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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. The inaugural festival took place in Bath. Since then, the event has run every year, held in Bath or Bristol.

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 - 2 books have been published via this challenge and, due to time constraints, in May 2020 the challenge became website publishing only - I'm afraid that means there won't be anymore books published via the cliché writing challenge
  • 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. we're no longer accepting links, sorry

So far, we've received 212 stories and published 2 anthologies.

This challenge is now website publishing only. Author biographies will appear on the website alongside their published stories.

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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 – was published in April 2018. It contains the first 100 stories submitted to the challenge.

The second anthology – Tritely Challenged Volume 2  – was published in June 2020. It contains another 100 stories submitted to the challenge.

We are still accepting submissions to this challenge and stories will be published on this page along with author biographies. We will not be publishing anymore books via this writing challenge.

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.

Each time we receive a story, it will be published on the website. Every time we receive 100 cliché-crammed stories, we'll publish a book. No more books will be published via this challenge, but all the proceeds from existing books will still go to charity.

The challenge is 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.

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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 other stories that have been submitted to the challenge below.

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Tritely Challenged Volume 2

We received our 200th story on 28th April 2019. The second batch of 100 stories submitted to the cliché challenge were removed from the website on 16th May 2020.

Tritely Challenged Volume 2 was published on 27th June 2020. It contains 100 flash fiction stories written by 100 authors.

Tritely Challenged Volume 2

TC V2 will be the last book published via the cliché challenge. The challenge is now website publishing only.

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Tritely Challenged Volume 3: Stories 201 Onwards

Below, you can read cliché challenge stories from number 201 onwards. This collection of stories will not be published in a book, but will be available for the reading pleasure of the planet on this website as Tritely Challenged Volume 3.

Story 201

New-Fangled Gizmos Ain’t All They’re Cracked Up To Be

by Christopher Fielden

"What's a Facebook?" asked Grandad Gilbert.

Felicity rolled her eyes. "Facebook is a social media platform, Grandad."

"Never heard of it."

"It's fun. You should try it."

Grandad Gilbert didn't like the sound of Facebook one little bit. "Back in my day, we didn't have none of these fancy gadgets you kids have today. We used to entertain ourselves just fine, running around outside, getting into trouble. You should try that."

Felicity didn't reply. She was fiddling with her phone, totally immersed.

"Problem is, young'uns don't have no social skills nowadays, because of them phones. You don't listen."

Felicity proved his point by ignoring him.

"The lights are on, but no one's home," he muttered.

"Grandad, look, a cat." Before Grandad Gilbert could protest, Felicity cuddled up next to him on the sofa. "So cute, isn't it?"

I guess these new-fangled gizmos ain’t all bad, thought Grandad Gilbert.

~

Christopher Fielden Author Biography:

Chris writes, runs a humorous short story competition, plays drums and rides his motorcycle, sometimes to Hull. And back again. He runs a multitude of writing challenges and has published thousands of authors in support of charity.

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Story 202

Original

by Allen Ashley

I love the original Star Trek series and have it all on DVD. But which is my favourite episode? Oh you know the one: The 'Enterprise' gets trapped in a force-field which makes them all fall over on the bridge. Then half a dozen crewmen beam down to a planet that looks remarkably like a studio version of the Nevada Desert. The yeoman in the red sweatshirt gets killed in a misunderstanding. There's this super-intelligence or alien in human form who threatens Kirk and his men but who's also got this beautiful daughter 'Vena' (?) with 1960s hair, Ancient Greek clothing and soft focus face. Kirk falls in love with Vena so has to rely on Spock to beat the bad guy. The woman turns out to be a robot / an illusion. McCoy makes some jibes about Spock's green blood.

Then it's: "Warp factor one, Mr Sulu." Yes, that episode.

~

Allen Ashley Author Biography:

Allen Ashley is co-originator of the Sensory Challenge. His most recent book is the poetry collection Echoes from an Expired Earth (Demain Publishing, UK, 2020). He is President Elect of the British Fantasy Society.

*

Story 203

If I Am Any Judge

by Michael Rumsey

A friend of mine runs a writer's group. Without a word of warning, right out of the blue, he asked if I'd judge some competition entries. Always happy to oblige, I didn't know what I'd let myself in for.

The first batch was Science Fiction stories, some out of this world. Next, the cliché genre. One piece was about a bloke bolting upstream with a horse, trying not to count chickens. Left me quite paddled... Surely the prompt word stories would be easier to evaluate? The word was coiffure. Made my hair stand on end. Some  presentations went over my head and it seemed as long as a wet fortnight before my judgement was cut and dried.

But at the end of the day, all things being equal, I think the members of this group  are clever, articulate, talented  and will continue to be so... if I  am any judge.

~

Michael Rumsey Author Biography:

Michael is an enthusiastic and frequent contributor to AotFFWC. He lives in Athens but openly admits some of the group activities are all Greek to him.

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Story 204

Plan B

by Paul Mastaglio

Standing on her doorstep, Trevor was explaining himself to Beryl.

"I lost track of time, love."

"Are those flowers for me?" she replied.

"Roses are red, violets are blue and I'm so in love with you."

Beryl laughed. "Play your cards right and you might be in with a chance tonight."

Trevor beamed as if he was a kid in a candy store. He stepped inside and was glad he hadn't put all his eggs in one basket after Grace had rejected him earlier in the day. Time heals all wounds, especially when you've got a Plan B.

~

Paul Mastaglio Author Biography:

Lives at the coast in the North East of England and enjoys archery, reading, cinema and visiting National Trust places.

*

Story 205

Hackneyed Cab

by Geoff Holme

"Quick, follow that car."

"You 'avin' a larf?"

"Never more serious in my life. I'm DI Benson, New Scotland Yard."

"Wotsit all abaht then, mate?"

"No time for that now. All I can say is, it's a matter of life and death. Put your foot down."

"I'm goin' as fast as I can."

"It's no good, he's getting away. We'll never get to Cadogan Gardens in time."

"There's jus' one fing I don't understand, Inspector: if you knew where he was goin', why didn't you say?"

"Why? What can we do?"

"There's only one thing we CAN do..."

"Spit it out, man."

"We can head 'im off at the pass... I know a shortcut."

"For crying out loud, why didn't you say so before? Can you make it?"

"I'll give it me best shot."

"OK, go for it."

"Right, 'ang on to your 'at. This could be a bumpy ride."

~

Geoff Holme Author Biography:

Geoff is retired and therefore free to spend most of his time trying to improve his writing. In a previous life, he wrote over 300 SPAMericks – go on, Google it!

*

Story 206

Matrimonial Gaffes

by Matilda Pinto

"Some of us Indians are like that only," said Maya. "With these matrimonial ads, I want to hope against hope that people still believe marriages are made in heaven. For example, this one is nothing but a howler."

'Tall, handsome, 37, working for a multinational company, USA, a double graduate, earning six-figure salary, Kota brahmin from a cultured background in India, looking for a homely bride of fair complexion, convent educated and English speaking, with charming social skills.'

"Black or white? He knows nothing about beauty," harrumphed Maya. "Only of beauty, which is skin deep, whereas beauty that is in the eye of the beholder is shown the door.

"Why, the million shades of duskiness are just as beautiful and enticing as dark chocolate, cinnamon mocha, and caramel delight? Look at Caesar and Cleopatra, what a combo? One should celebrate various shades of beauty and everything in between."

~

Matilda Pinto Author Biography:

Matilda has found a new urgency in her life. With the present pandemic, life has become both uncertain and fragile. She wants to make the most of it by letting folks know how precious they are. She's a published writer.

*

Story 207

Get Them

by Ville Nummenpää

"Stop them before it's too late," Drex Lethal, evil megalomaniac shouted.

Randy, second in command, was baffled. Why did he insist on stating the obvious? They were planning to blow up Europe. The hero and the bikini-clad nuclear scientist were defusing the bomb. So duh, stopping them was kinda important.

"Get them, we must not fail."

Randy wanted to quit. How could anyone work under these conditions? Nothing but unnecessary clichés. He was halfway out the door, but stopped. Would he finally confront his boss about this? No. He decided to do his part, which was to get his subordinates killed, then grab the girl, hear the words 'let her go' then get decapitated by an elevator car or something.

He took some comfort knowing he would never have to hear atrocities such as 'seize them, 'the time has come', or 'hook, line and sinker' ever again.

~

Ville Nummenpää Author Biography:

Ville just won a prestigious stage play-award in his home country, Finland, and is launching a new career writing for television, possibly cinema. He's always up for writing something fun, under any excuse imaginable.

*

Story 208

Love's Labour Rewarded

by Majella Pinto

Once upon a time, there lived a boy who belonged to the highest caste, next only to God. Men of wealth and power heeded the caste's advice and invited them to officiate at important ceremonies, like weddings and christenings.

Then, one day, a boy of this caste fell in love with a girl whose father grazed cows of the local politician. The great shame prompted the elders to punish them and put an end to such daring endeavours by future generations blinded by love. This must be done so that the sins of one may not take down an entire caste and revile their spirits for eternity.

A little birdie carried this news to the lovers, who eloped and started their lives under a new name and a new religion and lived happily ever after. When their children asked them what caste they belonged to, they said, "Love."

~

Majella Pinto Author Biography:

Majella was born in India, moved to California as an adult and lives there with her husband and two sons. She works in Silicon Valley to indulge her left brain and her spare time is dedicated to her right brain, which pampers itself in artistic and literary pursuits.

*

Story 209

Ovine Antipathy

by Phil Maud

A great name, a fearsome name ruined.

Armed to the teeth, the fox in his henhouse; you won’t hear another bleat out of him.

Full steam ahead and spare the mint sauce. Down and dirty in the farmyard until he has breathed his last.

It goes without saying, he’s really got my back up. Rich and famous, world domination; these belong to me, not some woolly smile. I can be a contender in a world where he is a distant memory.

While he’s alive there’s not a hope in hell my name will sit there with Capone or Clyde.

He’s too good-time, too feel-good, too comedy. This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.

He is the kiss of death for all my dreams now I’ve seen the light.

Tomorrow, after the sun rises, when they whisper my name it will be because they’re scared to death.

Shaun.

~

Phil Maud Author Biography:

Phil is a new writer. His interests are fantasy and science fiction but currently many of his stories are about hell. Sometimes he will write something at “The procrastination pen” blog, which you can find from your favourite search engine.

*

Story 210

All's Well That Ends Well

by Lesley Anne Truchet

Day in, day out, I travel this route to work and back. After a busy day I was dog tired and needed an urgent pee. It was a pain in the neck to have to stop.

Veering across the road, I parked by the roadside. I took out my green eyed monster and sighed with relief, watching the golden stream hit the ground. A low rumble echoed; stones were dropping all around me. A huge falling boulder narrowly missed me and landed on the back of a passing open truck and bounced onto...

I was scared out of my wits. Talk about a fall by the wayside. I almost bit the dust. Against all the odds...

My pain in the neck stop was almost a fatal pain in the neck. The boulder bounced from the truck onto my car and destroyed it, just seconds after I got out of it.

~

Lesley Anne Truchet Author Biography:

Lesley Truchet has been writing for several years and has a number of short stories, articles and poetry published on paper and on the internet and is currently writing her first novel.

*

Story 211

A Friendly Game

by Daniel Son

Morris was known for his infamous poker face. His cold, steely demeanour made it seem as if the cat got his tongue, which was an exemplary facade. He was stone-faced, his eyes were laser focused, moving around the poker table at his opponents. He smugly realised, fairly quickly, that he was a big fish in a small pond, gloating inwardly about how clearly out of their depth they were.

Their sneering remarks and fidgety hands revealed that they were all bark and no bite. He  quickly scanned his cards, noticing that he was one card short of a full house; one card short of his ace in the hole. He felt for the hidden trump card secretly taped to one of his spades. He silently  threw down his cards, hoping the luck of the draw would be in his favour.

~

Daniel Son Author Biography:

Daniel Son is a High School student at Bergen County Academies in Hackensack, NJ. He enjoys writing and lives with his family in Palisades Park, NJ.

*

Story 212

Thank God It's Friday

by Clare Tivey

The writings on the wall. Mr Slimy landed the promotion, although he'd already got one paw in the chicken coop.

In a jiffy, he caught up with me in the corridor.

"Don't get your knickers in a twist about it darling, every cloud has a silver lining. I have nerves of steel, a true diamond in the rough, where as you – weak as a kitten."

He then made a strange meowing sound before continuing, "If you play your cards right, you'll be as happy as a clam working for me."

On Friday, a little bird told me that Mr Slimy is recovering in hospital, after crashing his Porsche. Apparently driving like a bat out of hell, high as a kite, with some model in the passenger seat.

Best not to cry over spilt milk, all is fair in love and war, and the boardroom. I've just been promoted.

~

Clare Tivey Author Biography:

Resides in Suffolk, with her better half. Often has a bee in her bonnet and puts pen to paper for the writing challenges, because an idle mind is the devil's playground, or something like that.

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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... :-)

Jay B
Hi Chris. I hope this one nails it.

Chris Fielden
Nailed. Like the final item needed in a coffin lid.

Richard BF
Hi Chris, just thought I'd point out that the last story, I guess, should be no. 158 as you have two story 157s.

Chris Fielden
Thanks for this, Richard - much appreciated. Fixed!

Phil M
I was reading story 202 by Allen Ashley when I realised that cliches are much harder to spot than I thought. I couldn't see anything wrong with the story! In fact Allen is pretty much describing my own love of Star Trek which rather like a soap opera brings around the same basic ideas week on week. I even love the 60s hair and soft focus faces. Definitely tweaked an area of interest for me even though I wouldn't really describe myself as a "trekkie". My favourite from the site at the moment definitely. .

Chris Fielden
Hi Phil. Allen loves to toy with tropes and clichéd ideas, rather than using the more obvious hackneyed phraseology that's easy to spot. That's why all the stories he's submitted to this challenge are so good. Having been a judge of the British Fantasy Society short story comp for many years, I think he has a really good understanding of the genre and the clichés associated with it, hence that story :)