In her lovely novel Cedar Cove, Lisa Kleypas says,
One of the more ignominious features of love was that you could only express it with cliches…it made you sound like a fraud at a time when you were blazing with sincerity.”
It’s a beautiful paragraph, and it captures so eloquently one of the fundamental frustrations of being a writer – specifically, a romance writer. Cliches are true. Life is short. Days do fly by. Actions do speak louder than words. And sometimes you need a cliche to best express the emotion of a moment.
But there are some cliches that don’t add to manuscript. Some cliches that get your manuscript tossed against proverbial walls. We at Escape love to be helpful, so we put together a list of the most egregious, for your reference:
- Character description is provided by a character looking at themselves in the mirror and cataloguing their features. Bonus points if the character is a woman, she’s naked, and her breasts are full and high.
- Character sits at a table/on a train/at their desk/stands at window, sipping tea (or whisky) while reflecting on how they got into this situation
- Messages appearing in a deep and meaningful dream. According to research, 50% of a dream is forgotten by the end of a dream, and a few minutes later, 90% is forgotten. Only about 50% of people remember their dreams. It’s possible that dreams CAN contain a message, but it’s unlikely that every fictional character gets their motivation from a dream
- Character is not white and any or all of the following: street smart and sassy, possessed of deep wisdom or connected to some unspecified mysticism, obsessed with personal honour, deeply connected to nature and the Earth, drives terribly, or smells like curry. Populating your world properly is important; tokenism is cliche and needs to be avoided
- Character is angsting about being an orphan/being bullied as a child/parent dying/first girlfriend cheating. Character is 35-years-old and has had ample access to therapy which they have chosen not to exercise. Character uses childhood angst as an excuse against a relationship.
- Heroine is edgy. You can tell because she wears black all the time and has a tattoo.
- Heroine is very conventionally attractive, is told so repeatedly, meets all conventionally attractive parameters, but nevertheless insists on her own ugliness as a shortcut to displaying her modesty and down-to-earthiness.
- Hero has muscles that are clearly not gym-begotten. (How can you tell the difference between gym muscles and non-gym muscles?)
- The ex is a horrible, terrible person who, without any other motivation, exists only to make the hero/heroine’s life miserable and break up any future relationships
- Honey-blonde hair. Flame-coloured locks. Unruly curls. Steel-grey eyes. Strawberry-flavoured nipples
Think about that – what could possibly make nipples strawberry-flavoured?
Have any cliches that drive you crazy? Share them!