I started reposting a lot of my collaborative fiction writing over at my new fiction blog Wyatt’s Writing (noticed yet that I love alliteration?). It’s an interesting process for me because it’s about the only way I can get myself to reread my work. I can also see how much I have developed. Naturally I often want to start editing and reworking, but because collaborative fiction stories can be constructed for years and years and new posts are always needed I resist the urge to do more than correct obvious typos. I don’t need another distraction from new writing.
What I have reposted so far is only a couple years old at the most – this reminds me I should go back and date them for good OCD archival reasons – and yet I am finding myself mildly chagrinned. To me they seem a little pedestrian and full of clichés or obvious combinations of images. Cliché has always been one of my bugbears when it comes to writing, whether I’m writing for a magazine or whether I’m writing in my collaborative fiction community. Basically my mind collects clichés like a bowerbird collects twigs for the bower. Keeping with this simile if a bowerbird hopes to attract and keep his lady love he needs to make sure that his bower really stands out. On the basic structure of twigs he’ll add bright and shiny objects. He is a connoisseur of the unusual in his little domain. I want to be a Great Bowerbird.
One of my tricks lately is when the cliché leaps into my mind a red flag goes up and I stop and consider. For instance in my bower bird simile becomes a useful analogy in the previous paragraph. My first thought had been ‘magpie’ because, of course, that’s the first thought we all have when we think of acquisitiveness. In this instance coming up with an alternative bird created a more startling and original simile which then fed into an analogy which I could use to illuminate my point in a playful way. It might not be the most awe-inspiring example, but it’s a good start in thinking about clichés. When I’m writing fiction I might diverge even farther from the original thought, traveling along interesting little pathways to find something a little less trite or common. At the same time it is important not to get too clever and yank your reader right out of the story because of the surprise, shock, or complexity of an image. It’s also tempting to pepper your work liberally with similes and metaphors to spice it up, but just like putting too much oregano in marinara sauce less is often more.