Writer’s Corner: Kill Your Cliches

nightwomenMarlon James, the Booker Award-winning author of The Book of Night Women and A Brief History of Seven Killings, has some advice on cliches, presented as a series of questions to the struggling writer.

A few selections:

  • “How many times can the sun kiss you before it gets inappropriate?”
  • “If noise keeps assaulting your ears can you file a complaint?”
  • “Why are pipes always leaking, heat always sweltering, breezes always gentle, rain always soft, eyes always blue, streets always busy, holes always gaping, horses always wild, wind always gusty, and nails always rusty?”

Cliches are ever lurking in your mental toolbox, ready to jump onto that page without your even noticing. Be alert, be aware.

Writer’s Desk: Stop Waiting


We have all books we love that could have been just a little bit better. Plenty of time and energy has been wasted on arguing over how to improve an existing work of art. Marlon James, the Macalester College professor and Man Booker-winning author of A History of Seven Killings, has been there. He told a magazine that:

I realized how sick and tired I was of arguing about whether there should be a black hobbit in Lord of the Rings.

historyofsevenkillings1So what is James going to do about it? He’s writing his own multi-part fantasy series set in Africa. He calls it “an African Game of Thrones“:

African folklore is just as rich, and just as perverse as that shit. We have witches, we have demons, we have goblins, and mad kings. We have stories of royal succession that would put Wolf Hall to shame. We beat the Tudors two times over…

The first book will be called Black Leopard, Red Wolf. Watch for it.

And in the meantime, take James’s advice: If you see something that needs to be written, why not write it?