When to Weed out Clichés
Don’t think that you now have to go and write a flawless first draft of your next piece, completely clear of clichés. If you try that, you’ll probably never get that first draft written. My advice, and the technique I use, is to write your first draft with whatever words come to mind, cliché or not. If possible, let the manuscript sit a while before going back to it. Then, with a fresh mindset, you can go through and weed out all the undesirables, taking the time to find descriptions that really say what you want them to say.
Clichés in Dialogue
Some might disagree with me on this, but I believe it’s all right to use clichés in dialogue. Make that limited clichés in dialogue. Why? Because people use clichés when they speak! Most people are lazy when they speak; very few ordinary people take the time to develop new and interesting descriptions during the course of a conversation.
You could make clichés a character trait for one of your characters, by having them speak almost exclusively in clichés. (Careful, though; that could get old quickly!) On the flip side, if you have a character who is exceptionally bright (or exceptionally full of himself), you probably want to avoid clichés and make that the character who does come up with original sayings.
How you use clichés in dialogue is up to you. The lesson to take away here, though, is, as in all things, moderation.
Now, knock ‘em out, tiger!