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Cliched Dialogue (Top 10 Dialogue Writing Mistakes via Live Write Breathe

Cliched Dialogue (Top 10 Dialogue Writing Mistakes)

#9 Cliched Dialogue

Ever been trapped at a party by someone who spoke in cliches? I’m willing to bet that the offending person came off as smarmy, cheesy, or maybe a little less intelligent than expected. This is also how cliched dialogue in fiction ‘sounds’ to a reader.

Even the best writers find that cliches slip in now and again, and they can be hard to spot. In this article, we’ll look at why cliched dialogue happens and discuss ways to prevent it from showing up.

Example of Cliched Dialogue

A cliche is a trite, overused expression often relying on figurative language. I’ll tweak the example I introduced in Creating Talking Heads, dialogue writing mistake #7, to illustrate cliched dialogue.

Here’s the cliched version:

“My daughter is stuck in the tree!” Mary  pulled Gabriel off the porch step and into her yard. “You showed up in the nick of time.”

He glanced up, then whistled through his teeth, already pulling his mailbag off his shoulder.  How on earth could a toddler climb that high? This kid’s mother probably needed to watch her every minute.

Come to the rescue!” Mary’s words came in short bursts, and her fingers moved convulsively on his arm.

“Call the fire department.”

Time is of the essence. She’s hovering on the brink of doom.

He felt like he was up a creek without a paddle. Nowhere in his post office training had handling such a situation been remotely discussed. “Do you have a ladder?”

A scream split the air, and the mailbag slipped from his fingers. “Hang on, princess!”

The original version:

“My daughter is stuck in the tree!” Mary  pulled Gabriel off the porch step and into her yard.

He glanced up, then whistled through his teeth, already pulling his mailbag off his shoulder. How on earth could a toddler climb that high?

“Help her, please.” Mary’s words came in short bursts, and her fingers moved convulsively on his arm.

“Call the fire department.”

“There’s no time. She could fall any moment.”

He hesitated. Nowhere in his post office training had handling such a situation been remotely discussed. “Do you have a ladder?”

A scream pulsed through the air, and the mailbag slipped from his fingers. “Hang on, princess!”

What Causes Cliched Dialogue?

Cliched expressions aren’t hard to pick up through constant exposure in conversation and the media. We are social creatures, and if our tribe uses cliches, it takes a strong mind and an aware individual to resist them.

Overcoming Cliched Dialogue

  • Pay attention to cliches in the conversations around you. This will train you to catch them in your own speech. Once you are aware of them, you’ll just naturally edit them out. This technique will also translate into your writing.
  • Study common writing cliches so you are more aware of them.
  • Look for cliches as you edit.
  • Let others read your work and give you feedback. Other writers, especially, often let you know when they spot cliched dialogue.

Some Final Thoughts

It’s important to note that cliches are not just found in dialogue but also in characters, scenes, and plots. While you may want to experiment with creative use of cliches (maybe even turning a cliche on its head),  it’s usually best to avoid them. Tap your creative gift to come up with original stories that surprise readers.

Next time we’ll cover dialogue writing mistake #10: missing dialogue.

Go to dialogue writing mistake #8: Stilted Dialogue.

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Clichéd Dialogue (Top 10 Dialogue Writing Mistakes) via Janalyn Voigt | Live Write Breathe

Written by Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt

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I’m Janalyn Voigt, an author, speaker, and former social media mentor. DawnSinger and Wayfarer, the first two books in my epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, released with Pelican Book Group and will be followed by at least two more installments. I’m also working on a romantic suspense novel set in an Irish castle, but then historical fiction has a grip on me too. Being unabashedly multi-genre makes me into what some might term a reluctant rebel, but I prefer to think of myself as a storyteller.

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