It was a dark and stormy night and the writer hunched over his computer, defeated. Even though he left no stone unturned, he was scared to death that his plot was missing a key element. But then he saw his first positive book review and lived happily ever after. The end.
Okay, maybe your cliché use isn’t THAT dramatic, but even one cliché is too many. The easiest way to stop using them? Assume your reader is smart.
For example, there is no reason to introduce a plot twist by having your main character sitting at a table, eating scrambled eggs, and then announcing to your audience, “Little did John know that today was the last day he–or anyone in the state of Nebraska–would ever enjoy eggs again.” Skip it. Tell the story without announcing the story.
Think about your genre. If you are writing a crime novel, then people who like crime novels will most likely read your book. They have a basic understanding of the arc of a crime story. Do you? Take time to research this style of writing. Even if all crime stories have common plot elements, figure out what can you do to set your story apart from the rest. What interesting twist does your story take? If your story reads like a game of Clue, you might need to make some changes.
Finally, remember that your readers are using your words to paint a picture in their minds. If you use vague clichés such as “Since the dawn of humanity, man has battled good versus evil and John Steinberg was no exception to the rule,” you aren’t adding to the image you are trying to create. What specifically happened to John Steinberg that he had to battle good versus evil? Tell the story!
Your job as a writer is to create a story people want to read, with characters they care about, using a storyline that makes them want to finish the book. You have to choose words that make all of this happen. Don’t let clichés prevent you from doing your job.