TOP 5 OVERUSED CLICHES
Now, I know clichés are clichés for a reason: they’re used so often they become part of the vernacular. But what really stinks is when they become overused to the point of being annoying.
There are tons out there, but these are the five that just make my fillings twinge when I hear them in a movie or read them in a book.
And yes, I’ve used some of these on occasion. I’m in the middle of writing the first book in a teen action/adventure series about a teenaged spy for a secret military force which began in the American Revolution called NIC ARCHER. Halfway through Chapter 6, I used one without thinking, (it’s on the list) and while describing the scene to a good friend, he sarcastically said verbatim what I had written. I gulped, went back and changed it, and vowed never to do it again.
Right. And a lot of drunks make that same promise every Saturday night.
Still, take a look and see what you think. Feel free to comment, too.
And those of you with fillings, grab your mouthguards.
5.) “I’VE GOT A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS…”
Yeah, I know. It wasn’t a good idea to begin with, but here we are doing it anyway.
George Lucas made this one famous;so famous that he decided to use it–as well as a hundred others from his Good Trilogy–to a fare-thee-well in the Bad Trilogy as a sort of “in-joke” for the rabid nerds of the series. “See guys? Remember I used these in the first movies? See how my eternal genius works? Characters from earlier in the same world are using the same exact dialogue that you know so well from the later characters! I tied it all together!”
No, George: all we see is that you should let someone else write your movies and direct them. We see you’re a one-trick pony and an idea-man. Your writing sucks, and you wouldn’t know character development if it corn-cobbed you with a lightsaber.
After STAR WARS, people have used this tired, hackneyed phrase to let us know what we already know: that the writer(s) fell asleep at the keyboard.
4.) “I’M GETTING TOO OLD FOR THIS.”/”I’M GETTIN’ TOO OLD FOR THIS (YOUR CHOICE OF EXPLETIVE)”
Either pick another complaint or stop doing stuff that doesn’t involve tapioca, ginger ale, bran cereal, Depends, or the VFW. That includes volunteering for life-threatening assignments when you’re a week away from retirement, climbing ladders to put out fires in skyscrapers, breaking back into Alcatraz to take out homegrown terrorists, or mounting a rescue operation to Alderaan.
And we’re all just supposed to chuckle to ourselves and say “Yep, there it is again. I know that line. How funny!”
You know, I really am getting too old for this… bad writing.
3.) “IT’S QUIET… [ALMOST] TOO QUIET.”
All right, we get it: something’s up.
The birds have stopped chirping, the neighbor’s death-metal that plays night and day has stopped setting off car alarms, and you can hear a gnat fart three doors down.
Maybe it’s a secret clan of vampire ninjas waiting to drop from your skylight, maybe that serial killer the douchebag media have made into a superstar is hiding in your half-bath, or maybe a UFO is about to abduct another hillbilly and give him a stainless-steel enema.
(Psst…! There’s no such thing as ‘too quiet’–there’s just ‘quiet’ and ‘not quiet.’)
You have to admit, Protagonist-That’s-About-To-Have-Your-Tuckus-Handed-To-You, that it ain’t really ‘too quiet.’ Nobody has completely drowned out all the auditory sensation in the entire freaking world so that they can get the drop on you; they’re just being really not-noisy so you don’t know that they’re around. And if you happen to have some extra-sensory ability that let’s you know they’re around, so much the better.
So stop complaining about how much quiet there is; you know the feces is about to hit the proverbial bladed cooling device. Lock and load, baby, and tee-off on that mother. Then let’s get on to Act II before we all die of hypertension brought on by extreme page-rage.
2.) “IT HAS BEGUN”/”AND SO IT BEGINS…”
While they deliver a sense of mystery and foreknowledge on the part of the speaker to things/events/long-unfulfilled prophecies, these puppies have gotten stale. Now, I like a good epic storyline and mysterious plotline as much as the next Cecil B. DeMille fan, but dang, has this one got to go.
I recently burned thorough four seasons of Babylon 5, which in my estimation is one of the most tightly-written shows in history. Spanning five planned years of epic story, it has a beginning, middle, and end–something modern shows could use a healthy dose of–the sci-fi juggernaut featured a master-plan of sorts with a race of aliens called the First Ones, and their interference in the normal flow of galactic history and its races’ development. Apparently one of the First One races, the Vorlons, tinkered with human and alien DNA over the course of thousands of years. Their opponents, The Shadows, did the same, all for their big war to see who would run the Milky Way. They knew the war was coming, and so Kosh, the Vorlon ambassador to the Babylon 5 space station, tells the Captain (who plays a MAJOR part in the coming war) “And so it begins.”
You know, I respect J. Michael Straczynski, the show’s creator and writer–anybody who could link up a story of this magnitude on the backs of pizza boxes in college puts Billy Shakespeare to shame. The guy is a genius storyteller, but even geniuses trip over their I.Q.s at some point, and so I have to protest his use of this WAY-overused cliché. Back when the show aired (1993-1998), it was just on the cusp of being overused; you’d heard it before, but only sparingly. And in light of how mind-bakingly awesome that show was, J.M.S. gets a pass. Today, however, it’s the literary equivalent of sitting in traffic: you see it all the time, but hate it with a passion.
AND A TIE FOR #1
No. No, I don’t get it. So why don’t you use up the next six paragraphs or five minutes of screen-time to explain to me in a long, boring, expository manner, just what the hell you do mean? And while we’re at it, the audience/reader will find out, too! Yay us!
I could say more, but the video below speaks volumes.
“THE ONE”/”THE CHOSEN ONE”
Anytime a writer needs an instant superhero origin or and easy way out of creating a backstory for an otherwise humdrum character, he throws out the ancient prophecy and all of a sudden, the nerdy kid is supposed to save the world. Ridiculously, ridiculously overused.
Now, you might be saying: “Wait–Matt, isn’t Amos Harlow’s character in BLACK DOG ‘The Chosen One?'”
Yes and no. Yes, because he’s special and has a destiny to fulfill and doesn’t know it; no, because I never actually call him ‘The Chosen One.”
That phrase is trite and even looks stupid on paper. A character can have a destiny to fulfill and never even know it, and never be told he’s/she’s the Chosen One. They can just be special or marked out for greatness (or tragedy) and let that play out naturally in the story without having to give them a special title. It’s gross negligence/laziness on the part of the writer, shunning depth of character and a detailed background in favor of a moniker that’s become a catchphrase.
Writers out there: AVOID AVOID AVOID this cliché like Brussel sprouts.