13 Ways To Avoid Clichés In Your Writing

Sick as a parrot of the same, overused phrases? Our top tips will get your writing back on track.


A chip off the old block. Bite the bullet. A loose cannon. Heard these phrases before? Thought so. A cliché is a phrase that can be used without thinking to convey something everyone will understand. It’s a lazy way of getting your message across without having to really, well, try. Clichéd writing can also sneak its way into your plotlines, making your writing dull and predictable.

Here’s how you can avoid them:


1. Steer clear of borrowed tales.

The problem with ‘borrowing’ old ideas? Your reader will already know the ending… Stick to original narratives and you’ll keep your reader guessing.



2. Write the story only YOU can write.

Use your own experience to colour your story and your characters’ emotions. You’ll avoid hackneyed phrases such as ‘ I was at my wit’s end’ if you remember yourself in a similar, stressful situation to your character. It’ll add authenticity to your scene.


3. Avoid pop culture.

Mentioning what generation of iPhone your characters own is a sure-fire way to date your story. Convey that your character is fashionable by showing how others react.





4. Leave prophecies open-ended...

The prophecy is an excellent plot device but when they always come true no matter what - they become clichés. Try making prophecies more uncertain to keep your readers guessing.




5. Reverse stereotypes

Look at the handsome prince cliché. Predictable and boring, these perfect men add nothing to your story. The best stories will change stereotypes to make them more interesting.



6. Make the ‘Chosen One’ fail.

Having a ‘chosen one’ or hero character can be a minefield because the reader knows they’ll always succeed. Let your heroes struggle or fail. It’s what makes them human.



7. Don’t look in the mirror!

When a character looks in a mirror, examine the character’s inner thoughts not their appearance. Using that opportunity to describe them is a lazy way of telling the reader what to think.



8. Take it slow.

Take your time when writing exciting scenes and make the outcome uncertain to keep the reader’s attention. The big fight scene that ends in one punch is a BIG cliché so pay attention to details.



9. Villains look normal too.

Gaston is as handsome as Belle is beautiful. His villainousness comes from his horrible character, not his face. Villains that look obviously evil are boring, where is the suspense in that?



10. Avoid the useless enemies.

Make enemies terrifying and REALLY tough to beat. If a protagonist always succeeds, readers might get suspicious. How much of a threat was it if the hero wins easily every time?



11. Infact - avoid useless characters entirely.

Cut all poorly developed characters that do nothing for your story. Make all of your characters important and memorable even if they are minor characters.



12. Vary your ages

It isn’t realistic when your characters only interact with people their own age.  Make some of your support characters older or younger to avoid running into this problem.



13. Resist the drama.

Of course real life can be dramatic, and people really do throw drinks in each other’s faces. But too much drama is what soap-operas are made of. Make your characters react in their own unique way.  

Tell us the clichés you love to hate in the comments.

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