Don't Use Cliches! Except this once.

"And then he just looked at me and said…" Heard that one before? It’s a staple of storytelling. If you're not using it, you should be. STEPHEN! Are you honestly telling writers to use a *CLICHÉ*?! Yes. Yes I am. Here's why.

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First, it makes your scene breathe. You say there’s a point, but just for a second, you make us wait for it. That slight hesitation tells us something big is coming.

And second, it shows the reader that the scene has structure. Setup/payoff. Where’s the scene going? Never fear, dear reader, here’s the point…

We’re sometimes taught to do that in basic essay writing.

“In conclusion, here are my three main points again and why they matter…”

I’ll never tell you not to look for a more artful, elegant way to bring your reader into the experience of a basic setup/payoff structure, but for me, at least in the first draft, I like to make the setup/payoff REALLY obvious. If I read the draft again and not even I can see the setup/payoff, there’s a problem.

So when you’re reading back over your draft, look for whether you’re missing the “And then he just looked at me and said…” moment.


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