On New Year’s Eve (New Year’s Day, really), Charlie Rose re-ran this February 2014 interview with Bill Murray. It was the first media I consumed in 2015, and I highly recommend it.
If you don’t read Fast Company, you’re missing a lot. Look at the way senior writer John Brownlee deconstructs a few seconds of footage and comes up with basically everything we need to know about Star Wars VII’s new Sith. Even if you don’t like Star Wars (click around Rad Infinitum for tons of Batman), anyone interested in story-telling should read this excellent piece. It’s about crafting far more than an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.
“A dying metaphor is a derogatory term coined by George Orwell in his essay Politics and the English Language. Orwell defines a dying metaphor as a metaphor that isn’t dead (dead metaphors are different, as they are treated like ordinary words), but has been worn out and is used because it saves people the trouble of inventing an original phrase for themselves. In short, a cliché. Example: Achilles’ heel. Orwell suggests that writers scan their work for such dying forms that they have ‘seen regularly before in print’ and replace them with alternative language patterns.”
We need to say the things we need to say in ways that only we can say them. Or, as Oasis said, “you gotta take your time/you gotta say what you say/don’t let any [received, tired language]* get in your way…”
*they actually said anybody, but you get the point.
Do you find yourself falling in with dying metaphors? Flee them! Even if you’re trying to be ironic. These are the among the things that drive you crazy about bad writing, so make sure you keep earning your right to be bothered: let’s excise all those dated, dying metaphors we might be rocking in manuscript drafts. We don’t use them on purpose. We all know better already. But they are tenacious. They are good ideas at 3 AM. They are placeholders for better, truer thoughts and more honest and beautiful images.
What are some of the worst overused metaphors (or similes) you’ve come across? I don’t want to hear about the great, unique ones, lest I subconsciously steal them and harsh their awesome.