Tag Archives: clichés

The Elephant in the Room.

Somebody in the room said Dan Piraro drew this cartoon.

Idioms, and Why We Need Them.

Writing gurus commonly condemn idioms, and label them as clichés (cliché means “click”). In their haughty opinions, the use of any such well known expression constitutes old, tired, weak writing, and must be avoided or purged.

One reason why this attitude is not correct is that idioms occur in every language. Another reason is that not everyone has heard every idiom. For example, there may be no German idioms that correspond closely to many English idioms.

English idioms not found in German.

This does not mean that German people have no way of expressing the concepts that these particular idioms convey, but only that their cultural context is different. Undoubtedly there are many German idioms that don’t correspond exactly to any English expressions.

A great deal of fuss is made about our “increasingly global” community, but I believe that this is not the true state of affairs. Back in a more cosmopolitan time, people who were literate were usually expected to have learned more languages than their mother tongue. This means that many people had extensive access to the richness of other cultures, as expressed through their varied languages. These days, not only are fewer Anglophone people than ever learning other languages, but also the expert exemplars of language usage – writers – are being exhorted to abandon the most colorful parts of English speech: adjectives, adverbs, and idioms.

Real people use idioms in their speech every day, and we who write fiction about people in the Parallel Universe need to make fictional people’s lives read plausibly. If it’s not plausible for a real or a fictional life to proceed unwaveringly along a perfectly plotted path, it’s not plausible to purge traditional idioms from fictional people’s speech. If you write fiction, and are having some trouble with coming up with realistic dialogue, why not read some lists of idioms, and then write whatever snippets of conversation may come to mind? You may find the meat of many good scenes that way.

Idioms distill the human experience of millennia into brief, succinct statements that do, indeed “click” with their audience. Idioms are the germinating seeds of storytelling. The language of an idiom provides instant mental imagery, which reassures readers that they perfectly understand the text at that moment. Text that cannot paint a picture in the mind is only a collection of marks on a page. Mental imagery is the lifeblood of writing. Writing that lacks mental imagery is dull, hollow, and dead.

Drain your writing of its lifeblood language at your risk!



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From The Slush Pile.

There’s A Name For That, You Know

No, I didn’t, actually. But as it turns out, there’s a name or two (or more, I suppose, although some may not be very polite) for books, like Irish Firebrands, which cross several genre lines: Fusion Fiction, or Kitchen Sink Fiction.

Imagine … all that variety, traveling incognito under the Library of Congress’s classification of my novel as “American Literature.”

2014: Year of Destiny

That tidbit about Kitchen Sink Fusion Fiction (sounds like the retro life I’ve been leading, ever since the dishwasher broke down six months ago) came from Janowyn’s comment at Tara Sparling’s blog. I also learned there that in June, Irish Firebrands will go viral! That’s because it’s the synthesis and apotheosis of all three of Tara’s “bestselling” Rainy Day Romance E-book Titles: Weak Female Falls For Controlling Billionaire, Pseudo-Independent Neurotic Finds Out Boy Next Door Is Actually A Stud and The Implausible Marriage Proposal. (Feel free to brag, “I knew her when….”)

Moreover, I need to get cracking and get the prelude novel and the untitled sequel whacked out, because Tara revealed the imminent revival of The Family/Romantic Saga. It took me only three years to write the first one. Just nine books left, to go! (They’ll just have to pry the keyboard from my cold, dead hands.)

We Have A Winner!

My collection of poems (published separately at this blog), took the red ribbon in the adult category at my local library’s first annual poetry contest!

The Ornament (concrete verse, on writing the first novel)
Hibernian Fire (a poem of the parallel universe)
Queen Medb of Connacht (limericks from Chapter 25 of Irish Firebrands)
A Quiet Night: December, 1916 (after Li Po)
Rebels Ban Erasers (cliché parody of Robert Browning’s Rabbi Ben Ezra)

poetry prize


Filed under Fiction, Poems, Poetry, Uncategorized, Writing

Random Reading, Rabid Writing.

Believe it or not, there is one cliché that I don’t like:


Who said that? Faulkner? The nerve of him.


I’m confused about these two pieces of writing.

On a cold windswept street, this was a warm, cheerful place with a big stove in winter, tables and shelves of books, new books in the window, and photographs on the wall of famous writers both dead and living. The photographs all looked like snapshots and even the dead writers looked as though they had really been alive.

~ Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

… and …

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

~ Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford

Somebody, please refresh my memory: Exactly how is the first paragraph supposed to be better than the second paragraph?

Thanks! 😉


Filed under Literature, Uncategorized, Writing