Remember the bees in Sims 2 Bon Voyage? Of course, bees have been around since the advent of Makin’ Magic in the original series. In Sims 3, players with the Supernatural expansion pack could become beekeepers, and in Sims 4 we have bees as part of the insect collections.
But this isn’t really a post about bees or beekeeping. It’s a post about cliches and the importance of avoiding them in storytelling.
A cliche is an over-used expression or idea. Many of the similes we use have become clichés.
- Busy as a bee
- Pretty as a picture postcard
- Blue as the sky
- Sweet as cotton candy
- Hot as fire
We could go on and on with that little list. A cliché can be a handy little thing when we’re communicating and need a quick and easy way to convey a thought. Cliches have become over-used precisely because they’re convenient.
In storytelling, though, it’s best to forego convenience in favor of originality. Don’t be in a hurry when you’re sharing your sims’ stories. Take a little time and choose words and phrases that catch your readers’ attention.
One way of avoiding clichés is by writing more description, showing the reader instead of telling. Instead of saying Susan was as busy as a bee, take a little time, add a few more words, and show how busy she actually is.
Susan pushed the ledger aside and groaned. With one look at her desk, she knew she’d never get the reports finished on time. In addition to auditing the books, she still had to review expense accounts, look at the credit card expenditures, and approve the invoices marked for payment. How had she fallen so far behind?
Doesn’t that give you a better understanding of Susan’s predicament than simply saying she’s busy as a bee?
The same principle can be applied to the other clichés on the list. Don’t tell the reader that a scene is as pretty as a picture postcard. Instead, show what makes the scene so beautiful and breath-taking.
Don’t simply say something is as blue as the sky. Describe the hue and how it makes the character feel. Remember, too, your characters have five senses, so don’t rely on one-dimensional clichés.
A light blue blanket covered the bed. Susan reached out and touched it, loving its softness. As she gently ran a fingertip along the edge, she thought of spring days, delicate flowers blooming, and birds singing their songs. She would like it here, she knew. Even though life would be different now, she would have this room, this bed, and this well-worn blue blanket to comfort her.
Another thing to avoid, however, is going too far in looking for original expressions. You don’t want to end up with a ridiculous simile like this jewel:
She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes
just before it throws up.
I found that one at Painful Similes and Metaphors, and now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to jump quick like a fox, hop like a bunny, and flit like a butterfly over to that website to read the rest of them. You should, too. They’re hilarious!