Cliche City

On my flight to Seattle, I read a book by a bestselling author. The plotting was good but the dialogue was so unbearably cliche-ridden that I left the book behind on the plane. I couldn’t bear to continue reading it.  Here’s an example (the character names have been removed to protect the guilty):

"Your deal will be history if you don’t make sure this goes off without a hitch. Blow this and you’ll wish you were in a cell with XYZ and a blowtorch. When we get to DC, we are going to have a come-to-Jesus meeting. The next time you make the slightest wave you are going to find yourself up shit creek. Is that clear?"

I count, conservatively, four cliches in that paragragh alone (not counting the character himself was a cliche).  There were pages and pages like that. The book did make me wonder about one thing — what’s the magic sales figure you’ve got to hit before editors stop bothering to edit your work?

7 thoughts on “Cliche City”

  1. what’s the magic sales figure you’ve got to hit before editors stop bothering to edit your work?
    Maybe that’s the edited version. Think how bad the original must have been.

  2. Cliches like this are a pebble in the shoe of writing. An albatross around the neck of fiction. A bird in the hand of the bush of the — oh, forget it.

  3. That sounds familiar — I think I read that, too!
    I’ve been reading more bad dialogue lately, it seems, than ever before. Including in some books that have gotten good notices.
    There’s really no excuse for it. Writing servicable dialogue is one of the easier parts of a writer’s craft. If you can’t do that, you’ve got no business writing.

  4. I think the exchange that finally made me toss the book was when the rugged hero says to another guy:
    “What in God’s name is going on here?”
    And then, after the other guy replied at length with one cliche after another, the rugged hero responded with:
    “Ours in not to question why.”

  5. Well, the fact that most authors have to write 10 books before they hit the bestseller list–IF they hit it at all–just wears them down. And the spark that their early books had is beaten out of them.


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