Agents and editors hate clichés. However, clichés are so deeply imbedded in our language, we don't know we are using them. Personally, I applaud all those creative people who came up with the phrases that give our language its biting wit, sappy compliments, colorful swear words, and delightful put downs. Our world would be boring without such gems as:
Dead as a doornail
Like a cat on a hot tin roof
Hot as snot
Sure as shootin'
Detractors call clichés predictable, annoying, a symptom of lazy writing, and bordering on purple prose. The main concern is cliché abuse.
The key to using clichés well is to use them sparingly and twist them to make them original. They can be placed strategically to add a comic punch or to define a single character, not the entire cast.
Cliché: Dick won’t rock the boat.
Twist: Dick won’t rock the rescue dinghy.
Cliché: Not for all the tea in China.
Twist: Not for all the fortune cookies in China.
There are too many clichés to list them all. Some are so ingrained in our language, it would sound stilted to avoid them. Make artistic choices.
For a list of some common clichés and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: