October 12th, 2015

Margie’s Rule #9:  Cliché Play

Margie Lawson

I am uber-impressed with the WITS blog and the WITS bloggers. I’m always honored to be a guest. Thank you! 

Margie Lawson

Most writers know to avoid clichés. Every basic how-to book for writers includes a section on avoiding clichés. Those experts refer to clichés as lazy writing.

So do I.

Clichés represent weak writing. They’re easy to throw on the page. No thinking required.

Clichés don’t share the specificity and emotion as the phrase or sentence you could write.

No power words. No power.

What are power words? In my world, power words are the words that carry psychological power.

What’s wrong with using clichés?
  1. They’re predictable.
  2. They’re annoying.
  3. They invite the reader to skim, and tune-out.
  4. They don’t add specificity.
  5. They don’t deepen characterization or draw the reader deeper into the scene.

There are times when using clichés or cliché twists works well.

  1. When they are so rich, so perfect, they make you smile.
  2. When they are so twisted, they make you laugh.

Dennis Lehane, Moonlight Mile

Dennis Lehane uses two clichés in the passage below from Moonlight Mile. The one in the last line works well. It’s a perfect fit.

Set Up:  The POV character is angry with Helene, the scuzzy mother of the teenage girl who is missing. Here’s how he characterized Helene earlier: “If it smelled of stupid, Helene just had to be somewhere nearby.”

After the silence went on a bit too long, Helene said, “What’re you thinking?”

“I’m thinking how I’ve never had the impulse to hit a woman in my life, but you get me in an Ike Turner frame of mind.”

She flicked her cigarette into the parking lot. “Like I haven’t heard that before.”

“Where. Is. She.”

“We. Don’t. Know.” Helene bulged her eyes at me like a pissy twelve-year-old, which, in terms of emotional development, wasn’t far off the mark.

I’m sharing my deep editing analysis of that passage for fun, and to share the learning opportunities. After my analysis, you’ll find more examples of cliché twists. Enjoy!

Deep Editing Analysis:

Cadence – Read it out loud. You’ll hear the cadence driving the reader through every sentence. No stalling.

Allusion – Rhetorical Device – the reference to his Ike Turner frame of mind.

Clichés

  1. Like I haven’t heard that before.

In this scene, that overused line carried power, strengthened characterization, and made me laugh. I approve using this cliché here.

  1. . . . wasn’t far off the mark.

It works. It’s tight. I like the cadence. And I can’t think of a better way to end that sentence.

Period. Infused. Sentences. My way of describing when the author morphs what would have been a normal sentence into sequential single word sentences. Like. This.

“Where. Is. She.”

Lehane shared what I call a Dialogue Cue. He didn’t add a sentence describing how the words were delivered. He showed it structurally. The punctuation indicates that each word is clipped, and that the character speaking is big-time irritated.

He also did something I haven’t seen on the page before, but I’ve heard it in real life. He had one character speak in that clipped style, and had another character respond the same way.

“Where. Is. She.”

“We. Don’t. Know.”

The reader knows the second character is mocking the first. But Lehane doesn’t TELL us. He SHOWS us. Smart. And smart alecky too.  🙂

Facial Expression, Amplified:

Helene bulged her eyes at me like a pissy twelve-year-old, which, in terms of emotional development, wasn’t far off the mark.

Lehane could have stopped with:  Helene bulged her eyes at me.

Lehane could have stopped with: Helene bulged her eyes at me like a twelve-year-old.

Lehane could have stopped with: Helene bulged her eyes at me like a pissy twelve-year-old.

Ah! Adding the word, pissy, adds psychological power. It taps a universal emotion in readers.

Most adults have dealt with a pissy twelve-year-old, a child, niece, nephew, neighbor. Adding pissy elicits an internal nod. It ratchets up the tension and tightens the emotional hook.

But Lehane didn’t stop with that strong sentence. He amplified the line and empowered the emotion. Here’s his sentence again:

Helene bulged her eyes at me like a pissy twelve-year-old, which, in terms of emotional development, wasn’t far off the mark.

Back to Clichés!

Writers often write body language, dialogue cues, and visceral responses in clichéd ways.

  • She arched an eyebrow.
  • His face was as red as a beet.
  • She had butterflies in her stomach.
  • Her legs turned to jelly.

Avoid them. Write fresh.

Clichés are sneaky devils. You may not catch them until a 7th or 11th or 27th read-through. Or you may not catch them at all.

According to Donald Maass, clichés sprout up everywhere. Donald Maass has a sensitive cliché-meter. So do other agents.

Some people are cliché blind. They don’t recognize them. Working with a critique group, critique partner, the clichéd phrases and sentences they miss may be caught.

REMEMBER — Compelling Cadence:

Every sentence should have a compelling cadence. Read these examples out loud. You’ll train your cadence ear.

Cliché Play from a few Immersion-grads:

Megan Menard, Pursued

Before:  It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

After:  It’s all fun and games until the river wins.

Before:  “I’m done with Little League, Ketterman. Time to knock this one out of the park.”

After:  “I’m done with Little League, Ketterman. Home runs can be caught. We’re going for the grand slam of escape. Set off the alarm and run all the way home.”

Before:  “Forget it. You’re slower than molasses.”

After:  “Forget it. You’re slower than dial up internet.”

Set Up: Seniors in the retirement home are playing poker.

Before:  …winner takes all

After:  Those scoundrels cheated and rigged the deck to beat Esther Scott’s full house with four of a kind, leaving her as the loser-takes-all new owner of Tank, the meanest cat in God’s creation.

 

Suzanne Purvis, Fused

Before:  My heart jackhammers.

After:  My jackhammering heart pounds get-down, get-down, get-down.

Before:  Matt throws another rock and barely misses Avis’s ear.

After:  Matt throws another rock and misses Avis’s ear by a flea’s foot.

Before: The last sentence was:  Each time, setting me up as his fall guy.

After:  He started the fire behind the Friendship Hall, the fire at the Chamber of Commerce, the fire at the library. Each time, setting me up as his fire guy.

 

Lori Freeland, The Accidental Boyfriend

  1. I’m selfie-conscious.
  2. This girl’s kick-boxing my ego’s ass.
  3. I didn’t sign on to be his bud-with-benefits.
  4. Tension’s strumming off me like a badly played guitar riff.
  5. I try not overthink the whole commando-thing while I’m putting on Gabe’s pants without Victoria to cover my secrets.

BLOG GUESTS:  IT’S YOUR TURN!  

Click in and say Hi. Or share one of your cliché twists. You’ll be in the drawing to win an online course from Lawson Writer’s Academy!

Check out the courses offered by Lawson Writer’s Academy in November:

  1. Writing Dialogue with a Psychological Punch
  1. Virtues, Vices, and Plots
  1. Diving Deep Into Deep POV
  1. 50 Ways to Build Your Author Brand
  1. Madness to Method: Using Acting Techniques to Make Each Moment Oscar Worthy
  1. Crafting 3D Worlds on 2D Pages 

The drawing will be Wednesday, 8:00 PM Mountain Time.

See you in the comments!

All smiles…………….Margie

Do you need MORE wisdom from Margie? Click here for all her WITS posts.

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About Margie

Margie LawsonMargie Lawson—editor, international presenter—teaches writers how to use her psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques to create page turners. Margie has presented over ninety full day master classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

To learn about Lawson Writer’s Academy, Margie’s 4-day Immersion Master Classes (in Denver, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Canyon Lake, Dallas, San Jose, Melbourne, Australia, and more), her full day Master Class presentations, on-line courses, lecture packets, and newsletter, please visit www.MargieLawson.com.

115 comments to Margie’s Rule #9:  Cliché Play

  • God, we’ve missed you, globe-trotting Margie! Thank you, as always, for spreading your wisdom. And OMG, Lori Freeland!

    I try not overthink the whole commando-thing while I’m putting on Gabe’s pants without Victoria to cover my secrets.

    Friggin’ BRILLIANT! One of those I wish I was clever enough to have thought of, and one that will hang in there with me for a while!

  • Great post! Cliches are slippery buggers. Like a hoarder becomes clutter blind, it’s so easy to become cliche blind. Here’s my cliche twist on “I had butterflies in my stomach” from my WIP: “A collection of cocoons just released a swarm of butterflies in my stomach. And they’re desperately trying to take flight.” Not quite as clever as some of your examples, but I kind of like it. 🙂

    • Hello Densie —

      Love your name. Fresh and fun!

      Your cliche twist has a compelling cadence. I kind-of like it too. But I’ve read similar lines.

      I think it would be stronger if you avoided butterflies. You could go for something we’ve never read before.

      But that’s just my opinion. And you know that cliche about opinions and belly buttons. 🙂

      Thanks so much for posting!

      BTW — I clicked over to your website. Love your cover for YOU’LL BE THINKING OF ME.

      You live in Austin? I’m presenting a full day workshop in Austin, sometime next year.

      Hope to meet you!

      Plus — I’ll be at the WFWA Retreat next year too.

  • I’m with Laura. Lori Freeland’s post sent me straight over to Amazon to look for The Accidental Boyfriend, but I don’t see it. Any idea of it’s status?

    • Jeanne —

      It’s not yet published. But I bet it will be!

      Lori Freeland’s writing is stellar. She happens to be a 4-time Immersion-grad. 🙂

      I teach 5-day dig deep into deep editing Immersion classes.

      I’m glad that one sentence impressed you so much that you wanted to buy the book!

  • I don’t know how I’ve managed not to take one of your classes Margie, everyone raves about them and I have so much to learn from you. I’m to at least order a few packets this week. The agent I’m working with pointed out I have cliches and strained metaphors in my WIP. I’ve notice part of why I use some cliches is because I speak them in my everyday life all the time. Now I have to clean up my verbal use so I can stop having them pop up in my writing all the time. As for the strained metaphors, I need more time out in nature. When I have time to observe I can come up with some original ones, it’s when I’m pressed for time that I throw in something cheesy. Thanks for guest blogging. Your posts are always insightful. What I’d really like to do is take one of your retreat workshops! The only reason I bought raffle tickets at the WFWA retreat was because I hoped to win one of your class packages (and to support the group of course).

    • Cerissa —

      You’re not a Margie-grad? 🙂

      Ah… Now you’ve told the cyber world that you’re ordering some of my lecture packets this week. Smart!

      I recommend reading the first three in this order:

      1. Empowering Characters’ Emotions

      2. Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices, and More

      3. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist

      Sorry you weren’t a lucky raffle winner at the WFWA retreat!

      I hope to work with you in an Immersion class someday!

  • Love reading Margie samples. Over and over. Suzanne Purvis’s example “…missed by a flea’s foot” twerked my funny bone. Thanks, Margie. You’re like Johnny Appleseed. Everywhere you go, you plant ideas!

    • Hello Sandra Tilley —

      You’re so fun. We have to meet sometime.

      I am like Johnny Appleseed, planting millions of make-your-writing-stronger seeds across the world.

      Thanks for sharing your smiles!

  • Wonderful advice-I printed out this post for my writing notebook to remind me to see if I can twist a cliche. (But I’ m not that clever.) Thanks for the great examples-I’m still laughing over the whole commando thing?

  • Margie, love your posts. I’m honored you included me in your examples.

    Spitting my coffee over the keyboard reading Megan’s examples. “Slower than dial up internet.” Hilarious.

    And wow, love how she twisted up the baseball cliches. So smart.

    “I’m done with Little League, Ketterman. Home runs can be caught. We’re going for the grand slam of escape. Set off the alarm and run all the way home.”

    • Hello Immersion-Grad Suzanne!

      I love your writing. I could find examples of stellar writing on every page of your MG manuscript, FUSED. I hope it sells SOON!

      I agree! Megan Menard’s writing is awesome. Megan just won the Frasier Award!

      See you in Fab 30 class!

  • Margie, you are an inspiration to those of us with brains slower than “dial up internet.”
    Loved, loved, loved the “by a flea’s foot.”

    • Hello 2-time Immersion-Grad Carlene!

      I laugh at Megan Menard’s dial-up internet line every time I read it!

      I know your writing is uber-strong. It’s NYT-strong. Come on, go through your WIP and share one of your cliche twists!

  • Great post. Got me thinking about how I am using cliches in my writing and how I need to twist or turn them to get the most 🙂

  • Margie, you never cease to inspire. And to prove that, I will tell you, I decided to meet the WITS challenge and write something about cliches at the same time.

    Jenny, i have precious little time and being the good little girl-multi-tasker that I am, I took two hours and wrote 2,001 words that I will use for my Wednesday post. And if you and Margie care to stop by, you will see what this empty-headed kid from Brooklyn can do with two hours to spare. And if you have the time to spare, stop by: https://ramblingsfromtheleft.wordpress.com/.

    Love you guys just the same 🙂

  • I loved this blog Margie. I just finished reading a book that used twisted cliche’s so well. It made me want to try it myself. Now you’ve reinforced my determination to do this. I just laugh out loud every time I see one.

    • Hello OW —

      You’ve got to share. What’s the title and author of the book with awesome twisted cliches?

      Now you want to twist a cliche.

      And you want to post it on WITS today or tomorrow.

      Right? 🙂

      Come on. You can twist a cliche. Dive in. The twists are fun!

  • This is hard! Agghh! I do my best to avoid clichés, but too often what I end up with is either trite or dumb. Oh, the struggles of the writing life (and I suspect that’s a cliché, too) … pounding head on keyboard (definitely cliché).

    And so to work …
    LizAnn

    • LizAnn —

      Read these lines out loud:

      Twisting cliches is easy!

      Twisting cliches is easy!

      Twisting cliches is easy!

      Take an easy cliche, and give it a twist.

      Megan Menard thought of something slower than molasses, something that would make the reader laugh. Slower than dial up internet.

      See? Easy, easy, easy.

      You. Can. Twist. Cliches.

      Got it?

      🙂

  • Here are some (had a character in one of my manuscripts specialize in twisted cliches):
    Movers and fakers
    Licked it in the bud
    Not just another shitty face
    TLC–Tender Loving Coitus
    My, how slime flies
    Like two pea-brains in a pod
    Put that in your windpipe and choke on it
    Bullshit in a china shop
    Wild chick chase
    Pure as the driven coal
    Time wounds all heels
    No such thing as a free hump
    See the world through smut-colored glasses
    A fool and his honey are soon parted

  • Hello Densie —

    Love your name. Fresh and fun!

    Your cliche twist has a compelling cadence. I kind-of like it too. But I’ve read similar lines.

    I think it would be stronger if you avoided butterflies. You could go for something we’ve never read before.

    But that’s just my opinion. And you know that cliche about opinions and belly buttons. 🙂

    Thanks so much for posting!

    BTW — I clicked over to your website. Love your cover for YOU’LL BE THINKING OF ME.

    You live in Austin? I’m presenting a full day workshop in Austin, sometime next year.

    Hope to meet you!

    Plus — I’ll be at the WFWA Retreat next year too.

    • That’s great that you’re coming to Austin! I assume you have a mailing list. I’ll go to your website and check. Otherwise I’ll never remember to check back for a date. And so pleased you like the cover, not that I had much control over it, but you know how that goes.:-)

  • Margie’s a writing superhero and I am the Queen of Cliche. Now that we’ve identified ourselves and solidified our life roles , I have to confess using way too many Southern-based cliches. Sometimes tweaking those is problematical, so I ride down to the state line gas station, get some coffee and a sweet roll, and just sit and listen to the folks who come through. — The newest one I’m trying to tweak is the one referring to someone who is not particularly smart: “If brains was leather, she wouldn’t have enough to make a pair of nekkid sandals.”

    • Newt —

      Love, love, love that Southernism!

      “If brains was leather, she wouldn’t have enough to make a pair of nekkid sandals.”

      It’s chocolate mousse on the tongue writing. Makes you want more and more and more!

      Thanks for sharing!

  • Nothing like a twisted cliche. But then again, I’m sort of twisted myself. Thank you for your insights and inspiration today. Absolutely one of those right-blog-at-the-right-time moments for me. I’m icing my WIP and the juicy examples you’ve provided got my juices flowing!

    • Hello Christopher!

      Loved your play on words. Twice.

      Loved your alliteration.

      Loved you hyphenated-run-ons.

      Compelling cadence too.

      We must share a few brain cells. I bet you’d love the 30 rhetorical devices I teach fiction writers!

      Thanks for posting!

  • Okay, Margie, here’s one that we spiced up in immersion. Woody, my middle-aged porn addict is holding up the clinic to get “crib time” with his favorite porn actress. Our protagonist, Agatha, has just told him she is a nun. (Obviously he doesn’t believe her!)

    He pulled the gun from the nurse and waved it in Agatha’s direction. “Pull my third leg and see if it plays ‘Jingle Balls.’”

  • Oh, I forgot to include an example. Here are two. Not sure they’re exactly twisted cliches as they are more descriptive writing. The setting is 1906, so I’m striving to be period appropriate.

    #1
    Before: He exposed his broken stained teeth.

    After: Glistening strands of spit bridged his ulcerated lips…lips which unveiled a grimy grin that looked like a too-used saw blade that had been left out in the rain.

    #2
    Before: “I know my hand is as rough as leather. But the rest of me is mighty smooth.”

    After: “I know my hand is as rough as a dry corn cob in a shit shack. But the rest of me is as smooth and slippery as snot.”

    Yeah, I know. This guy is a real charmer. But he’s about to molest my heroine. So I’m layering in the skeevy-creep factor. I hope I’m on the right track.

    • Hey Christopher —

      Thanks for posting your work!

      You nailed the skeevy-creep factor!

      I loved both of your examples. But the one I pasted below grabbed me. In an awesome way. 😉

      Glistening strands of spit bridged his ulcerated lips…lips which unveiled a grimy grin that looked like a too-used saw blade that had been left out in the rain.

      Kudos on the clear and powerful and ucky visual.

      Kudos on your double alliteration.

      Kudos on an incredibly fresh amplified simile.

      Kudos on using ANADIPLOSIS — lips…lips — for emphasis.

      Hope you don’t mind if I play in your words, just a little.

      Your Version:

      Glistening strands of spit bridged his ulcerated lips…lips which unveiled a grimy grin that looked like a too-used saw blade that had been left out in the rain.

      Margie’s Deep Edited Version:

      Strands of spit bridged his ulcerated lips…lips which revealed a grimy grin that looked like a too-used saw blade left out in the rain.

      — I nixed GLISTENING — You’ve got lots of descriptors. I thought that one could go.

      — I nixed UNVEILED and added REVEALED — I thought unveiled grabbed too much of the spotlight. I wanted to save the spotlight for all that cool amplification of the grin.

      — I nixed THAT HAD BEEN — Not needed.

      Read both versions out loud. I think the cadence is stronger in the tightened version.

      What do you think?

      Christopher —

      I slipped into teacher-mode.

      I love your writing. I hope you’re smiling!

      • What do I think? I think you’re the master! I’m still a newborn romance writer, so I am — and will always be — in learning mode. What you just shared will definitely help me create tighter and more engaging stories. Just signed up for your newsletter and look forward hearing more from you!

        • Christopher —

          I’m smiling!

          Glad you signed up for my newsletter. Check out the lecture packets and online courses too. Each of my lecture packets has at least 200 pages of lectures.

          Some courses are 300+ pages long.

          All my courses are loaded with teaching points and examples.

          Big time learning opportunities!

  • Great post! Love how you give examples and they are spot on! I’ve found many of your online packets to be super helpful, too. Can’t wait to see you on Friday at NJRW Conf for Deep Editing Tools! I’m also your moderator for the workshop, so I’ll be sure to introduce myself early that morning 🙂

    • Helloooooo Marlo!

      Great to meet the moderator for my Pre-Conference Workshop at NJRW’s conference.

      Ah — You’ve done some of my lecture packets. Great! Can’t wait to meet you early Friday morning!

  • Love your blog posts Margie … I learn something every time.

    A twisted cliché from my WIP
    #The butterflies in her stomach had gone into retrograde, and slimy, twisty little devils the caterpillars were too.

    • Hello Shirley —

      Love your slimy, twisty caterpillars!

      A twisted cliché from my WIP
      #The butterflies in her stomach had gone into retrograde, and slimy, twisty little devils the caterpillars were too.

      I’d give it a little deep edit tweak.

      The butterflies in her stomach had gone into retrograde. The caterpillars were slimy, twisty little devils.

      Now it flows better and the cadence is strong and it’s backloaded with devils.

      I hope you’re smiling too!

  • You’re gonna laugh – the only one I can think of right now is,

    “It was so quiet you could hear a spider fart.”

    Now you see why it stuck in my mind….

  • Thanks for the twist reminder Margie. I haven’t taken one of you classes for years. Think it’s time to visit.

    • Hey Sandy —

      Come back, come back! You’ll love all our online classes. Lawson Writer’s Academy has over 30 instructors. Check out those November courses!

      Glad you’re here!

  • ManjuBeth

    Margie, Thanks for inspiring us to write twisted.
    Here’s my take – “Dead as a flat snail.” “If only walls could stalk.”

  • Hi, Margie! Your cliché review is timely. Thanks for the memories!

    • Hugs to Immersion-Grad Sammi!

      It’s been too many years since I’ve hugged you. But I can still see your smile.

      Glad my blog hit at the right time. Slay your cliches!

  • Recently saw you/learned from you at our chapter conference and have delved into the lecture packet Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices and more, Just finished reading Lecture 3 that covers cliches’ I am coining a new phrase –

    I’ve been Margified.

  • Shelley

    Hi Margie! What a fantastic post. Loved the change to “it’s all fun and games until…” I’m the queen of cliche’s, so I’ll be going over all my writing with this in mind. Thanks for the tips – and the chance to win one of your courses!

  • Hello! Not sure if this qualifies, but in a story in which stuff we think of as cliche or as turns of phrases actually happens:

    Somebody must have pitched a fit upstream. Everybody got sick. We can’t use the water.

    • Hugs to Mindy!

      Great to work with you in Fab 30!

      And I’m excited about working with you and your friends in the January Immersion class in Phoenix. Thanks sooooo much for being our Immersion hostess!

      Love your amplified cliche play.

      Somebody must have pitched a fit upstream. Everybody got sick. We can’t use the water.

  • Margie,
    I merged two clichés. – “My sinkhole to hell is under construction, and will be closed until I get my shit together.”

  • Hi Margie,
    Your workshop at Northwest Houston’s Lone Star Conference was amazing. Thank you so much!

    Hugs,
    Tambra

    Here are the cliches from a my WIP One Hot Cowboy :
    As the drunken crow flies.

    In this cliche the hero is thinking about his Mama and what she’d do if he stopped by.

    Then, she’d get this certain look on her face that meant trouble for him. Her left eyebrow lifted and stayed in that position, while her eyes squinched and her lips pulled tighter than a Steampunk lady’s corset strings. Damn it all, he was already drowning from the over flowing shit pile on a silver-plated platter.

  • Hi Margie! I’m rolling on the floor with some of the examples. It definitely makes me want to wade back into my WIP. Just met you at our Chapter Conference and can’t wait to learn more. Thanks, BC (Be Careful 😉

  • judymcdonough

    Hi Margie! I couldn’t have read this at a better time. I was getting in a rut in my WIP and overusing the same words and phrases. Definitely struggling with fresh. It was great to meet you in Houston and learn your pearls of wisdom, even if it was only a portion of what you have to offer. 🙂
    ~Judy McDonough

  • Hi Margie! Loved your cliche essay at the end of the conference here last weekend. Why oh why do they make us laugh so much!

  • Orly Konig-Lopez

    Love cliche play. And love days that start with Margie!! Thanks for another great post. 🙂

  • Hi Margie,
    Below is a change I made to my manuscript during your workshop at the North Houston RWA conference. Note the alliteration as well as the cliche.

    Pre Margie:

    A shiver went down my spine. Was this witch for real?

    Post Margie:

    A shiver shot through my spine like a spell from a sorceress’s finger. Was this witch for real?

    • Hello Traci Andrighetti –

      So great to meet you in Houston. I’m looking forward to coordinating some deep editing magic in Austin!

      Love your amplified cliche play. NYT! NYT! NYT!

      Can’t wait to work with you in Dallas too!

  • Hi Margie! Thanks for pushing me to read through my WIP for the fourteenth time to find another way to freshen up lines on each page. At first I wimped out and thought it was better to completely avoid clichés. Now I see the power of transforming a few well-chosen clichés into humor hits with fresh writing. I can see how the right phrase creates power in writing. I always appreciate your posts and teaching.

    • Hugs to Megan!

      Yay! Now you see how playing with cliches can add more INTEREST and HUMOR and POWER.

      Your examples were stellar. Thanks so much for giving me permission to share your talent.

  • Suzanne, can I buy your book yet? I absolutely love your story, and the writing is stellar. And Lori, your cliché twist is generating some long-lasting fun. Well done on a fabulous line!

  • Fae Rowen

    Love this one, Margie! Now, if I can just get some good cliche twists to come out of my fingertips!

  • Hi Margie!
    I loved your workshop here in Houston the other weekend. I got so much out of it and applied almost every technique to my edits to send back to my publisher! My heroine is an alcoholic and I tried to make it a bit fresher.

    The familiar burn slid down her throat, and like a salve to a burn, the relief was immediate. Savoring the moment, she sighed with pleasure. A heavenly release oozed through her belly turning stiff joints into mellow mush. Oh, how she’d missed this feeling. It put her back in the driver’s seat, back in control of her out-of-control life.

  • Newt —

    Love, love, love that Southernism!

    “If brains was leather, she wouldn’t have enough to make a pair of nekkid sandals.”

    It’s chocolate mousse on the tongue writing. Makes you want more and more and more!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Hi Margie – I was in your Houston seminar last week (front row next to the lovely Christie Craig!). I was able to tweak the first 5600 words of my WIP and my completed manuscript for contest entries the next day. I know they are both stronger for it! I’m not sure if this qualifies as a twist on a cliche, but it was written not long after your seminar, so hopefully it has some Margie qualities. 🙂

    “His voice tasted like a Hershey chocolate bar dunked in steaming coffee and was every bit as mesmerizing as his eyes.”

  • Margie I was so disappointed that I didn’t make the workshop in Houston. The money and the months seem to forget how to stretch evenly. Love all of your posts.

  • As soon as I see a Margie post I need to read it. You have a knack for making us stretch those creative juices 🙂
    Here’s my cliche attempt:
    Before- His heart climbed into his throat.
    After-His heart skidded along his windpipe like it was an Olympic medal winning luge run.

  • Aw love Margie’s Academy. Here’s my attempt, not sure it’s really a cliche twist, maybe a little cliche play?

    “Get. Her. Out. Here. Now.” Vandenberg’s voice exploded from the intercom, all pissy and pompous and panties-in-a-twist.

  • Just a quick note for everyone who participated in today’s Write Up a Storm event – our scriveners totalled up 85,148 words for the day!!!

  • Pop. Pop. Pop!

    You hit me with a left and a right and another left and knocked the writer’s ego loose in my brain.

    My legs got wormy and the flesh started to melt from my bones. I’m staring at a puddle of sticky thoughts pooling around my ankles.

    Is it hot in here, or am I just sweating from the realization that my writing needs a lot more work?

    This girl is dizzy, but my hands are gripping the keyboard. I’m climbing back up to my desk.

    Thank you, Margie! I’m a new reader to your posts and I have to say, you hit this one past the goal post and into the next county without a whisper of warning.

  • […] Source: Margie’s Rule #9: Cliché Play […]

  • I’ve read all of Margie’s workshops (at least twice over the past few years), but I love these reminder posts to kick me in the ass. Margie’s workshops helped take me from being hanging out in the rejection piles to being published.

  • Hi Margie!

    At present my brain is dead from emotional overload with receiving news from home. So not sure I can come up with a suitable turned around cliche. But I did recommend you to a budding writer.

  • Loved your post Margie! A great reminder for when I’m editing. 🙂

  • It’s great to know that wherever I may roam, I can always count on you to teach me a lesson about writing. Thanks, Margie!

  • I’ll try my hand at the twisted cliches and hope I don’t tangle them up even more.
    Before: head over heels in love
    After: head over seals in lust
    Before: I can’t believe I ate the whole thing
    After: I can’t believe I felt the whole thing

    Don’t know if I’m on the right track.

  • Twist a cliche? Tonight I couldn’t even waltz one. Such fun to see you here!

  • HELLO EVERYONE!

    Wow!

    Loved seeing all of you here! Thanks so much for dropping by WITS and reading my blog.

    I haven’t had time to respond to all the comments, but I will! Give me a couple of days. I’ll reply.

    RANDOM FUN: Want a quick laugh? Check out the 13 second video of me holding a 50 pound wombat on my Facebook page. You’ll need to scroll down a few pages. But it’s worth scrolling. 🙂

    You want to know the name of the person who wins an online course offered by Lawson Writer’s Academy?

    Okay. I’ll share.

    Random.org does the… I can’t use the word honors. It’s a cliche.

    Random.org does the… I can’t say heavy lifting. It’s a cliche.

    Random.org does the… I can’t say dirty work. You know why.

    Random.org does the selecting for me. Totally random!

    THE WINNER: DENSIE WEBB!

    Densie — Please email me and I’ll enroll you in one of the November courses.
    You can contact me through my website.

    A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL THE WITS GALS! You all are brilliant and fun and driven!

    All smiles………..Margie

    • Woot, Woot! Very cool. So excited. I think all I’ve ever won is one book in a giveaway. Maybe this will help me push forward and meet my March deadline for my developmental editor! Looking forward to it, Margie!

  • Christa —

    You can waltz a cliche. You can waltz two dozen rhetorical devices!

    Great to see you here! But I’d rather see you in person. 🙂

  • Peeking in from lurkdom to say “Hi Margie!” Cheers, Ashley

  • […] Margie’s Rule #9: Cliché Play by Margie Lawson (If you have the chance to take a class or five of Margie Lawson’s, I highly recommend any and all.) […]