10. Alter the Too-Well-Known Cliche

There is a trick, or technique I should call it, for dealing with the well-known cliche: Slightly change it.

1. Opportunity only knocks once.
2. This opportunity would knock only once.

Does #2 completely avoid the cliche? No. But for me, the annoying part of being a cliche went away with just that small change.

There's something else to notice: I made it more accurate. (It was only that particular opportunity she would never get again.)

Again, a potential problem with using a cliche is not being as accurate as you should be. So modifying a cliche has a second potential advantage of improving accuracy. Carpe Diem.

1. That opens Pandora's box.
2. That opens a Pandorian box.

I would have been perfectly content with that cliche, except it wasn't quite right – I didn't want all of the associations to Pandora's box. So I made up a word, got a vaguer meaning, and as a side benefit I avoided the cliche.

I see a big smile with a lot of bright teeth, somehow reminding me of the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood.

I can see how they're slowly conditioning me. But I can't stop it. If there are any frogs swimming in hot water, they should be really frightened by the story of what's happening to me.

My hand is the Tyrannosaurus Rex in the room.

I wanted the meaning of deadly predator in that last metaphorical.

I pinch my arm, and I can feel it. So that wasn't a dream. [cliche]

I pinch my arm, and I can't feel it. But that was too strange to be a dream. ("Lida and SexySleepwalker")

For an illusion:

"You must be Johnson," I said, sounding too much like a colonial explorer. (Offer of Proof, Helibrun)

Instead of saying time passed slowly:

Time passes again. I don't know how long. I had no watch. They don't make that kind of time in watches anyway. (Farewell, My Lovely, Chandler, page 171 in paperback)