>The Universal vs. The Cliche


Last night we watched some experimental music at Brooklyn Fire Proof East, and began discussing what makes the cliche a universal. The former is boring, the number one no-no in writing, the latter, genius. But where’s the line drawn?

I find that when listening to music for example, when I’m expecting a rhyme that doesn’t occur, like “keeps lingering on” with “love that’s strong” instead of “waiting for so long,” there is a glimpse at the universal.

In short, the cliche satisfies our expectations, or as David Foster Wallace would say, “massages our egos” while the universal gets at the same ideas by disappointing them, pleasurably, or in the case of films like “Blue Velvet,” unpleasurably.

But you aren’t satisfied with that.

A lot of it comes down to phrasing. In writing, even word order can make a big difference. But original comparisons, like instead of being shot by cupid’s arrow, being stung by the sting ray of love, can help us to achieve a universal emotion in unique terms.

Have any other ideas? Let me know.

Daniel Adler

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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