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Avoid Cliches and Stereotypes

You can avoid cliches and stereotypes.

If you do not avoid cliches and stereotypes, you will undermine the unique and personal feel of your memoir. Cliches and stereotypes place people in often erroneous and certainly indefensible categories. As short-hand ways of writing and speaking, they reflect ready-made thoughts and adversely affect the ways we relate to our families and friends as unique individuals and how we write about them.

“She was a mother-hen–you know how mothers are!”

“My father had a heart of gold.”

“Those were glory days when we were happy.”

These examples of cliches and stereotypes reflect ways of thinking that get in the way of seeing people as individuals and events as unique. If you think of your mother in generic terms as “a mother,” you will be weighed down with all the sentimental good and bad that second-rate movies, mass-market novels and sentimental songs sell us. Instead, strive to see her as a unique person, a woman who met the challenges of mothering as successfully as she did or could. Do the same with your father–and everyone.

And that goes for “youth” and “love” and “family” and everything else that can get sentimental really fast.

Two suggestions to avoid cliches and stereotypes

  1. Beware of words and phrases that have the ring of having been heard elsewhere. If you sense that a phrase you use is not your own original pairing of two or more words and that you may have “borrowed” it, chances are you have a cliche or a stereotype dripping off the end of your pen–or popping up on the computer screen–to embarrass you later!
  2. Create a language that is as fresh as you are. The challenge of writing is to have your words reflect you and your story, not someone else’s version of you and your story. If you do not avoid cliches and stereotypes, you slip into someone else’s version and away from your truth.

Learn to avoid cliches and stereotypes by using the two suggestions above.

If you would like to have help  to discern and then avoid cliches and stereotypes in your texts, work with a Memoir Network editor.


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