Thursday, 3 April 2014

A-Z Challenge: Day 3

C is for CLICHÉ noun 
1. a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.
2. a stereotype or electrotype.

I'm really not liking this lift. The creaking and groaning of the cables suggest a lack of maintenance or use, maybe even both. Either way I am eager to get to the next floor. Still no improvement on the air quality, and judging by the sad and solitary mummified rat in one of the back corners of the lift, humidity isn't an issue. Thank God for no stench of decay.

Uh oh, here we go - the lift has shuddered to a stop and now the light is flickering, even the glowing panel buttons are acting chaotic? If we get out of this, finding a stairwell is top of my priority.

Great! No lights at all now and we're not moving. It's hard not to imagine the floor suddenly dropping out from beneath my feet, the image of my body plummeting down to the bottom of this shaft, smashed and broken on who-knows-what machinery below flooding my mind?

My pulse is deafening and my heart feels like it's on a space hopper.

Wait... I swear I caught a sound from above! Thank God. Power is back and so continues our journey upwards. Though I'm now feeling nervous about the cause of that sound?


Clichés, love them or hate them, have a habit of popping up when (and where) we least expect or want them: to be honest, looking back, whatever happens happens, come-what-may, but tomorrow is always another day I'm sure you'll agree?

Yuk, yuk and yet more yuk! But in our conversational ritual with family and friends, be it in person or over the phone or via some social media we are all guilty of using, and abusing the cliché. I admire the person for whom such a device is a scarcity. I endeavor to minimize my own usage, though I know I am guilty of letting them slip into the conversation.

As for writing, depending on your genre, I would say they can be a legitimate tool when used in dialogue, or even setting a mood. Though fantasy and historical I would deem sacrosanct. Maybe you have a different opinion or slant? When used in a more modern setting, even sci-fi, the cliché might well be a legitimate and viable tool. Again, I know I've used them sparingly in some of my shorter pieces dealing with contemporary settings/genres in order to get a better impression of a character across to the reader. 

I think, as writers, you have to be on your guard all of the time somewhere in the background of your mind, just quietly monitoring what is going on between brain, keyboard and screen (or if old school; brain, hand, pen and paper). And that is a hard discipline to master, as is perfect proof reading of your own work... ugh.

Clichés within dialogue can add dimensions to a character, especially if it is colloquial/regional, but again, this is a skill to be mastered within itself, otherwise your character/s can be viewed as somewhere on the intellectual scale of being between a thick gobshite and a politician. Unless it's intentional, I'd imagine you don't want that happening. But as the definition states: ... betrays a lack of original thought. I cringe at the prospect of anyone reading my work thinking that of me, but no doubt I have slipped up on occasion.

Although how difficult it could be to have a character purposely, and continually, talk in clichés? Creating a psyche like that would be an ordeal within itself for the writer. But some of the scenarios it offers up could be worth the headache. In Batman you had the Riddler, so why not a villain who taunts and mocks in clichés? I know it would drive me insane having such a person focusing their attentions upon me. 

Again, ugh... locked room, shackled to the wall or chair and this 'person' prowling in circles around me like a shark, mocking and taunting me in cliché format... argghh!


The lift slows to a stop with a gentle, yet subtle bounce of the cabling above. A horrible screeching pierces the silence as the doors struggle to open. They give up two-thirds of the way. Already I'm not liking this one bit. My caveman brain is pacing back and forth, thumping its club on the floor of my skull in agitation. Something out there in the dark doesn't feel right. Suddenly the letter opener doesn't feel as offensive a weapon as I'd hoped for.

The glow of the light above me is working against my eyes - I can't see for shit beyond the wall of darkness beyond the doors of the lift. Can anyone make out anything? My gut instinct is telling me--no, make that screaming--is screaming at me to get these doors closed fast. But to press the button I have to reach out, placing my hand dangerously close to that darkness. I maybe paranoid, but I have the horrible feeling we are being watched. The air on this floor has a pungent animal musk to it, but nothing I recognise?

Shit! I heard movement! Screw this, we're going. Stabbing the button for floor D isn't closing these doors quick enough, and even as they ponderously protest with vile screeching I hear 'things' moving towards us, the sounds gaining in urgency, as if scrambling over debris of some description?

I almost lose control of my bladder as multiple thuds impact against the lift doors as the slack is once more taken up in the lift cables and we gently bounce our way upwards, leaving behind the unseen horrors on floor C.


  1. I like your post. I agree that cliches can be used to give an impression of the setting. They are a quick way of making a link with the reader. Looking forward to more posts.

  2. The elevator thing-- really cool. Love that this A-Z is a real adventure.

    My husband is teaching cliches to his students right now. Certainly, the very clever writer can make them work, especially within the realm of the character's world (regional, as you've stated), but I know I can't really go there in my own writing without sounding exactly like that, lacking original thought.

    The Cliche Villain, that's an idea!