According to the dictionary (in this case, Merriam Webster) a cliché is
1: a trite phrase or expression; also: the idea expressed by it
2: a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation
3: something that has become overly familiar or commonplace
All of which translates as something not to be used too often in your story. Sure the occasional cliché may be clever, or funny, but too many of them, and it starts to sound as if the author has no fresh ideas of her own, and is merely churning out a loosely cobbled together arrangement of other people’s words.
Pick a few clichés and think about them for a minute. If the hero says to the heroine, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” do you really think the heroine will say, “Oh, my. He knows Shakespeare”? or is she more likely to say, “I’ve heard a lot better pick-up lines than that.”?
Or, “The villain has an ax to grind”. Or possibly he’s “made of money”, but then again “money is the root of all evil”.
If the heroine is “walking on eggshells” while she’s “waiting for the dust to settle” she probably needs better dialogue.
Clichés are boring.
Get your head in the game, get your ducks in a row, go the extra mile and give it a go. Write your own dialogue!
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.