Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Once and for ARRRG!

It's been a while now, but one Sunday we were watching something on television with my mom and one of the characters stated something such as "we'll stop this thing, once and for a_ _ " -- well, you can fill in the blanks, right? My middle child was sitting on the couch beside me and started to pat my knee in sympathy. "It's all right Mom, just plug your ears," she said to me,  and grandma gave us the strangest look.

I can't remember exactly when it started. It was a couple years ago when that four word phrase became torture to me. It's like nails on a chalkboard. What's wrong with: "Once and forever" or "now and for all time"?  Or not adding anything to the end of "we'll stop this thing!" They all generally get the same point across but they aren't as beaten to pulp as the simple "once and for ---" Please don't make me type it.

I'm not perfect, some cliches have slipped into my own work (though not the once and for...)  Cliches do have their place. They appear in dialogue, if a character is sweet on a saying, but be darn sure it shows the reader something about the character before you use it. Ask yourself if the cliche really belongs there or if other words could be woven together to show and give the reader more.

When something is overused like the phrase I so abhor, it becomes weak and meaningless, stirring no emotion or anything more than a thought of "oh, that again," and no author wants to write weak.

When writing, the goal is to work hard and make every word carry the weight of that effort. It's not easy to find those perfect words and stitch them together into a tapestry to show what's alive in your mind in a way that flows easily for readers. Using an overused cliche can ruin all that effort for some readers because, in one blink, the writing got lazy and the author threw what is to be a stunning pronouncement out there with no more effort than brushing a speck of dirt from a fingertip.

Words are powerful things. It's up to us to use them to the maximum efficiency. Let's not continue to beat the same old words or phrases into a boring pulp.

On the same note, let's not create the ridiculous in an effort to be unique. Make sure the words you string together aren't creating something virtually impossible. Keep your imagery precise, possible, and active. That's really all any reader asks. 

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