How to Make a Cliché Work for You

From Almost an Author:

In middle grade novels, do you know what gets my goat? Stories riddled with clichés.

Let’s address the elephant in the room: cliches often come across as lazy writing. Cliches can make dialog as flat as a pancake and cause your labor of love to become as dull as dishwater. Worse, an ill-fitting cliché can throw the reader out of the story world you’ve created. Mark my words, your writing will improve if you weed out these overused sayings. But how?

Once upon a blue moon (and for a different website), I wrote a longer article detailing six ways to deal with this issue. But here, I’d like to focus on just one tried and true method that works especially well for middle grade stories. Consider it my “two-cents worth” approach because it adds humor to your story and gives you more bang for your buck.

Are you ready for this tip? It’s “Run with the cliché.”

I can explain it best like this: Take an old phrase and give it a middle grade twist by adding onto the end of it. The result may tickle your funny bone.

Look at my examples and then try this method for yourself.  

  • That problem was as old as time… but not nearly as old as the Twinkie Mom packed in my lunch today.
  • Sweet Sally. She’s always bending over backwards for people. Literally. She’s a gymnast.
  • I was left with one burning question. I guess that’s what happens when you set your homework on fire and your best friend douses the flames at the last second.
  • In my homeroom, finding a friendly face used to be a dime a dozen. Not with today’s inflation.
  • It’s hard for grandma to jog her memory. It’s more like a crawl.

Link to the rest at Almost an Author

1 thought on “How to Make a Cliché Work for You”

  1. P. G. Wodehouse was a master of this technique. His characters were not merely in the soup, but had ‘consommé splashing about their ankles’. On such occasions, they were liable to be ‘far from gruntled’. And there was that one memorable occasion on which Bertie Wooster carefully inspected his own imagination to see whether or not it boggled. (It did.)

    Stephen Medcalf says Wodehouse had the ability to ‘bring a cliché just enough to life to kill it’. That, I think, describes the trick excellently well.

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