8. To Cliche or Not to Cliche?

Is your metaphorical fresh? Or is it cliche-ish?

A metaphorical can be used so often it becomes a word or idiom. For example, no one is sure where "bear market" came from. But usually, when a cliche is used so often that it's well known, it's perceived as a cliche. And fresh metaphors are thought to be better.

However, there are good reasons for using a cliche.

Take this with a grain of salt.

I wanted to avoid a cliche, but that was exactly what I wanted to say, and I could think of no other way to say it. So I used it.

Fake freshness is worse than cliche:

Take this with a grain of sugar.

I don't know how people would understand that EXCEPT to realize an allusion to the salt metaphorical. And they might wonder (and should wonder) why sugar was used instead of salt. There should be a reason – sugar should somehow be more accurate. (If there is, no problem.)

A problem with using a cliche, or using words that tend to go together (like impending doom or mortal peril), is that they can come to mind without a lot of thought. Really, you should be thinking about your writing. The cliche is an indicator of potential lack of thought, though only an indicator.

Avoid Cliches. But not too much.
Avoid thoughtless cliches.

While you might be able to write original metaphoricals, your characters perhaps don't have that skill (or inclination, or time). So dialogue and first-person present narration are more likely to use cliches.

I have two pieces of advice for how to avoid cliches.