And now I bring you my personal Top Ten clichés found in today’s fiction. Some are classic clichés and others are personal pet peeves.
10) Punching buttons.Is everyone in your story punching buttons? Do they punch in every phone number; punch the elevator button, etc? This is losing its freshness. Use sparingly.
9) Too many adverbs
This isn’t new but is still a trap I see authors falling into, particularly new authors. Do a document search for “-ly” words and see if you can find a replacement verb instead of using the adverb. I.e. Instead of “walked quickly”, use “scrambled”.
8) Raven-black hair
No comment needed.
7) Never using the word ‘said’
‘Said’ is an invisible word. If you must use a dialogue tag, ‘said’ is preferred to “breathed, huffed, etc”.
6) Characters rolling their eyes
Not only is this cliché, it’s not terribly accurate. A full eye-roll is rare. But semantics aside, try to find another way to display your character’s attitude. Reserve eye-rolls for an occasional teen response or when another expression just will not do the job. Use it as a last resort.
People, I have a bone to pick with you. I often can’t tell someone’s eye color even when having a face-to-face conversation with them, unless I make a point to really look. And you’re telling me that your MC noted the shade and brilliance and every colored fleck in someone’s eyes from across the restaurant? In my humble opinion, not every character needs their eye color revealed. It’s one of the last things we know about our own friends, honestly. What color eyes do I have? What about your kid’s kindergarten teacher or your pastor—do you know without checking? Mmm hmm. (Disclaimer: There are legitimate times to notice eye color. During a romantic embrace perhaps, or when a character does have eyes that are uniquely bright blue. But don’t make every character fit this bill.)
3) Characters who “gaze” at everything.
I don’t know when this trend picked up so much momentum but this one has really gotten under my skin. I use the word too, but I try very hard not to overuse it. I won’t give you a book quote because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But if you put this word on your radar next time you pick up a new release, it will jump out at you.
2) “Cupping” things
This is just a personal thing but it is high on my list because it just makes me cringe. There is nothing in the industry that says to avoid this word, but I would love it banned. It just makes me feel icky. Maybe it has something to do with bra shopping, I don’t know. Just be forewarned if I ever crit for you and see this word it will be replaced.
1) “Verbicizing” of nouns
My number one pet peeve, born I believe out of the passion for active voice, is the verbicizing of nouns and adjectives. (This term was coined, I believe, by miss Phoenix Sullivan in a previous post.) You know what I mean, right? A poor example is hands "fisting" rather than balling INTO fists. Or how about ‘he treed the cat’ instead of ‘he chased the cat into a tree’. Her hair "rivered" over her shoulders. I’m all about word economy but not when the result sounds weird. What’s next: It was so cold her lips blued? It must stop! If you find yourself thinking this is a nifty way to cut your word count, please step back and assess whether the phrase works or just sounds odd. Ask a reader (not a writer). We write for them, right? It doesn’t matter if our author friends love a neat trick to convey a line succinctly if the reader wants to laugh out loud, throw the book against a wall, or simply feels pulled out of the story by the unfamiliar use of English. For the love of all things good and decent in this world, please don’t do this.
So there you have my Top Ten. Feel free to disagree with the opinions expressed in this post. I hope I haven’t offended anybody. If you are gazing at your computer screen, ready to punch in a reply, and find yourself cupping a piece of rotten fruit to chuck at me, please don’t; it will only muck up your computer screen anyway. *grin*