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Sunday, November 19, 2023

Avoid Clichés Like the Plague? Or are they useful?

cj Sez:  I was reviewing some notes I have and the following paragraphs jumped out at me for today’s blog. I think we can agree that novels need a theme, a premise on which to hang the action and plot points. An overall theme continues as a thread through the novel. It lets a writer connect the dots of subplots to the main plot.

  Caveat:  A cliché is, by definition, a trite and overused expression, a figure of speech that has become tiresome.

  One way to get a handle on finding your theme/premise might be to describe your novel in one sentence, as with a cliché.

  The neat thing is, once you’ve discovered that one true sentence for your novel, you can polish it into a marketing blurb.

   Consider this theme/premise/cliché for a romance story: “Love will find a way.” Then every time you put an obstacle in a character’s path on the way to happily ever after, that obstacle can be overcome with some kind of act of love . . . even self-love (conceit, egotism) is fair game. 

   In the premise/cliché, “All’s fair in love and war,” the character is free to do whatever s/he can in order to capture the heart of a lover

   For a love story, that beautiful, angst-filled drama which doesn’t always end happily ever after, a perfect cliché might be, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” 

   Or this tired, old saw for a YA or memoir: “A coming of age story.” That keeps the threads of the story tied to some agonizing affliction and growth of young people over a longer time span.
   Find your cliché and tape it to your desk. It’ll keep you focused on the theme of your story, despite all those wonderful obstacles you throw in the path of the protagonist.

  NOTE: Several writer coaches/experts advise against the use of any clichés in the story’s narrative. That said, I think there are ways to use them—for example, you might have one particular character who loves to rattle off clichés.

Writerly info:
  On Jane Friedman’s blog: “One Well-Chosen Detail: Write Juicy Descriptions Without Overwhelming Your Reader,” by author and writing coach April Dávila. 


  Did you know that the first “general day of thanksgiving and prayer” was established by Presidential Proclamation in 1789?
And since we won’t be together on the holiday . . .


  Okay, that’s it for today. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. Raising prayers for a happy and safe you and yours.

Now some words from my sponsors:

  Books are always great suggestions for gifts, and Christmas is THE gift-giving holiday of the year. I have stories in several anthologies with Christmas as the theme. Here are two to put on your shopping list:

  FINALLY HOME brings you eight Christmas stories all about our four-legged friends and the special people who rescue them.

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  This anthology has 70 stories written by adults recounting their extraordinary childhood Christmas memories. 

  My story, written under my maiden name of Marilyn Olsein, is titled “Dancing with Daddy,” and relates how six-year-old me reconnected with my Swedish father after a major upheaval in our lives.

The anthology is free on Kindle.  Buy Now   

  My novels THE DAWGSTAR and DEATH ON THE YAMPA are fast-paced, thriller/suspense stories with sassy banter and a smidgen of romance.

 The books are available on Amazon or through your favorite eTailer and bookstore. Got a library card? You can read the ebooks free from Hoopla.

  Little note: Angela Trigg, the RITA Award-winning author and owner of The Haunted Book Shop has a few signed copies of my books in stock. TO ORDER, contact:  If she happens to be sold out, shoot me an email. I have a small stash (with a discounted price plus shipping).
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  1. A friend in need is a friend indeed. There's a cliche for you, cj, and it embodies your true spirit. I'm going to use your cliche approach on the next Cat Callahan book. Thanks

  2. cj Sez: You just made my day, Rebecca, maybe my whole year. Makes me very happy that you found a nugget on Lyrical Pens that you can use. Thanks for posting!


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