Just because something is clichéd, that doesn't mean it won't sell – in fact, clichés written well can be, and are, very popular. However, I always try to revitalize them, or twist them so that I write a richer, fresher book, and give my readers a deeper emotional read.
The Evil Other Woman
I love a good villain and often in romance of any genre the ‘other woman’ enters the picture. Instead of making the rival evil, try a twist and make her very likeable. It really will add more tension as the reader ends up torn. It also leaves you the opportunity to give the ‘nice’ rival her own book.
I did this in my Wicked Wagers Trilogy. In book #2, TO WAGER THE MARQUIS OF WOLVERSTONE I set up Amy as the rival. She was nice, likeable and you felt sorry for her. I hadn’t planned on giving her a book but she was so loveable I had to. So I gave Amy her HEA in book #3, To Challenge the Earl of Cravenswood. It worked really well.
Children are often shaped by their up-bring we know that. So it’s not unusual to have the hero or heroine have a terrible childhood. I don’t find this plot clichéd at all. It’s human nature and a fact of life.
However, if you are going to do use this plot device, ensure the abusers character is well developed and there is a reason for their behavior too. What drives their behavior, don’t just show what they did, give us the background as to why.
I did this in INVITATION TO RUIN, my debut novel. I had a very damaged hero, who suffered years of abuse from his father as a child. His father was a slave trader due to financial problems and it took its toll on him. Therefore, he decides to toughen his son up so that he doesn’t suffer running the slave operation like he did.
The Country Mouse Theme
This is a cute name for an often-annoying story plot device, especially in historicals. In my latest release INVITATION
The Naive Virginal Heroine
A perfect cliché for a Regency romance. Women were often kept in the dark about sexual relations and in fact were not really even told anything on their wedding nights but to let your husband do what he likes and to lie back and think of England. I like this cliché because it allows me to write really sensual and intimate ‘first-time’ sex scenes. I’ve had so many comments about my marriage of convenience first time scene in A PROMISE OF MORE, book #1 in my Disgraced Lords series. It’s very moving. Don’t waste an opportunity to grab your readers’ emotions. This cliché can do this.
The Man Slut
In historicals men slept around, it was the way of the world at the time whatever era you write in. It’s a given cliché for a historical that the hero will be experienced in bed. Some authors have tried making a hero a virgin or of limited experience, but it doesn’t work for me. I like a man to be in charge in the bedroom at the beginning, but have the heroine soon turn the tables on him. I try to set the hero a challenge in the bedroom no matter how experienced he is.
I did this in A KISS OF LIES; book #1 in my Disgraced Lords series, by having my heroine come out of an abusive relationship. My hero’s rakish seduction tricks would not work here. He had to dig deeper and face real emotions in order to help heal the heroine.
The Silly Big Misunderstanding
In real life, characters can have misunderstandings. If your big misunderstanding can be unraveled with a brief discussion, then your plot has holes in it. This is my big bug bearer when I read a romance. If two intelligent people can’t sit down and sort out a misunderstanding then why do I want to invest time in them? If the book revolves around a misunderstanding, have VERY good reasons why they cannot talk about it. In my only contemporary (so far) THE RELUCTANT WIFE, there is a complicated misunderstanding built around deep emotional scars.
Clichés work because they are what all of us look for in our escapism. However, that doesn’t mean we cannot personalize them or twist them or simply use them to deepen a reader’s emotional journey. Remember, everything about writing can be used if done well. I challenge you to write the best clichés you can.
What cliché books are some of your favorites?