Friday, February 10, 2012

2012.02.10 A Famous "Cliché"

“Old Marley was dead as a doornail. This must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”

Writers take note. These are two sentences in the opening paragraphs of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.(The quote above is taken from the screen play for the movie version starring George C. Scott, fyi.)

The punch of the point, however,is more important than assignation and is written in a, heaven forbid, cliché. (It might not have been in Dickens’s day but he alludes to it as such.)

A cliché today would be enough, especially on the first page in the first sentence, to render one’s manuscript “dead as a doornail” indeed and buried in the slush pile.

A doornail is a stud set in a door for strength or as an ornament. Useless, hackneyed, overused, trite, lackluster AND lifeless? Maybe, but don’t you have doornail days? As a writer those are days when my every word is dry, zestless, blah, and every sentence deader than a doornail.

Thank you Charles Dickens for giving me the courage not to be so afraid that every darn word I put on the page MIGHT be a cliché or some other sin inviting death.

Write free as a bird, happy as a clam, cool as a cucumber!