I don't know about the rest of you, but I have little to no tolerance for modern romantic comedies (unless they feature Paul Rudd). They have so pervaded our culture that we can predict plot points with ease within the first ten minutes of the movie. The person that the protagonist picks fights with will be the love interest. There will be a snarky best friend. There will be a hilarious misunderstanding that causes the love interest to ditch the protagonist, until the protagonist makes a grand romantic gesture that will cause all to be forgiven.

These worn-out tropes are known as clichés.


Sarcasm. Photo by Adriana Santamaria P

A cliché, at one point, was a brilliant and unique idea. But because people liked it so much, it was absorbed into the societal pulse and regurgitated so many times that it now induces groans. The French poet Gérard de Nerval practically defined clichés when he said, “The first man who compared woman to a rose was a poet; the second, an imbecile.”

Clichés can be phrases (like biting the bullet, and the classic “it was a dark and stormy night”), ideas, or components of a piece of film/theater/literature. The deus ex machina, the meet cute, and the damsel in distress are all components of storytelling that have grown tired with their overuse.

It should be said that clichés are not inherently bad. The term has a negative connotation, but there is a reason that many clichés persist to this day.


We at the Write Practice like to take tips to their opposing extremes. So today, write for fifteen minutes and use as many clichés as possible. If you're having trouble getting started, Wikipedia has a list of phrases and tropes to get you started. Share your practice in the comments when you're done, and leave notes for other writers.

Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.

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