13th Jun 2010 in Writing
Last year I finished an MLitt in Creative Writing, which involved putting together a 17,000-word portfolio.
In selecting work for my portfolio, I had to read a lot of my own writing. There’s an awkward, self-conscious, masturbatory pleasure in doing this, so I tried to read it in a critical way, as if someone else had written it. This led to me noticing a lot of repetition.
- Girls (always girls – unless it’s a fascinating and unattainable older woman)
- Doors (people hanging about in doorways, doors opening and closing)
- Slightly awkward yet enjoyable sex
- Feet (especially toes)
- The sea
- Cities (unless it’s a misunderstood teenage girl wandering around a suburb at night)
- Fairytales and myths
- Getting drunk
- Run-on sentences
- Overuse of dashes (this is because someone told me that overuse of commas was a sure sign of an amateur writer)
- Everything very short (why don’t my stories last 6,000 words?).
Things noticeable in their absence
- The gender of the narrator
- Old people
- Basic descriptions of how people look (hair colour, eye colour, height)
- No-one drives, goes to work, has accidents, or thinks about money.
Maybe I should try to write a dialogue-heavy, metaphor-free, action-packed story about a married, middle-aged, heterosexual man who likes guns and sports. Or a long, meandering, historically-accurate story about a young boy living on a farm and dealing with his relationship with his father.
Or maybe I should just embrace my personal clichés and write about genderqueer and cities at night and confused girls and awkward sex. But maybe I’ll add some sea monsters and dialogue.
So, writers and other creative people: what are your personal clichés? Do you embrace them or try to write against them?