Chapter 5: Curse of the Cliche

Cliches are by definition, overused phrases or ideas that have lost their impact due to repetition. When writers rely on cliches, it can make their writing sound predictable and unoriginal, detracting from the uniqueness and creativity of their work.

Readers may become disinterested or bored when they encounter cliches in writing because they are expecting something fresh and engaging. Cliches can come across as lazy or uninspired, causing readers to lose interest in the content. Cliches have often lost their emotional resonance because they have been used so frequently that they no longer evoke the intended feelings or reactions from readers. This can diminish the effectiveness of the writer's message or storytelling.

Using cliches can lead to miscommunication or misinterpretation, as these phrases may not accurately convey the writer's intended meaning or may be misunderstood by readers who are tired of hearing the same old expressions. While cliches can sometimes serve as familiar touchstones or shorthand in writing, relying too heavily on them can hinder a writer's ability to connect with readers.

There is a time and place for every kind of writing under the sun. Admittedly, I like Dad jokes, bathroom humor, corny puns, and situational comedy that might even have slapstick elements! How often have we heard, "A horse walks into a bar..." This old setup has been repurposed with new punchlines to keep the joke current and funny. I like this tried-and-true joke starter: "Three [insert people or professions] walk into a bar..." This formula has been updated with different professions or scenarios to keep it engaging for contemporary audiences. Even as I write this, a "horse' joke popped into my mind: A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Why the long face?" ...and I laugh...and digress!

Our stroll down joke memory lane would not be complete without everyone's high school joke-starter, "Yo mama" jokes. Here I go again; Yo mama is so short; she poses for trophies! Okay, I'll stop;-) This lovely "Yo mama" line has evolved to include more pop culture references and current events.

My appreciation of repurposing material extends to joke lines. How great is it that we can rebuild on an existing foundation of humor? Jokes aside, cinema has been reusing great themes for eons. Let's take a quick look! Here is example number one:  "It's not you, it's me." This phrase is often used in movies or television shows during break-up scenes to convey the idea that the speaker is taking responsibility for the end of the relationship, even though it is a common and often insincere expression. 

The movie, "Some Like It Hot" (1959) - a classic comedy starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon has been referenced and remade in various forms by contemporary authors, with similar themes of mistaken identity and romantic entanglements. Its use of the theme of hiding one's true identity, navigating relationships, and finding love amidst deception is central to the plot of the film, leading to humorous and chaotic scenarios.  Remember the hilariously tacky, "White Chicks" (2004)?  This comedy film, directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, follows two FBI agents who go undercover as white women to solve a kidnapping case. The movie, with its themes of mistaken identity and comedic situations, draws inspiration from the cross-dressing comedy elements of "Some Like It Hot." "Tootsie" (1982), is another classic comedy that has influenced contemporary authors and filmmakers. The film stars Dustin Hoffman as an actor who disguises himself as a woman to land a role on a soap opera. Its exploration of gender roles and comedic take on mistaken identity has inspired similar themes in more recent comedies. 

Adding humor to your novel can be a great way to engage readers and make your writing more entertaining. Let's begin with developing unique characters: Create quirky, memorable characters with distinct personalities and traits that lend themselves to comedic situations. Avoid relying on stereotypical or overused character tropes. Use clever wordplay: Incorporate puns, jokes, and witty dialogue that play with language in a creative way. Wordplay can add humor without resorting to tired cliches. Twist familiar tropes: Put a unique spin on common storytelling tropes or situations to subvert reader expectations and create comedic surprises. Avoid falling back on predictable cliches by taking a fresh approach to familiar themes. Use situational humor: Build humor through the situations your characters find themselves in, rather than relying on canned jokes or one-liners. Think about how characters' actions and reactions can lead to funny outcomes within the context of your story.

One more slice of advice before you begin pecking away on your laptop---keep your own voice. Infuse humor into your writing in a way that feels authentic to your own style and voice as a writer. Avoid forcing humor or trying to mimic a style that doesn't feel natural to you, as this can come across as inauthentic. Now go! Write that amazing book!

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