Clichés are clichés for a reason. They’re often the first thing that occurs to a writer when he or she sits down to tell a story. You reach for a word or phrase and what leaps out at you is the thing you’ve heard a hundred times before. It comes so easily that you hardly notice it. It sounds right because your ear has been bludgeoned too often with it before.
Defeating cliché requires constant vigilance. No one is immune. Recently, I was told by an editor that my phrase, “a thought punched her” should be changed because thoughts can’t literally punch. This is true, of course, but the editor’s suggested replacement was “a thought struck her.” I’m sure “struck” seemed better to the editor because of how common it is.
And so we come to my latest faux pas. In my critique group today, someone commented about the “cornflower blue eyes” of one of my female characters. I laughed because I thought they were making a joke. Then I realized I had indeed described the woman’s eyes as “cornflower blue.” And I had no idea.
Looks like I’m due for another pass through this manuscript.