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This 100 Theme Challenge is about taking old cliches and twisting them to write something unique and intriguing. These can be inspiration for any type of literature: poetry, fiction, nonfiction, scripts, etc.

The list of cliches below was compiled mostly by scrolling through our own deviantART poetry gallery. It's appaling to see how many cliches are still being used in their original form with no effort given to making them new or interesting! The struggle for a lot of writers, I think, is that they make the cliche too much a focal point of their writing, rather than using it simply for inspiration or relatability.

I want to say this to all the writers out there who desire to be better: You can make a piece accessible without making it cliche.

If you choose to use this list, the cliches themselves are only your jumping off point. If you're writing a poem, you may decide to focus on the image evoked by the cliche and write something that surprises the reader. For a story, you may want to create a character that has to deal with the morale implied by the cliche. For nonfiction, you may want to write a personal essay about dealing with a parent or grandparent who used to say one of these things to you everyday growing up, causing it to lose all meaning to you. I also encourage someone out there to write an academic essay on a few of these explaining how the cliche came to be. There are numerous options for what you can write, but the key is that you must write something so that the cliche is executed in a way that is new and interesting while still maintaining the original spirit of the cliche.

For example, let's look at the phrase "hanging by a thread." Originally, this image was meant to be ominous--only a thread stands between someone and certain death. But over time, constant use of the phrase has rendered its original tone flat and meaningless. There are ways however to use this phrase for inspiration to write something different. Let's imagine, for example, that this phrase was Al Purdy's original inspiration for his 1968 poem "Wilderness Gothic:"
Across Roblin Lake, two shores away,
they are sheathing the church spire
with new metal.  Someone hangs in the sky
over there from a piece of rope,
hammering and fitting God's belly-scratcher,
working his way up along the spire
until there's nothing left to nail on---
Perhaps the workman's faith reaches beyond:
touches intangibles, wrestles with Jacob...
Now, of course, I have no idea what Al Purdy's jumping off point was in creating this poem, but the point is that he goes on to write a moving and somewhat disturbing piece about religion. So, while the poem is not about "hanging by a thread," and the phrase itself is nowhere in the actual poem, there is a clear inspiration (if we were priveledged enough to have Al Purdy using our list for inspiration).

I don't discourage your use of the actual cliche in your piece; however, if you do use the phrase word-for-word, I expect a unique application of it's meaning. This time, let's use "penny for your thoughts" as our inspiration. There is a song lyric that keeps running through my head (<-- another cliche, my apologies) which uses this phrase so eloquently it doens't feel cliche. It comes from The Band Perry's song "If I Die Young:"
A penny for my thoughts, oh no, I'll sell them for a dollar
They're worth so much more after I'm a goner
And maybe then you'll hear the words I been singin'
Funny when you're dead how people start listenin'
Cliches are only cliche when they're applied in the usual manner, so if you can take one of the phrases or images below and use it to write something memorable, the cliche can be forgiven.

So, it's time to get to work! This list will be posted with two groups: #100ThemeWriters and my own group #LITplease. If you want to officially submit an entry, you may join one of these groups, otherwise, I simply encourage you to use this list for your inspiration. Feel free to link me in a comment when you do, by the way--I'd love to see what you all come up with!

1. A Bitter Pill To Swallow
2. A Little Bird Told Me
3. Ace Up Your Sleeve
4. All Hell Breaks Loose
5. At The End Of My Rope
6. Axe To Grind
7. Back Stabber
8. Bad Hair Day
9. Barking Up The Wrong Tree
10. Beat of a Drum
11. Bent Out Of Shape
12. Birds Of A Feather
13. Bite The Bullet
14. Bits And Pieces
15. Black Sheep
16. Bottom Of The Barrel
17. Broken Heart
18. Born Yesterday
19. Bury the Hatchet
20. Can Of Worms
21. Catch 22
22. Cock And Bull Story
23. Cold Turkey
24. Cook The Books
25. Cry to Sleep
26. Crystal Clear
27. Dark Horse
28. Dead End
29. Devil To Pay
30. Dirt Poor
31. Dragging Your Feet
32. Draw The Line
33. Eat One's Words
34. Egg On Your Face
35. End of the World
36. Eye/Mind Wanders
37. Fight Fire With Fire
38. Flood of Emotion
39. Growing Up Too Fast
40. Half Cocked
41. Hanging By A Thread
42. Having A Screw Loose
43. Heart Strings
44. Horse Of A Different Colour
45. In A Nutshell
46. In The Doghouse
47. Jump On The Bandwagon
48. Kiss Of Death
49. Left Out In The Cold/Dark
50. Licking My Wounds
51. Light My Body/Soul On Fire
52. Lost Innocence
53. Lost Soul
54 Make Both Ends Meet
55. Melt Your Heart
56. Nobody's Perfect
57. Over The Edge
58. Pale in Comparison
59. Penny For Your Thoughts
60. Piece Of Cake
61. Piece Of My Heart
62. Quiet As A Mouse
63. Rain or Shine
64. Red Tape
65. Ring The Alarm
66. Rising From The Ashes
67. Rock Solid
68. Running Out Of Time
69. Running Through My Head/Mind
70. Second Fiddle/String
71. Shedding Skin
72. Showing True Colours
73. Skating On Thin Ice
74. Smoke And Mirrors
75. Soulmates
76. Straight As An Arrow
77. Sweet Dreams
78. Take My Breath Away
79. Taking For Granted
80. Taste of Freedom
81. The Bright Side
82. The Cold Shoulder
83. The Enemy Within
84. Ticking Clock
85. Tie The Knot
86. Tongue In Cheek
87. Troubled Waters
88. Under My Skin
89. Uphill Battle
90. Upper Hand
91. Vicious Circle/Cycle
92. Voice/Face Of An Angel
93. Waiting For Ink To Dry
94. Walking On Eggshells
95. Wearing Heart On Sleeve
96. What Goes Around Comes Around
97. When All Is Said And Done
98. Wild Goose Chase
99. With A Grain Of Salt
100. You Make Me Feel Alive
I've been wanting to put together a 100 Theme Challenge for a long time. This is not a list simply slapped together--it is the culmination of weeks of searching, adding, omitting, re-adding, until I found what I feel is the best and most complete list of commonly used cliches (that can still be inspirational).

You will soon enough be able to find a duplicate copy of this list with both #100ThemeWriters and #LITplease if you'd like to be able to submit an official entry, otherwise just be inspired (and link me once in a while).

Happy writing!
Add a Comment:
xXLovelyAnimeLoverXx Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2016  Hobbyist
Well, I need to knock the rust off of my fingers, so why not? :3

TheDarkLordBatman Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
So basically, what you want to see is metaphor's used literally. Sounds like fun, I might just go for it. 
NightcoreAmera Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
I will now make a picture for each of this
NightcoreAmera Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
I will now make a picture for each of this
NightcoreAmera Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Well im sick and bored and this list has made my day
ShadowUnderTheStairs Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
These were life savers helping me prepare for my English exam, thank you ever so much. I definitely want to go back and do more of these later, they're absolute fun.
Also, kudos for using the 'penny for my thoughts' example from 'If I Die Young'. I'm a big, big fan of that song and that lyric in particular gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.
t3r3zi-4nd-d4v3 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Oh my goodness, I needed this for fanfic prompts. Thank you so much.
artificialgarden Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm going to take these all literally. And then draw them. Literally.
mangerzpk Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2015  Student Digital Artist
artificialgarden Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
VeronicaRiles Featured By Owner Edited Aug 15, 2015   Writer
I'm so looking forward to this, but maybe a bit out of order. :D (Big Grin)  Also I love that song!
Chrissiannie Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I will be trying this out!
PsixiTheRaven Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh yeeess. I shall definitely do this. Challenge accepted! >:3
Selimeia Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I loooooooove theeeese :D
ATrue Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2013
Glad to hear it! :heart:
vespera Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Used #26 for my :iconglory-be-project: entry today :rose:
ATrue Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2013
wh0rem0ans Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2011
I find it really useful to change one word in a cliche. The rhythm of the phrase resonates with everyone familiar with the vernacular but ... the wrong word jars the reader to explore a new awareness. Example: 'front stabber'. :frail:
ATrue Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2011
That would be an example of twisting the cliche and making it new, depending of course on the context within the rest of the piece.
wh0rem0ans Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2011
O. You mentioned that? Sorry. :frail: (I am a confessed skimmer.)
ATrue Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2011
Lol. I am terrible at skimming, personally. If I try to skim, I end up remembering nothing at all! It takes me forever to read anything, but when I'm done, I remember almost everything. :)
wh0rem0ans Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2011
I remember oddly, not in a take-a-test sort of way. It works though.
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