With my cut back on blogging, I’ve been spending more time writing scenes and short stories that I hope can be used later as inspiration for a cohesive novel. I’m trying to manipulate some of these powerful memories into fiction. And guess what?
It’s good practice, but it doesn’t really come naturally to me.
I’m running into the usual problems; avoiding clichés, adverbs, and showing the story instead of telling it.
I don’t really worry about any of those things here on the blog, and it is a relief to write in a conversational tone using words and phrases that are familiar even if they are over-used.
Yesterday, I was trying to write a scene about a series of severe nightmares I had as a pre-teen. These nightmares were the result of reading Pet Semetary when I was way too young, and then watching the movie. That story still freaks me out for personal reasons even though it is nowhere near King’s scariest work.
I was googling the book and the movie to fill in some details that I had forgotten, and came across a picture of Zelda, the sister who died of spinal meningitis. I had a bad dream last night, just from seeing that picture again. I don’t watch scary movies anymore because I am a weenie.
My mom dealt with these nightmares in a really interesting way, and when I’m done with the scene, I might post it here with her permission. But as I was writing, it didn’t take long to run into my first cliché.
I woke up in the middle of the night. It was pitch black.
No. What does that even mean? How black is pitch?
It was so dark I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.
Why are you trying to see your hand in front of your face instead of reaching for the lamp? Do people really do that? Hold their hand up and try to see it? If someone did that in front of me, I would probably hit their hand. But I guess I would miss because it would be too dark to see it. Stop being so literal. This is why you never finish anything.
It was dark as night.
It was dark, you know that kind of dark just before dawn; really, really dark? I’m talking moonless, night dark.
That is the worst sentence anyone has ever written. Thanks for making everyone who has ever tried to write feel better.
Do you see my dilemma?
I’ll work it out, probably by omitting the obvious. Unless you sleep with a night-light, it’s probably understood that when you wake up in the middle of the night from a bad dream, it is dark.
Even though it’s probably cliché to write a post about clichés, especially if I tell you to avoid them like the plague, I’m still going to give you a list of the funniest clichés and idioms I found this morning.
- Are you a man or a mouse? I am both. They call me Mouse Man. I think it’s because of my ears. Or maybe it’s all this cheese I’m holding.
- All that glitters is not gold. That’s a misquote. Shakespeare said glisters. Is glisters still a word? If it’s not it should be because it rhymes with blisters, and that’s not easy to do. New word for mouth herpes–fever glisters. Stay gold, Pony Boy.
- You can’t have your cake and eat it too. That’s okay, I’d rather eat cake than have it anyway. Nom.
- Box of fluffy ducks. What? Well now I want a box of fluffy ducks even though I’ve never heard anyone say this. Thanks.
- Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining. Hehe, okay, I won’t. Do you know how hard it would be for me to get in a position to pee on you and then convince you it is rain? On asparagus day?
- Hoisted with your own petard. I love learning new words. Petard is a small bomb. The phrase means you were injured with the same device you intended to use to injure others. Google tells me péter in French means to fart; therefore, you’ve been hoisted with your own fart. Genius. How can I eliminate this now?
- Show them how the cow ate the cabbage. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Slowly? Do cows eat cabbage slowly? Adverb. Damn.
- You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one. Well, technically, you can, but if you’re already swinging a dead cat like a sicko, you might as well aim for the others. Whack-A-Mole.
- There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Lots of cat haters around. Is there? More than one way? Because it really seems like there is only one way to skin a cat.
- Like taking candy from a baby. Those babies never fight back. Silly babies. More candy for me.
At this point I don’t even know what I’m looking for anymore. Is it okay to use idioms, but not clichés? Are they all acceptable in dialogue?
Even though I don’t understand all the rules yet, I’m trying to eliminate them from my writing. The exception, of course, is in the first draft because they are natural place holders that you can go back and edit after you dump the idea from your brain.
I think I will start highlighting mine in red font. It’s always more fun to correct big, red mistakes.
Do you have any clichés you struggle to eliminate? Or any that make you laugh?
Please share if you do.
Have a great weekend!