Clichés Are Spooky

Fellow writers! The CIA has been keeping a classified dossier on public enemy number one, and I’m not talking about terrorists, coup-plotters, pirates or smugglers. I’m not even talking about an orange leadership that now denigrates Intelligence Community efforts and insults their sacrifice.

No, the enemy in question, as common as the common cold, is the appearance of cliché in really bad writing.

In a de-classified document titled Bestiary of Intelligence Writing, the CIA discloses the agency’s 15 most common enemies of the state of writing. This compendium of facile thinking and lazy style identifies–in sketches as well as text–the worst national security risks when it comes to the art of writing and intelligence. Among them are:

  • Viable Alternatives
  • Mounting Crises
  • Heightened Tensions
  • Dire Straights
  • Far-reaching Implications, and
  • Foreseeable futures

While I pity the poor beast called the “Nonstarter”—“distinguished from genuine starters which have brass grommets so they can be run up a flagpole and saluted”—my favorites are pictured below.

The Almost Inevitable--some people argue, no doubt because it is so seldom seen, that the AI doesn't really exist

The Almost Inevitable–some people argue, no doubt because it is so seldom seen, that the AI doesn’t really exist


The Foreseeable Future–moody, dangerous animals that frequently turn upon their masters, causing great public humiliation


Heightened Tensions–thrive on a rich diet of poverty, malnutrition, and alienation

CIA officers, among the most clichéd characters in all of literature, have finally revealed to us our worst nightmare. To quote the Bestiary: “Confusion is probably almost inevitable.” Find out what the spooks in my debut novel of diplomatic duplicity, Two Pumps for the Body Man, are up to in this excerpt.


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