Cliches are all around us. Cliched plot lines. Cliched characters. Cliched blog posts? Sometimes cliches slip into our writing and we don't realize it. How can they be avoided? Do we even realize how many we use? Is crying a cliche when showing a character's sadness? How else can we write sadness instead of just having a person cry? Drooping shoulders. Flat, monotone voice. Heavy-footed walk. Staring down at empty hands or clutching a token like a cross of memorabilia.
Think of other things we write or read many, many times. Ear to ear grin ... sounds a bit creepy instead of joyful. Waves of nausea. Quaking knees. Shivers crawling up the spine. Pounding heart.
Most of us write a few of those into our work. And the more experienced you are, the more likely that they create a snag in the flow. You stop typing, knowing you have to make that sentence better. You have to get the emotion across without an overused phrase. I used to do this all the time. But another writer gave me permission to not let these things slow me down. Cliches are permitted in first drafts. Now when I write one I wince, but I keep on moving. Fix it in the next draft. Fix it when your critique partner points it out. Fix it before an editor sees it but don't let it slow you down in the first draft.
One of the ways I fix my cliches is by using the best-selling resource, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression. A member of my writers' group recommended this book a few years ago. I've had it on my desk side shelf for a while now. I don't pull it out for the first draft but keep it on hand during the second.
So instead of worrying that your protagonist shed a single tear or their eyes widened again, finish the first draft and then make the second draft as shiny as a new penny and cliche free.
What cliches do you find in your writing? Any particular cliche you see often when reading that really bothers you? Are you familiar with The Emotional Thesaurus and its sequels? And why couldn't I figure out how to get the accent mark over the 'e' in cliche?