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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Be your own cliché police

Does your hero run his fingers through his hair? Does your heroine bite her bottom lip? Or maybe your hero squeezes his eyes shut and pinches the bridge of his nose when he’s frustrated. Maybe your heroine’s gut clenches or she swallows hard when hearing bad news.

Perhaps your hero clenches his jaw, or sees red. Perhaps your heroine feels ice water in her veins when she’s shocked, or a fluttering in her chest when she’s excited.

Cliches—DON’T. Don’t use the same gestures or descriptions for your characters that you’ve read in dozens of other novels. BE ORIGINAL.

The heroine’s heart doesn’t pound—it does a combination triple-axel double-lutz worthy of Michelle Kwan. The hero doesn’t feel his stomach drop—he’s a hanging victim with the clunk of the trapdoor ringing in his ears, waiting for his feet to register that he’s dangling in mid-air.

A great resource for original descriptions is literary fiction (if you can read it). But don’t copy them—use it as a jumping off point for your own unique descriptions and gestures for your characters.

Be aware of what are clichés. Read widely in your genre and other genres. Note if you see a description or gesture more than once by different authors, and vow not to use it.

Repeat after me: NO CLICHES.

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