Thursday, January 3, 2008

Contests and Cliche's!! by DL Larson

Happy New Year!!

This week I've been reading humorous fiction for a contest I'm helping to judge. I've truly learned to appreciate the hard task it is to find the best book in each category, so I was especially elated when I received an email notice that my upcoming book, Promises My Love won an award in the Brighid's Fire Book Fiction Contest. Promises My Love, a historical romance, won second place! I even get monetary reward, yippee! The first place winner is Lunar Mourning by Laurie Albano, a horror romance; and the third place is titled, Beyond the Morning Star, by Alex Watson, a science fiction. I don't know either one of these authors, but a big Congrats to each for their hard work. Better yet hard work that someone took notice of. That's really rewading!

So that brings me back to the current book I'm reading/judging. I so badly want to tell this author about the simple, but frustrating mistakes made in editing. The CLICHES! This could have been an awesome book if only someone had told this writer to pull the over-used phrases and insert something fresh, something the character in the story might use. Instead, one hand tied behind her back, eating out of the palm of her hand, no problem, damned if she did, damned if she didn't, made a pact with the devil, lightning strikes the same place twice, slow this book down to ordinary and not very exciting, or funny.

Please understand, I want to like this book. I want to really like this book, but as a writer, I find myself mentally fixing these bumps in the road. It doesn't matter if one has a top paying publisher or self-publishing was done, every writer needs an objective eye to sift through their storyline and pick out the deadwood. If this writer had paid a professional editor to catch the ordinary phrases, or had their high school English teacher help them, or found someone bold enough to say it needs work here, here and here,then this novel would have been in great competition form.

So, my New Year's Resolution is to be as conscientious about my own writing. Finding new and exciting, silly, or provocative ways to say something ordinary is what makes for good writing. Lazy writers may hate cliche's, but a good writer hunts 'em down, and kicks 'em out of their book.

How do you change a cliche'? Consider the infamous: "It was a dark and stormy night." Here's a few examples that may give you an idea or two.

Cowpoke version: "That durn storm turned meaner than an angry sweetheart."
Dainty and fussy version: "Why those clouds rushed up so fast, I thought I'd lose my petticoats."

Cliche's can be the place where your character's personality comes alive, the reader gets an insight to the character they wouldn't be able to grasp in an ordinary, over-used phrase. So, be the good writer, and kick them no good critters (sorry, Norm) out of your story. You'll be glad you did.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

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