my comfort zone, Rip the Page challenges me to write with an entirely different perspective.  My muse is in an uproar, but I’m making her play along anyway.

In “Questions Without Answers,” Benke encourages the creation of wondering lines that start with: who, what, where, why, how, whendo, is, if, would, and could.  The idea is to write whatever question comes to mind without worrying about the answer or whether it makes sense. There’s nothing quite like a free write to loosen up the inner voice of my muse!

My questions came out of nowhere, but I was surprised at how they all seemed to link despite my random train of thought.  Even though I wasn’t supposed to answer each question, I couldn’t help but respond to my own inquiries.  In a sense, I ended up having a conversation with myself that lead to more than one epiphany.  A new short story is hiding somewhere in my Wonder Lines . . .

Who really knows the truth?

Everyone and no one. You decide.

What is reality without boundaries?

The life I wish to live.

Where would treasure hide if given the choice of anywhere in the world?

It already hides inside of each and every person.  Whether its found depends on whether we are willing to look.

Why is fear the one thing that always holds us back?

It has so much power because we fool ourselves into thinking we are weaker than some abstract “thing.”

How do dreams falter even as passion thrives?

Fear and doubt override passion every time when they are allowed free rein.

When does fate decide what will be and what will not?

Somewhere between always and never.

Do you believe?

Yes. There is always something to believe in, no matter the circumstance.

Is there a way to break free of all that binds?

Yes.  If you are brave enough to recognize that which binds.

If the sky fell, would I still be able to see the stars?

I hope so.

Would light exist without the dark?

They are one in the same.

Could this all be a figment of my imagination?

Possibly and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

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c.b. 2012