Thursday, April 23, 2015

A to Z Challenge: T is for Trite

Welcome to April. With its customary showers comes the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. For those who are unfamiliar with it:
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day. (Source) 
The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE 

My theme this year is EDITING

I'll be posting practical advice for editing any story, novel, or other piece of writing. Editing is something most authors struggle with, and after years of doing my own as well as that of others, I have a pretty good eye for what needs work. I'll be doing short posts on editing topics and (hopefully) dispensing simple, valuable advice to help everyone out there self-edit.

T is for Trite

As in cliches. Cliches can be used well sometimes in writing, but as a general rule it's a good idea to stay away from them.

Kinds of Cliches:

1) Trope Cliches: I talked about these somewhat in my post on genre rules. If you're going to use a common trope like unicorns or dwarves or hobbits, just make sure you put your own spin on them enough that they don't come off as cliche.
When To Use Them: When you have something new to say and are doing your own thing with them. Preferably something that has never been done before, and coupled with great characters, plot, and writing.
Example: T.V. show Once Upon a Time. Now, I'm not sure these are tropes, exactly, but they are retelling the Cinderella story, the Rumplestiltskin character, etc., which have become tropes in the world of fairy tale retelling. But they take each story, interlock it with the others, and make it their own. This show has become a phenomenon because they do it so well.
When Not to Use Them: When you're more or less retelling a classic story, character, or legend with only minor variations from the original.
Example: many and varied.
2) Speech Cliches: Things like, "I'm taking it one day at a time," "Let's get the hell out of dodge" (one of my personal favorites that I always go back and cut) or wise proverbs. 
When to use them: Almost never. Every once in a while to show character or dialect perhaps, but even then be very sparse in your usage.
When Not to use them: In narrative or much in speech, even to show character or dialect. Be very choosy. Instead, come up with your own figure of speech that's unique to the character. It will be more original, more memorable, and less cringe-worthy if you can't pull it off.
3) Descriptive Cliches: Snow-capped peaks, dark mountains of doom, and fathomless depths have been described so often in fiction that they hardly mean anything at all anymore. Find more unique descriptions that actually evoke imagery!
When to use them: Never
When not to use them: Always
How do you guard against cliches?


  1. I work hard to avoid speech cliches. Besides, a race light years away wouldn't use Earth cliches.

    1. Very good point! I guess in space opera--and epic fantasy, for that matter--you kind of have to invent your own cliches. :D

  2. I love the word "trite." It's just a good word.

    My writing is full of cliches like stink on a monkey. Or white on rice.

    And for reference, I think "Once Upon a Time" is pretty trite. :-/

    1. LOL. Yeah, I like that word too. It's fun to use. :D

  3. I use a few cliches, but there the ones that have become so entrenched that I don't think they clunk or stand out too badly when read. I do reword some of them, especially if it's a more modern one, that way I don't date my work too badly.

    1. That's a good point. I think the reason cliches are so hard for us to spot in our own writing is because they're so deeply entrenched in us. I do think you can get away with a few here and there. :D Good point about dating your work, as well. :D

  4. TVTropes is one of my favorite sites, so I guess they can be used effectively.

  5. Very easy to fall into clichés, but something I try to keep an eye out for.
    Why use the old "Her eyes were as blue as the ocean" when you can change it up. "Her eyes were as blue as the water in my toilet."
    Okay, Just kidding on that one. I have never used nor ever would. LOL
    But so true, change something in a standard cliché and you make it your own and it grabs the readers.
    My worry is just changing something so much, it's no longer what you were describing in the first place, outside the name. So trite lines should probably not be used at all. "It was a dark and stormy night". Changing it slightly just to change it is pointless. "It was a black and rainy night" doesn't have the same kick. Maybe just start off talking about your character and how much he hated driving in the rain late at night. Tells the same thing and not cliché.
    Sorry, I'm rambling.

    1. You should ramble more often! You make some great points. I agree that sometimes just changing words is like using a thesaurus in your writing: pretentious and ineffective. Better to scrap the line and start over, writing something you're sure will grab your reader.