Try this exercise to rid your writing of cliches


[Feature photo: Alison Christine]

The travel writing lexicon is filled with cliches and vague descriptions. You know what I mean. Pick up the next guidebook you see and count how many things in the natural world are “breathtaking” and how many locales are a “hidden gem.”

Time to get all of those cliches out of your system.

Step 1: Look out favorite window and write about the view. What does it look like in the morning, afternoon, and evening? In your first draft, describe the “breathtaking” sunrise and the “charming” houses. Do some research: Review a few travel websites, guidebooks, and travel blogs. Find the language that is vague and sounds like a marketing promotion and copy it.

Step 2: Rewrite your draft. This time, write something meaningful and concrete. Show (don’t tell) us about the color of the sunrise, tell us what your neighbor is wearing. Your goal should be to write something that only fits your view and the way that you see it with vivid detail.

* * *

My example:

Step 1. The most charming sight from my bird’s eve view is the commotion down on the sun drenched beach. My neighbors are there, gathering, drying, and selling seaweed to a group of colorful locals from their quaint beach hut.

Step 2. From the second story window of our 50-year-old Japanese beach house, I spy on my neighbors. Some of them are walking in and out of their one-room seaweed drying-hut. It is made mostly of discarded sailboat parts; broken pieces of a hull and a mast make up the frame, and the awning around the outside is made of sails.

If you try out this writing prompt, leave a comment below with your work or a link to where you have shared it.
MatadorU Students: You can submit your writing to the weekly Labs to get feedback from the faculty.

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