Romance Clichés: What Works and What Doesn’t in Writing
a blog written by Kierstinnn
We all love a cheesy romance story, don’t we? I know that I do! But when does cheesy turn to cliché? Romance is one of my favorite genres to read (only falling second to fantasy/science fiction) and undoubtedly my favorite genre to write. Over the years of reading and writing in this genre, I’ve found some clichés that I’m sure most of you have noticed as well. Some of them work fantastically, a lot of them don’t work at all, and most of them will work only when a twist of some sort is added in.
So, here I present to you, the four clichés that you should be aware of when writing a romance story.
The Evil Person Cliché
Whether this person is your love interest’s overprotective brother, ex-girlfriend, or simply someone who actively seeks out putting your character in danger, this cliché does NOT work… At least, most of the time. The worst thing about these characters is that so often, they have one-sided personalities - the ex-girlfriend is strong and mean, the overprotective brother hates everyone who even looks at his sister… You get the gist. Where this can work is if the main character realizes that he/she had been painting someone else in a negative light the entire time out of his/her own insecurities, or when the evil person really is just a horrible person but isn’t showcased as such the entire time. Some of the worst people I know didn’t always seem as such to me.
The Meeting of a New Person Cliché
This is one of the best clichés for me, personally. I love the idea of restarting with someone. It’s one of the ways that you can really show off who your character is and how people who haven’t known you character for their whole lives view him/her. In reality, we often overlook the negative aspects of our best friends. My best friend has a tendency to copy all of my work. I wouldn’t let another soul on the planet do it. But, he’s my best friend. See the idea? When you meet someone for the first time, though, you might approach them with skepticism and you tend to notice the quirks and flaws of him or her. However, this can be overdone whenever there is love at first sight. I can understand attraction at first sight - I get that. But, being head over heels in love with someone ten minutes after meeting them is not okay. But, I digress. This is a good cliché. If you’d like to read a story about starting over, check out my story ‘Begin Again’.
The Summer Romance Cliché
This is another cliché that can work when utilized well. A lot of stories use this setting as a way to present conflict. The reason that this can work is because it’s realistic, in a sense. It becomes unrealistic when your character is a shy, introverted girl, who has no friends back home that suddenly gains the confidence to go after an extremely attractive and extroverted boy that she meets on vacation. Some authors (I’m looking at you, Sarah Dessen!) use this cliché to their advantage and can create a plethora of summer romance stories. But some authors use this as a mechanism to give the plot some conflict. When the summer ends, we can’t be together. So, to avoid this being the only conflict in the story (because, regardless, it would be a conflict) would be a good start to writing a summer romance story. Speaking of conflict…
Main Character Does No Wrong Cliché
Character development is an essential part of any story, Romance or other. But, in many romance stories that I’ve read, the main character (typically a girl) is at the end of a long line of sucky situations. In all reality, hardly anyone who is placed in the situations presented has that terrible of a life. There are some people who do. But not the straight A, class president, middle class girl whose parents just bought her a new car. The bad things that happen to her are always from other people being one-dimensional jerks who have the single goal in mind of ruining her life. She’s never the one who messes up the relationship or cheats on her boyfriend. This is not realistic. For main characters who do wrong and subplots, look at Mirlotta’s ‘The Painted Secrets of Carmelita Hawthorn’.
Whether you’re writing a casual romance story, a fanfiction, or just looking for what to avoid when shopping around your local bookstore, use these clichés to help you in enhancing your own reading and writing experiences!