How to salvage a cliche

Word count: 194 words

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

A great way to improve your writing is to emulate the work of others. Here is a sentence I read recently that I’d happily imitate. This one offers a how-to lesson on dealing with cliches.

I always enjoying seeing cliches exploded — either by being replaced with fresher more vital images or, paradoxically, by being explored in greater detail. How does that work? Here’s an interesting example from a book I finished recently, The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen.

In this richly textured portrait of a mother who has just discovered her unborn baby has anencephaly, Cohen takes the tired image of a train wreck and makes it, well, interesting. Here is the sentence:

Somewhere, far away, too far for her to do anything about it, a train wreck was in progress, tons and tons of metal collapsing on itself, whole compartments combusting, grass bursting into flame and smoking alongside the tracks.

Doesn’t that writing make the phrase “train wreck” come to life, in all its twisted glory?