Monday, October 27, 2014

Do not use these phrases

One of the most cliche phrases that I absolutely loathe is "think outside of the box." I am sure at one time, it was the newest, most-fabulous way to say someone was a creative thinker...about 100 years ago. Today, though, it's an oxy-moron. Because anyone who is saying, "think outside of the box," is clearly not.

In marketing, vague, meaningless phrases crop up often. In fact, I've posted about this disease before. It's a brutal misuse of the English language to fill a page full of words that mean absolutely nothing. I think that's why writers, who are used to using lots of words to describe something, fall victim to cliches when asked to summarize their 300 page epic into two paragraphs for a query, or even worse, a couple of sentences for a logline. "His world turned upside-down," might seems like an exciting way to describe your hero's conflict but it really isn't.

Let's take a look.

When a young farmer on a remote planet gets a secret message from a princess in danger, his entire world turns upside-down.


When a young farmer on a remote planet gets a secret message from a princess in danger, he's drawn into a rescue mission that kills his family and thrusts him toward his destiny of becoming a Jedi Knight. He is the last of the Jedi, and the only one who can save the galaxy from the clutches of the evil Darth Vader, the man who killed his father.

See! More details = more excitement.

If you see these phrases in your query, immediately change them

  • world turned upside-down
  • everything changed
  • more than she bargained for
  • a journey of discovery
  • uncovered secrets

Basically anything that can be replaced with more details, because we want to know...

  • HOW the world turned upside-down?
  • WHAT changed?
  • WHAT was more than she bargained for?
  • WHAT happens on this journey? WHAT did your character discover?
  • WHAT secrets?

It's like when you're watching an infomercial and they say, "This product will change your life and save you hours of time!" The first question that crops up in my mind is, "How is a one-shot kumquat slicer really going to change my life?" If you want to sell it to me, you have to tell me.

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