With the new year upon us, I thought it would be fun to talk about some cliches we should avoid in our writing. Call it a writing resolution.
For instance, I think everyone's writing would improve if we avoided describing facial expressions. I fall into this trap all the time, but read some Hemingway; he rarely if ever wastes precious words on describing a character's physical reaction. And I think there's a good reason for that: there's only so many ways to explain how a character's eyebrows rise to indicate surprise, so we tend to resort to over-used expressions. Frankly, I think we should also officially ban the phrase "bit his/her lip" to show anxiety or indecision. I don't think it's even a realistic description. I've never noticed anyone biting their lip particularly often. Rather, it's a purely contrived phrase to cover unconfident writing (I'm looking at you Stephanie Meyer...).
Also, please no more sparkling or shimmering eyes. Laura Ingalls Wilder may have set a bad precedent with this one. I love the Little House on the Prairie books, but oh my god, the way every character had their own special degree of twinkle in their eyes, it just got silly. I'm tempted to start calling it the Wilder Scale, how much do your characters' eyes twinkle.
And can we stop having our characters do anything "with a smile?" Or have characters say anything "with [fill in the emotion]." (i.e. 'he said with glee.') It sounds ridiculous. Make the dialogue show us how the characters are feeling. Don't get lazy and rely on goofy dialogue tags.
Anyway, just a thought. It's a new year and a fresh chance to be more mindful of cliches in our writing.
What phrase would you ban?