Thinkin’ on Thursdays: Quotes and Clichés

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Found an interesting juxtaposition in a couple of articles in an old copy of The Writer (Oct.2011) today. Brandi Reissenweber, a writer and teacher of writing, answered a reader’s question (p. 7): how do I know when something is a cliché? The other by John K. Borchardt (p. 13), a freelance writer, was tips on getting quotes that “sparkle.”

Let me share a few of their ideas – this time in just one article:

Basically clichés are familiar, standard ways of saying something, like “tall, dark and handsome,” “worked like a dog,” or “her heart skipped a beat”. You know, the words everybody uses. They’ve been “arranged” in this order by someone else, probably a long time ago. You can get away with them in dialogue, since otherwise it would sound unreal, but keep them out of narration. One that drives me up a wall (and that’s a cliché itself) is “She sat bolt upright in bed.”

Now for tips on quotes:

  1. Find unique quotes. (You know, that are not clichés.)
  2. Plan interview questions: write them in an outline or logical order.
  3. Listen for potential follow‑up questions, even if they’re not in your planned “order”.
  4. Use the phone or meet your source face to face.
  5. Use a recorder: reword questions as necessary to clarify quotes as you go.
  6. Begin by putting your source at ease by showing you’ve done your homework.
  7. Leave your own opinions and biases out of the interview: learn from the source.
  8. Look for fresh expressions that reveal source’s personality or important points.
  9. Double check your quotes; phone/email sources to check clarity, accuracy.

That’s it: go out and get an interview ‑ and don’t include your source’s clichés, or any of your own!

See you next on Spellbinder Saturday!

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