[klee-shey, kli-] Show IPA
1. a trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse, as sadder but wiser, or strong as an ox.
2. (in art, literature, drama, etc.) a trite or hackneyed plot, character development, use of color, musical expression, etc.
3. anything that has become trite or commonplace through overuse.
You’re all likely familiar with clichés. They could be idioms, which are impossible phrases like, “It’s raining cats and dogs” “there’s a method to my madness” or things like “alabaster skin.” It’s just been used so much it makes the reader roll his eyes. Here is a short list. Ha ha.
We’re all in the same boat.
Break a leg, okay?
Why don’t you just cut to the chase?
The soldiers were dropping like flies.
She had everything but the kitchen sink in her purse.
I’ve got a gut feeling.
You’ve hit the nail on the head.
In your face, punk!
She’s a loose cannon.
You the new kid on the block around here?
Over my dead body!
Practice makes perfect.
I smell a rat.
The third time’s a charm.
Mom always turns a blind eye to her little brother.
I’m feeling under the weather.
He wined and dined me.
X marks the spot.
She’d give her right arm to get that.
I’m sick and tired of this!
He was a born and bred farm boy.
If she played her cards right, she’d win.
He was dead wrong.
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
This was child’s play/like taking candy from a baby.
She had cherry red lips.
I was dog tired.
The book bored him to tears/bored him to death.
His face turned beet red.
He cried like a baby.
I was green with envy.
He ripped it to shreds.
His eyes danced/sparkled.
She had full lips.
It had coal black eyes.
Don’t tempt fate.
A cacophony of sound split the air.
This is new and improved me.
His eyes were as deep as the ocean.
She was higher than a kite.
The kid was as cute as a button.
It was as soft as a baby’s skin.
It was as hard as a rock.
She ran around, shrieking with joy.
He smelled like a dirty diaper/rotten eggs.
The dress was fire-engine red.
I could go on and on. And I’m guilty of having used a cliché here and there. That’s the problem! Some of these phrases are so common that I don’t even realize I use them until I catch them in rewrites or after the book is published. Ack!
Here is what I recommend. When you find a cliché in your story, make it your own. Tweak it a little or a lot, whatever works best for your character and storyworld.
He smelled like a dirty diaper/rotten eggs. --> He smelled like the outhouse after Uncle Dan used it.
We’re all in the same boat. --> We’re all in the same wagon.
It had coal black eyes. --> It had eyes that looked like someone had blacked them out with a Sharpie.
The voice of your character matters a great deal too.
She was higher than a kite. --> She was as high as a 747. (Dad’s voice.)
She was higher than a kite. --> She was as high as the balloon my sister lost today. (Teen’s voice.)
She was higher than a kite. --> She was as high as Mariah Carey’s vocal range. (Woman’s voice.)
Your assignment: rewrite this list! Then pick your five favorites and post them in the comments. If you don’t have time to do the whole list, pick five. But this will be good practice.