Thursday 27 September 2012

Ten Tips to Avoid Cliches in Writing

One piece of advice I have been given while writing my picture book is "avoid cliches".  I came across this Writer's Digest piece which might be helpful to me.

1.  Avoid stolen or borrowed tales. 

According to novelist Martin Amis:  "Good writing is a war against cliche."  Use crisp dialogue, vivid description and an edgy style.

2.  Resist sensationalism.

It is too easy to write a story about drug deals, kidnapping, crashes, murder or rape.  Pick a topic that might seem humdrum but that you approach in a non-traditional manner.

3.  Turn stereotype on its head.

Rather than writing about the starving artist, write about the successful painter who puts on workshops in the day to supplement his income and paints at night. 

4.  Tell the story only you can tell.

Authenticity is what the reader craves.

5.  Keep it real and take it slow.

One author talks about getting her classes to write two pieces, one riveting and one boring.  Inevitably it's the boring piece which rivets and the riveting piece which bores.  Why?  Because the writer tends to race through the riveting piece, not paying attention to detail; however, he takes his time with the boring piece and it ends up being interesting and authentic.

6.  Deliver your story from circumstantial cliche.

Your setting is important.  Resist the urge to pick a stereotypical setting ex. deserted island.

7.  Elevate the ordinary.

Take trite elements of your story out of the foreground and put them in the background. 

8.  Rescue gratutitous scenes from melodrama.

Avoid gratutitous violence, foul language or over the top action (ex. depressed person jumping off bridge).  It is much harder, but more effective, to find the right words or the more convincing action/reaction.

9.  Avoid overly convenient plots.

Fistfights do not happen very often in real life.  Why would you fill your story with them?

10.  Fill you story with substance.

"When authors explode drama rather than describe it, their material deteriorates into soap opera."  Turn on the T.V. and watch a soap opera.  If you haven't done so before, you will immediately notice how lame the plot is.


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