Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bad Habits


Idioms. Cliches. Trite images.
We use them all the time.
Because they are code, short-cuts, instant conveyances.
Easy.
They are concise formats for sometimes complicated ideas.
As writers we are aspersed and berated, castigated and disembowled with howls of unholy glee should we insert them in our texts without due deliberation.
Quite right.
You know I pursue industry blogs like a sucker fish.
Have noticed lately that many of the comments on the daily subject(s) are expressed in cliches.
In tired, automatic images and phrases.
Awesome.
Certainly, no agent or editor is going to waste time assessing a writer by the style of their comments on a blog - but that is not my point.
It's the mind set.
Now, writing is an act of translation, one may use a different langue de guerre to communicate, according to aim or audience .
Nevertheless, if you express your ideas and philosophies constantly in terms of cliches, if that becomes your reflexive method of communication, perhaps you will also write that way.
The cliche habit of thought is insidious.
A bad habit.
Break it.

Picture is Xicote - by Kiki Mayer.

30 comments:

Erik Ivan James said...

Geez, I haven't had a ruler-slap on the back of my hands since I was a pup. Ouch!

Bernita said...

Argh!
Erik,not directed at people here. The commenters here are notable for their freshness and thoughtfulness and decided lack of effing cliches!

Muse said...

Awesome post, Bernita. Like, Kudos!

Heh.

Bernita said...

Brat...

Steve said...

Good advice, as always. There are characters in some stories that probably use cliches, but if it's part of their character, do you see that as abuse?

Jaye Wells said...

A cliche in the sentence is worth two in the trash... or something.

Bernita said...

If it's in dialogue, Steve, audible or internal, certainly not.
It's realism.

A bird in the hand leaves you with a dirty hand, Jaye...

Jeff said...

Good advice, Bernita.

MissWrite said...

Excellent post.

MissWrite said...

Steve--no. A character trait is one thing, a writer trait is another. You can tell the difference in the whole of the work.

Ric said...

Not awake enough to come up with a stunning cliche - feel like a deer in the headlights.
Bernita doesn't get our long weekend - too much food, too much shopping, too much time off. Who knew something as simple as giving thanks could be hijacked into a huge commercial enterprise?
But this is our fate...

Bernita said...

Thank you, Jeff and Tami.

Already had our Thanksgiving holiday back in October, Ric, she said smugly.
Here we are, trying to turn our mind/finger sweat into huge commercial enterprises too...

writtenwyrdd said...

You do call to our attention the problem with lazy thinking and writing in any venue! I rely on cliche far too much on my blog, and in early drafts of my writing. Sometimes it is useful so you can keep moving forward.

But one must root these indidious little buggers on the revisions!

Have a great Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it. Not sure where you live, lol.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Writtenwyrdd.
I live at my computer, which is situate, lying and being in Canada - or "Canader" as a Lincolnshire friend of mine used to call it.

anna said...

Ya just gotta love an effing cliche once in awhile. C'mon Bernita, sometimes nothing can say it quite so well (g)

Bernita said...

In a pope's nose, Anna!

December Quinn said...

Oh, dear...*panics, runs off to review all replies posted to blogs*


I do actually play on cliches in my WIP. It's supposed to be clever foreshadowing, as they're all simile cliches pertaining to a secret one of the characters is hiding...I admit I worry how it might be seen.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I've often wondered what would be the understanding in a hundred years (if the Lord tarrys!) if some read the statement, "The shit hit the fan!

Yikes, did I say that!

ROFLOL...I envision people thinking of us as idiots hurling feces at rotating oscillators!

Bernita said...

You too, December?
I do that too, hoping for a foreshadow effect, as in having a character announce that the Conyers Falchion conference is a "travel in time."

No man knoweth the day nor the hour...
I worry more about someone using it in a pre-electric historical, Bonnie!
But think of the fun future etymologists will have arguing with each other over whether the meaning is literal or idiomatic or a reflection of deep anal complexities...

S. W. Vaughn said...

Oh, that's a great point, Bernita! It's good to keep in mind that anything and everything you post to a blog, whether it's entries or comments, is at risk of being seen and judged.

Even if the agents and editors aren't looking at your comment style, if you post in hackneyed and trite thoughts on someone like Kristin Nelson's blog, and then query that person, there's a chance they might remember.

Plus, it's good practice to keep cliches out of comments!

Bernita said...

I doubt if comments on a blog are a killing matter, Sonya, I'd be more concerned with the mental habit that tosses them off.

Julie said...

So does the Quixote image refer to us "tilting at the windmills" of our bad habits? Nice touch.

Bernita said...

I suppose one could view it as a version of road rage, Julie...

writtenwyrdd said...

There is a reason my true name shall never be revealed: I don't want to catch hell for blogging idiocies and grammatical failings in my role as writer.

Bernita said...

Alas, my sins and omissions are out there for all the world to see.

writtenwyrdd said...

I probably should have said "in my role as a blogger." LOL.

December Quinn said...

I admit, sometimes I wish I was anonymous instead of pseudonymous. :-) In case I say stupid stuff (or rather, for when I say stupid stuff.)

Yep, Bernita, exactly. I have a character having "the devil's own luck" in hitting green lights, and later we find out he's a demon. Among other cliche clues.

Bernita said...

I wonder think fondly of the benefits of a pseudonym. But then as the sweet potato said, I yam what I yam.

December, I would chortle with delight on reading that!
Besides, one can usually tell when a cliche is intentional.

M.E Ellis said...

Never noticed if I do it or not. Will have to check myself!

:o)

Bernita said...

Don't think you have the cliche mind-set, Michelle...