Friday, May 29, 2009

Stay away from these...


Here's a tidbit from Mayhem in the Midlands that I picked up in the What Authors Get Wrong panel. One of the speakers (at first I thought it was Michael Black, but I have been corrected: it was none other than Margaret Grace, aka Camille Minichino) recited lines of dialogue oft heard in TV crime drama shows—deathless questions, comments, statements, that should be retired. Here are the few I scribbled down:
  • "Let's go, let's go, let's go!" (said with increasing intensity)
  • "I never meant for this to happen." (bloody corpse lying at the feet of the speaker)
  • "What do you mean by that?" (well, duh)
  • "Are you okay?" (said to someone who has 1. been hit over the head, 2. caught in a tornado, 3. survived an explosion, 4. received a paper cut, 5. ...)
I wish I'd captured more of these, but alas! I'll have to admit, I've used a couple of these myself on occasion (no, don't go looking for them now!). I think, perhaps, it's a case of "lazy writing," and also of being raised on television back in the days of yore. When the stories roll out like a movie in my mind, those lines just automatically pop up in certain circumstances.

And, just for fun (because it is the weekend) here's some other (non-Mayhem) sites to visit that discuss dialogue and situation cliches in movies and TV.
Wander on through them and see what catches your fancy or sounds familiar. And then vow not use them in your own writing. There's always another way to say it!

12 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great resources listed in this post! Thanks for sharing them and reminding us to avoid lazy writing.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Jean Henry Mead said...

Guilty as charged. When I can't think of a clever non-cliche, I've been known to add proverbial before the well worn phrase in the first draft. :)

Ann Parker said...

Those cliches just slip right out so naturally, right? :-)
Since I write in the 1880s, if something comes out in dialogue that's very "contemporary" to the time, sometimes I tell myself that what's a cliche now was not back then...
Don't know if that's cheating or not! ;-)

Bob Sanchez said...

Sometimes you can get away with cliches because they aren't widely seen as such. Or if you take something you know is a cliche and add your own twist to it.

Ann, your 1880s character may not think a certain phrase is trite, but keep in mind you're writing for a 21st century reader.

Bob Sanchez
http://bobsanchez1.blogspot.com

Ann Parker said...

Very true, Bob, very true...

Enid Wilson said...

I've definitely used one or two of these cliches such as "Shut up and kiss me", "don't you die on me!", "too much information" Time to put my act together.

Sexy romance by Enid Wilson

sexy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Camille Minichino said...

Hi all,
I was the one on the panel who had the list and I'd offer to share it, but Ann has given us many times more!

I was seated next to the wonderful Chicago cop, Michael Black, so I can see why the error was made :=))

Ann Parker said...

It was YOUR list?? Camille, I'm embarrassed! I shall correct the post.

julielomoe said...

Great post. The conference sounds good - sometimes these smaller conferences are far more rewarding than the biggies like Bouchercon or Malice.

A writing tip I heard somewhere: don't worry about using cliches on your first draft, because they may well be the easiest way to get your thoughts down in a hurry. But be ruthless about weeding them out and finding a more original to get the idea across once you start editing and rewriting.

Julie Lomoe
Julie Lomoe's Musings Mysterioso

Camille Minichino said...

How nice of you to correct the post, Ann -- I'm embarrassed to say my list was compiled from the many hours I spend in front of crime dramas on TV!
When I should be ... oh, never mind.

The Practical Preserver said...

This was great fun! And it goes without saying.....