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Chris's Colossal Cliché Count Writing Challenge

Quick links on this page:

rules & how to submit - about the cliché challenge - read cliché overloaded stories

Cliche Writing Challenge

Chris Writefear, explaining the concept of cliché overuse to the legend that is Joody Higgins

Welcome to Chris's Colossal Cliché Count Writing Challenge, run in conjunction with the UK's first ever festival dedicated to flash fiction, which took place in Bath. The second festival will take place in Bristol in July 2018.

Flash Fiction Festival Logo

The cliché challenge opened for submissions on Saturday 24th June 2017, to festival attendees.

The challenge opened for general submissions on this website on Saturday 1st July 2017.

Rules & How To Submit

As sure as eggs are eggs, the rules are nice and simple:

  • 150 words maximum
  • please include a title for your story (not included in the word count)
  • use as many clichés as you can (clichéd phraseology, characters, plot lines etc.)
  • entry is the bargain basement price of: FREE
  • anyone can submit
  • 1 entry per person
  • no profanity please - all the writing challenges are shared with children
  • your cliché-crammed stories will be published on this page
  • every time we receive 100 stories, we'll publish them in a book
  • any money made through anthology sales will be donated to charity
  • by submitting, you accept the terms and conditions
  • when anthologies are published, you will be involved in the book launch process
  • submit your story using the comments form below
  • include a short biography (40 words max) for use in the published book - if you don't supply a bio, we will be unable to publish your story
  • include 1 link (optional) to your website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.

So far, we've received 113 stories. We need 87 more to publish the next anthology.

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About the Cliché Writing Challenge

Many writers overuse clichés.

To stand out from the crowd (see what I did there?), a writer needs to develop an original voice that the reader can identify and engage with. Clichés detract from this and often lead to rejection from magazine editors and competition judges.

What Is A Cliché?

The term 'cliché' doesn't just refer to overused figures of speech. Clichés can also be stereotypes or opinions or characters or plots that are trite and indicate a lack of original thought. For example :

  • hackneyed phraseology;
    • 'in the blink of an eye'
  • clichéd characters;
    • the drunk cop who wants to solve the case he's been working on for 20 years before he retires
  • clichéd storylines;
    • the woman who is secretly using a dating website and goes on a romantic encounter only to discover the man she's been flirting with online is her husband
  • you can see many more cliché examples here and here

To raise awareness of this common writing mistake, we are asking for flash fiction stories up to 150 words in length, stuffed with as many clichés as humanly possible.

The first anthology – Tritely Challenged Volume 1 – is currently in production and will be released later in 2018.

We are currently accepting submissions for Volume 2.

About the Charity the Cliché Writing Challenge Supports

Proceeds from sales of the cliché writing challenge anthologies will be donated to Book Aid International. A raffle took place at the festival, proceeds from which were also be donated to the charity.

Book Aid International Logo

Book Aid International is the UK’s leading international book donation and library development charity. The charity’s vision is a world where everyone has access to the books that will enrich, improve and change their lives. Every year, Book Aid International sends around one million, carefully selected books to thousands of libraries, schools, Universities, hospitals and refugee camps around the world.

How The Cliché Writing Challenge Came To Exist

I've been in contact with Jude Higgins for quite a few years. Jude is involved with running the Bath Flash Fiction Award, the Bath Short Story Award and many other writing projects in Bath and the surrounding area. I list many of them in the competition lists on my website.

I heard about the inaugural Flash Fiction Festival via the Bath Flash Fiction Award email newsletters. I contacted Jude and asked if I could be involved. She said, "Yes," and invited me to run a flash fiction writing challenge workshop at the festival.

I presented and read at the festival on the 24th and 25th of June 2017. It was lovely to meet so many writers at the event, many of whom already had their stories published in the writing challenge anthologies.

Reading at Flash Fiction Festival

Chris, reading some adverbially overloaded stories at the Flash Fiction Festival

Like the other writing challenges on this website, the cliché challenge will continue running indefinitely.

Every time we receive 100 cliché-crammed stories, we'll publish a book. If we don't receive 100 submissions (this is highly unlikely, given how many submissions have been received by the other challenges I run, but I have to mention it in case...), it's a bit of fun, you can read all the stories here on the site and you now know about Book Aid International and will feel compelled to give them money as often as you can.

Everyone wins.

You can read more about the cliché writing challenge in a post I've written for the Flash Fiction Festival blog.

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Clichéd Stories

Below you will find all the cliché-riddled stories submitted to the challenge. I hope you enjoy reading them.

The stories are published in the order they were received.

Tritely Challenged Volume 1

We received our 100th story on 5th February 2018. The first 100 stories submitted to the cliché challenge were removed from the website on 4th March 2018.

Tritely Challenged Volume 1 was released on 28th April 2018. You can learn more about the book here. It contains 100 flash fiction stories written by 100 authors.

Tritely Challenged Volume 1

You can read the stories that have been submitted to Volume 2 below.

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Tritely Challenged Volume 2

Below, you can read the stories submitted to the second cliché anthology, Tritely Challenged Volume 2.

Story 101

The Pundit Tree

by Allen Ashley

"United were disgraceful. A bunch of pouting prima-donnas. They played like a load of strangers, Lee."

"That's true, Roy. City were shambolic. Keystone Cops defending. No organisation in midfield: four men all watching the ball; you could have thrown a blanket over them. No-one prepared to put a shift in."

"And Gilbertini got an early bath when he made his mark on Andy Hopkins."

"Plenty of claret."

"He's got his arm out for leverage. Sure, his elbow smashes the guy's nose, but football's a contact sport. Too many namby-pambies throwing themselves over, trying to con the referee."

"All we want is consistency, Roy. Still, Lucescu was marginally offside for the goal."

"Nothing marginal. You're either onside, Lee, or you're off."

"At least it picked up in the second period. The first 45 minutes was a snooze fest."

"It was the classic game of two halves, Lee."

"It always is, Roy."

Story 102

Fiona's Refusal

by Lesley Anne Truchet

"When I met you it was love at first sight. I fell head over heels." Edward attempted to move his right hand higher.

"Weel they dae say love is blind." Fiona clamped the inquisitive fingers.

"Busy hands are happy hands," Edward leered.

"Aam nae in th'muid, dinna think you’re gonnae to hide th'salami, ye willna be caught with ye keks doon this afternoon."

"But my heart, you're drop dead gorgeous and a thing of beauty is a joy forever."

"Empty flattery willnae gie ye whit ye want."

"Fiona, you're putting a fly in the ointment, I'm dead serious."

"I'm nae bowled ower by yer words, Edward."

"What about these words? Will you marry me?"

"No."

"No?"

"Nay Edward, Ah couldnae marry ye tae save mah life. Ye gab tae much in clichés."

Story 103

Parade

by Michael Rumsey

Against all the odds the invitation came out of the blue.

Would some of us army veterans, now long in the tooth, be prepared to stand on ceremony shoulder to shoulder?

Of course, we were only too happy to take the plunge. It would be like being back in the saddle and we were assured of the red carpet treatment.

It was a case of best foot forward, spit and polish, get the lead out and, mark my words, no beating about the bush.

Several international veterans, some as tough as nails, had a vested interest. But to set the record straight and, in the long and short of it, not that it would be the end of the world and not due to a twist of fate, no Welshmen would take part. It's just that old Dai's never soldier.

Story 104

Mosey

by Gavin Biddlecombe

Hank drew at Champion's reigns, directing him to the boisterous saloon, dismounted and moseyed up to the swinging doors, spurs clinking with each step.

The din settled within as the punters paused to examine their newest guest, silhouetted at the entrance. Hank ignored the rank, stale smell of sweat as he stepped forward, motioning to the barman.

"A bottle of sarsaparilla," he called.

The barman reached under the counter.

Hank gripped the handle of his Colt revolver.

The crowd held their breath.

The barman's hand appeared with a dirty brown bottle which he then slid across towards Hank. He released his grip and reached for the bottle. A slight nod put the barman at ease.

A spittoon rang in the background as the folk began to settle, prompting the piano's jovial melody to pick up where it had been interrupted.

Story 105

Can I Be Frank?

by David Silver

If the truth be known, I'm no great shakes with women. On the other hand, my pal Frank is a charmer. His signature chat-up line works its magic every time.

Frank makes a beeline for a pretty young thing and whispers into her shell-like, "There must be a thief in your family, because someone stole the stars and put them in your eyes."

One evening, I saw my dream woman across a crowded bar. Frank said, "Here's your chance. You must grasp the nettle when opportunity knocks."

I approached her, my legs like jelly, my stomach in knots, and mumbled, "Is there a thief in your family?"

The object of my affection burst into floods of tears. "I swear my brother is innocent. He was framed."

Frank took my arm in a vice-like grip and pulled me away. "Better luck next time. Now, let's get outta here."

Story 106

Mr Green Fingers

by Len Saculla

Even as a city dweller, I wanted to have my own little acre. Sow some seeds, put down roots, see the green shoots appearing.

So now everything's coming up roses. Grow your own, they say. Dig for victory. Make hay while the sun shines.

Into every life a little rain must fall. Pennies from heaven for us green-fingered growers.

Anyhow, for hay you need grass. I'm not growing that here. Mainly because it's always greener on the other side.

The other side, eh? Where you go when you're pushing up the daisies.

Blooming weeds get everywhere. The bane of my life as an urban gardener.

High-faluting title, actually. All I've got is a window box.

Story 107

The Non-Rhyming Couplets Of Zayn And Perry

by David Guilfoyle

Basically, at the end of the day, it is what it is. Simple as. I've been down this road before. It gets you nowhere fast. Crying over spilled milk, trying to be someone you`re not, it's not big, funny or clever.

The thing is, life's too short. In the grand scheme of things I know this is just small potatoes, but I've gone through this over and over again. I've got to get this off my chest. Before things take a turn for the worse.

The way I look at it is, me and you just aren't in it for the long haul. I can't put my finger on the why's and wherefores, and if I'm being honest , it's not you it's me. I just hope that when all is said and done we can still be friends.

Story 108

Dear Diary

by Sandra Orellana

Look at it on the bright side, it could be easy for both of us. Today is the day.

With a lot of feelings, I will tear you apart into tiny pieces. For you, it was all a dream, but I can handle it. Little do you know, it is coming. You will be thrown into the trash.

You fell head over heels in love with me. But I am alive and well. I've decided to start writing to others, rather than you. Our bed of roses is a cold comfort.

Thank you for being my process of writing to the world. Another day, another hope for me. A sea of change is my new outlook. It will be as easy as pie for me to be free of you.

Good night forever. Let's sleep it off.

Story 109

A Frozen Moment

by Ejder S. Raif

I'm standing in a busy building,

The radiator as cold as ice, surrounded by several others, wrapped up warm to avoid freezing to death.

An old man bellowing, his voice as loud as thunder.

A group of children playing, as good as gold, while a group of workmen work their socks off, as they try to repair the heating.

A young lady with personal issues, hoping that there's light at the end of the tunnel.

A baby who normally struggles to sleep goes out like a light.

Hooray, the heating has finally been repaired. Everyone's as happy as Larry.

Story 110

Frozen In Time

by C.I. Selkirk

It was all going up the proverbial creek. Sure, it was as easy as taking candy from a baby, so long as the baby wasn't screaming the house down and the candy wasn't my phone playing 'Frozen' on repeat. Daddy's girl had me between a rock and a hard place. Taking it would be like pulling teeth and I'd get nowhere fast. If I let her keep it, her mother would say I was spoiling her rotten and that would be another black mark in her book. There were no winners or losers, it was how you played the game. 

Just as I was at my wit's end, I was saved by the bell. The phone sang like a canary and in that split second when the apple of my eye didn't know if she was coming or going, I seized the day. I was on top. Case closed.

Story 111

There's A First Time For Everything

by Shirley Muir

When you turned up like a blast from the past, I feared you were flogging a dead horse – and were probably three sheets to the wind. I suspected we should let sleeping dogs lie, but you were determined to take the bull by the horns.

"I'm champing at the bit to spill the beans since the old man kicked the bucket," you said, happy as a sandboy. "His Will opened a can of worms." You looked like something the cat dragged in but were determined to talk turkey right from the off.

"Dad killed two birds with one stone," you said. "He wasn't poor as a churchmouse, despite his down-at-heel shabbiness." Apparently we both have to get hitched before we can enjoy a life of Reilly with Dad's Rich-as-Croesus fortune.

 We both pass muster – but hey, no pain, no gain.

There's plenty of fish in the sea.

Carpe diem.

Story 112

The Time Traveller's Lament

by Robbie Porter

It seemed to last an eternity, but was really only a matter of time. Travelling faster than the speed of light took nerves of steel. He was as brave as a lion. Everyone he left behind was as old as the hills and he was as fit as a fiddle. That's relativity for you.

'All for one and one for all.' That's the motto at the Academy. But when the neuron drive failed, he was scared out of his wits and frightened to death. No one had survived such a catastrophic event before.

"The writing's on the wall," he mused. Then he remembered: what goes around comes around. He just had to connect with the supply ship when it passed through the portal.

He lost track of time, but the Large Magellanic Cloud had a silver lining: the supply ship, and just 99 years overdue.

In the nick of time.

Story 113

Pain In The Neck

by Claire Apps

What a pain in the neck. Who would have thought that crashing her car would have resulted in a metal pole sticking through her slender neck? She would have to pay through the nose to have her Porsche repaired – that was if it could be repaired. Well, she could well afford it. She wasn't as poor as a church mouse anymore. She had a pretty penny saved in her bank account.

She sat there unable to move, wondering if she would be pushing up the daisies soon, as no one seemed to be coming to help. Out of nowhere a man appeared and, thanking her lucky stars, she had hope against hope of living again. She tried to speak but couldn't and then saw the axe in the man's hands as he raised it high and struck it downwards. He sure had an axe to grind. Nothing personal you understand.

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Leave your comments

Please use the form below to leave your comments. All comments will be reviewed so won't appear on the page instantly. I will not share your details with anyone else. Most recent comments appear at the bottom of the page, oldest at the top.

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Comments:

Your comments:

Alan B
Hello Chris. It was so encouraging to see my short story 'Rocky' actually in print in Nonsensically Challenged Volume 1. Will be buying a few more copies for relatives.

It's obvious you work very hard to produce these volumes and raise money for charity as well. Thank you for giving so many writers like me a chance to appear in print.

Chris Fielden
Hi Alan. No problem at all. Thank you for submitting your stories. Without the generosity of all the writers featured in the books, none of this would be possible.

The challenges are all about encouraging people to have fun writing, so it's great to hear you feel encouraged. Thanks for letting me know :-)

Margaret E
Hi again, Chris. I really enjoyed reading about your new mobile office and your impressive work schedule - anyone who can harness a racing imagination to a self-disciplined realism deserves awe and respect. Unfortunately, I am finding your writing challenges so addictive that my writing 'pattern' now resembles word-grazing with no appetite for anything longer than a snack. The five-course novel is back in the freezer. I found the Cliché Challenge easily the easiest to write, which probably tells you everything you need to know. Best wishes.

Chris Fielden
Hi Margaret. Great, really glad to hear you liked the post about the mobile writing office. Yes, the challenges are addictive... I do hope I'm not stopping hundreds of novels being written by encouraging people to write flash fiction. Ah well... it's all for a good cause I guess :-) Maybe I should rent the writing office out to help get novel writers back on track? I'll put that on my 'to do' list..

Michael R
I agree with Margaret. These challenges may be the only game in town and  their variety tune us into a Jack of all trades. But Chris is right too, not to put too finer point on it, by and large, they do not signal the kiss of death to something longer.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Michael. The challenges are the low hanging fruit of publication opportunities. However, one should not be discouraged from reaching for the stars. At the end of the day, take the tiger by the tail and, thick as thieves, follow your dreams. Every dog has its day.

Michael R
Hi Chris. Thanks, smart clever reply. We must be careful not to start a trend.

Sandy P
I really enjoy this challenge because I can use all the cliches I'm not allowed to use in normal offerings, great.

Chris Fielden
Fab, glad you enjoyed it Sandy - thanks for submitting :-)

Ron S
Story 015 line 6 has a 'You're' that should be a 'Your'.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Ron - corrected :-)

Michael R
Hi Chris. For a while I  thought cliche stories were coming in at a snails pace. Were we dragging our  heels, perhaps? Was it just that time of year? And yes, I  did realise Rome was not built in  a day, but with just 4 to go I see it is coming to fruition and you'll soon be able to put a lid on it, so all's well that ends well.

Chris Fielden
Yes indeed, Michael. Submissions always come in fits and starts. It would seem that the New Year has resulted in pens being put to paper. Nonsense 2 is almost full too. I see lots of book editing in my near future... :-)