Sunday, 12 February 2012

Writing love cliches....how much do they matter?

Pick up any published book, and you'll probably find that somewhere, there is a love story in it. It might not always be central to the plot, but love is nearly always present. The same theme is also present in TV shows. Romantic relationships are a part of everyone's lives at some time or another, so it is something everyone can relate to.

The problem with love stories is that they tend to follow the same format. A man and a woman meet, they fall in love, there is drama and they break up, they get back together. Occasionally something crazy and unusual will happen, but for the most part - every love story is the same.

Does this make them bad? I don't think so.

I am a "chick-lit" writer. Maybe some people wouldn't admit that so boldly, because I have come across some snobbery when I've mentioned it in the past, but if I can reach the success of Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella and Helen Fielding, I'll be pretty happy lol! However, while playing around with my WIP, I have noticed that it might just be the epitome of everything other writers hate. It isn't filled with relationship cliches, but there are one or two here and there that probably need to be ironed out so they don't sound so childish (Can't remember if I mentioned, but when I first started writing this particular WIP, I was 14!).

My question is this: What is the worst, most irritating love cliche that ruins a book for you? Do they even bug you?

For me, what makes a good story is the way it's written. I don't care if I read a book that has a love triangle, or a book where it is obvious how the story will end, as long as the journey is interesting, and has realism.

Of course, I might just be trying to make myself feel better for writing something which is utter crap and destined to spend eternity in my laptop, but I am genuinely curious about how everyone feels about relationship cliches in books! :D



47 comments:

  1. I love chick-lit, both adult and YA, and for the most part I like the romantic stuff, even when its cliche. If characters have chemistry, that can overcome almost anything.

    The one thing that really drives me crazy though is when a rejected guy just won't leave a girl alone because he's sure she has feelings for him but "she's just afraid to show them." Sure, sometimes persistence pays off, but most of the time it's borderline (or not so borderline) stalking, which I've always found more creepy than romantic. In general, the whole "stalking is sexy" cliche will ruin a good book for me. I worry, especially in YA books, that young men learn from this example.

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    1. That is EXACTLY how I feel. I think if there is good chemistry, and the words on the page aren't boring, I will read anything lol.

      I definitely agree that having an overly persistent character sends a bad message, and I also think that would soon get dull to read too!

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  2. I'm with you, as long as a book is well written I will read it. However, with that said, I'm not one to read books with love as the central theme.

    I guess what probably bugs me the most is 'love at first sight'. Yes, attraction happens right way, totally understand that. But a relationship must blossom. If the timeline is crazy short for the rampup of there relationship it irks me a little.

    But I'm always up for romance in the stories I read :)

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    1. I'm not a big fan of love at first sight either, but magnetism at first sight will always draw me in lol!

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  3. Yes, the love at first sight seems to irritate me most.

    I'm not one to search out the romance in a novel first. If it's in there, fine, but I'm more interested in the world, the characters who are strong and endure extraordinary things.

    I suppose that is why I write a lot of action scenes. lol

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    1. Lol, I guess I am the opposite of you! I will read things I wouldn't normally read if there is a great love story involved!

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  4. I like a little bit of romance in my books. Kurt Vonnegut once said that love stories detract from a real plot, because the sky could be full of flying saucers, but if the couple gets together, then that is the end.

    I don't demand romance, but I don't mind it either.

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  5. Interesting question. I wonder if it's the handling of the cliche rather than the cliche itself, which is largely at fault? I've read alot of s/he melted into jim/her which is beginning to jar. I beging to wonder 'Are they made of wax in a hot room?' The once great line has become a cringeworthy cliche. Other than that I can't think of anything more specific.
    I hope my latest RFW flash fiction doesn't seem cliched ;O)

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    1. I think it could be the handling of the cliche that is the problem. I love the line about "melting into him," but I agree it is now very overused, and I am almost certain I have not used it once in my WIP! :D

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  6. I love hearing about people finding each other and living happily ever after but the reason I tend to avoid romance novels is because they lose that grounded feeling.

    Basically I like realistic romance, whether it's the central plot or just a sub-plot. Like, being separated because of a job and describing that longing feeling. Or one partner becomes injured, or 2 people meet and they work through their baggage together while still going to work and being preoccupied by work. You know, a reflection of the obstacles everyday couples face because I like knowing that there are other people like me out there that are torn between love and career, or love and sticking to your values, etc.

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    1. You might actually like my WIP lol! I try hard to keep it as real as possible, and perhaps I will try to work harder on that aspect of the story. :D

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  7. I agree that it does depend on the way it's written. I will say there have been very few books where I didn't know who the MC was going to end up with, and that doesn't bother me. (Although the couple that threw me were great!)
    ps. I love Marion Keyes!

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    1. Marian Keyes is awesome! :D

      It's good to know a little bit of predictability is okay! I like a twist here and there, but sometimes it's good just to know where a story is going, and be drawn into it, I think.

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  8. The one "cliche" that will get a "book thrown across theroom" from me without fail is essentially the "abusive actions passed off as luuuuuv". Sorry, if somebody (almost always the man) starts abusing the other character in any way, I want them gone. But that rarely happens, and isntead it's passed off as "HE DID IT CAUSE HE LOVES HER, OKAY. SHE GETS THAT NOW~~~" No. Nononononono. I'm pretty sensitive to that.

    I'm also sick of almsot every romance being heterosexual, but that's not going to go away any time soon. (Because we're still at the stage where if there's a "gay" relationship at all,then the whole story turns into about how they're gay.)

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    1. BLAH, I have never read a book with a cliche that nasty, and if I did, I wouldn't read it either!

      You also make a good point about same sex relationships in fiction. It would be amazing to see a well written love story about two women or two men, that isn't just focused on the fact that they're gay.

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    2. There are a lot of books, esp. mainstream (hi, Twilight) that does this though. Sometimes it's really small so most people might not notice at first, but a lot of actions that are just Not Okay are presented as actions of true love, when in reality they're controlling, marginalizing, etc. I remember when I re-read McCaffrey's Pern books ten years after first reading them in middle school and think "omfg F'lar is abusing Lessa, but it's okay, because it's looooove amirite".

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    3. Lol, that's very true. Maybe those things are lurking in the background rather than a main theme, and that is why I don't always see them. I think I will be on the look out for it now!

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  9. Interesting post. I don't have a specific cliche that turns me off to a book. If the story is good and the characters have chemistry, I can forgive a lot. I get so caught up in the building of the love story. I like tension and payoff and in a romance plot or subplot I don't care if I can guess what will occur as long as I am entertained along the way.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I am a new follower of yours and I love your font. How did you do that?

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    1. Thanks Melissa, I totally agree with that!

      Thanks for the follow! I am following you too :D About the font, I just went into the layout of my blog, and you can change the font there. :D

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  10. I also think you have written an interesting, thought-provoking post!
    Forgive me for taking a shortcut...but I'm going to second Melissa Sugar's comment (well said Melissa).

    Also, I'd like to welcome you to the A to Z Challenge - I wish you great success with it; I know you will meet some wonderful bloggers along the way.

    Jenny @ Pearson Report
    Co-Host of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
    Twitter: @AprilA2Z

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    1. Hee hee, it's okay to take a shortcut! ;)

      Thanks for the welcome, I'm really looking forward to it! :D

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  11. I'm curious - have you had betas or CPs look at it yet? If so, have they mentioned anything about this?

    As for things I absolutely hate...as long as your MC isn't a 100% perfect girl who every guy she ever meets falls in love with, I'll be okay ;) There's nothing more boring to me than a perfect Mary Sue.

    Of course, I just recently got some critique on my contemp romance novel along the lines of... "UGH I hate your MC, I wanted to strangle her!" ;) So I may not be one to talk here. lol

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    1. So far, the only criticisms about cliches have come only from inside my own head lol. I worry about them.

      Yup, I don't like that either. I have written my fair share of Mary Sues in my time though!

      Eek, that's not really what you want to hear, but I'm sure you will be able to make her....less strangleable! :D

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  12. my biggest pet peeve is when one character (usually the male) does something to hurt the other, to drive them away, to keep them safe from whatever bad thing is about to happen.
    It's so stupid. If the character just told the truth and asked the other person to leave while things were bad, we wouldn't have to read through the stupid "I'm hurting you, but only because i love you and want you to be safe" crap

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    1. Ohh, like Twilight! ;)

      That's not a major dealbreaker for me, but I can certainly understand why it would irritate some people. It has been a bit overdone, I think.

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  13. I think romance and chick lit are full of cliches, but if you look around at life, they came from somewhere. We are all a bit corny and cliche in our own way. I expect our characters to be a little of the same.

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  14. For me, I get annoyed if the writer keeps postponing the love and uses stupid excuses to do it. If the writer knows they couple will get together and the readers know and even the characters know, just put them together already!

    That's a peeve of mine.

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    1. Oh, like Ross and Rachel in Friends!

      Noted! :D

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  15. I'm a lover of romance, so no nose snub here.

    The cliches that drive me crazy is....drum roll...when crazy ladies get mad cause they find out the guy is rich. Paaaalllleeeeaaaase...I'd freakin happy dance ALL the way to the altar!!!!

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  16. Hmmm... good question. A good story is a good story, and I don't know that cliches bother me that much? I enjoy a good love triangle!

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    1. Yay! I don't mind cliches too much either, but it is very interesting to hear what other people think!

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  17. There was a class that at the LTUE conference this weekend that touched on this. I don't mind love triangles either as long as they find a different way to go about it. Romance is a fun part of any book, whether a romance novel or not. You've got to have a yummy love interest. And I think it's awesome that you write chick-lit! That's got to be a wonderful market to tap into! Awesome!

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    1. I really love my chick-lit!

      I believe that the key to any good story is great wording, and great pacing. I recently finished a chick lit book with a very, very basic storyline. It was about a woman running away from a wedding that her over-protective father forced her into. She instantly stumbled across a business which arranges adventure holidays, demanded she go away immediately, and the owner of the company took her. While they were away, they were attracted to each other and they fell in love. That was it. It was fluff, but very well written fluff, and I liked it lol. :D

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  18. Love at first sight! LOL. I guess I like there to be conflict first... there can be attraction, intrigue, but the insta-love? Bugs. Great post! :D

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    1. Love at first sight seems to be a very common annoyance lol! And one that I avoid, always! :D

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  19. I agree with Clarissa. THe thing that bugs me the most is unrealistic reasons to keep the love tension. There needs to be more realistic reasons that true love takes so long to come about when we know it is there in the first page.

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    1. Thanks Josh, this is another common point that keeps coming up! I am really enjoying hearing everyone's answers to this question. :D

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  20. It depends. IMO, it's impossible to write a book with NO cliches. Everything can be considered and everything is done in one way or another, but how realistic is it? Is the whole book based on cliches? Those are all factors that go into it. Great post.

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    1. Thanks Kelley! I guess that is actually the perfect answer. Every book could contain a cliche here and there, but if it is full of them, it starts to become very unrealistic. If a cliche is going to be written, it has to have a good reason to be there!

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  21. I think some cliches are unavoidable. If a cliche is used, I look for uniqueness in other parts of the story line and in the characters.

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    1. Cool, it's great to see that people are happy to look a bit beyond an occasional cliche! :D

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  22. ...as I grow older, and my subject matter changes with the times, I've found that its more about the talent, and less about the storyline. If its written by the hand of a true artist, I'll keep reading for the simple pleasure of enjoying a master at play, like sipping the finest wine, regardless of the plot.

    Well done,

    El

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    1. Thank you, Elliot! I really agree with you on this point!

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  23. The thing that bugs me the most is unrealistic reasons to keep the love tension. There needs to be more realistic reasons that true love takes so long to come about when we know it is there in the first page.

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    1. Ooh, you're the second person to say that! That's an interesting one, and I'll try to keep it in mind. :D

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