There are some tried and true elements in a romance (shocking!). Not clichés, necessarily, but classics. A happily ever after, for example. The idea that The One makes Hero/Heroine a better person. Classic plot lines and traditions. When done well, we can’t get enough of it. But when not…ruh-roh.
Below are some trends I’ve noticed over the years, in books and movies. Now, before you think I’m being catty, let me first admit that I’ve used some of these myself, so it’s all in good fun.
Oh! Now that I’ve been around you a while, it seems my hair is no longer straight and obedient but instead lustrous and wild and oh-so-curly! Watch any romantic movie. Watch the heroine’s hair. It gets curlier, doesn’t it? It does. I have wavy hair myself. I always wanted curly hair. Being in love has not turned my hair curly, dang it all. What is wrong with McIrish? He seemed so great…but apparently he’s not The One, since my hair is still just wavy. Hmmmph. Must file for divorce pronto.
Gracious! What a beautiful secret cabin you have here in the mountains, Hero Mine! What a fascinating and heretofore unrevealed character nugget this is! So many heroes were smart with real estate and just happen to have a very tastefully decorated getaway in the mountains/on the ocean/near a pristine and very remote lake. This is, of course where he smuggles heroine so he can cook for her/shag her silly. I can deal with a cabin. But if it was indeed his Man Paradise, it would have two things and two things only: a LaZBoy recliner and a 60 inch high-def TV with the special NFL bundle. I promise (mostly) to put a 60 inch high-def TV in my hero’s, okay?
Oh, my heavens! You dance with predatory, masculine grace that has me oh-so-aroused, despite the fact that I quite hate you! Where did these guys learn how to dance like that, huh? I have yet to see Gerard Butler down at Ye Village Dance Hall in my town. And yet, there he is in The Ugly Truth, dancing in such a way that my eyeballs were on fire, and I just sat there thinking, “But when? But how? Was he raised on a pasa doblé ranch in Brazil?” Furthermore, Katherine Heigl claims she is a terrible dancer, then begins gyrating and pulsating and throbbing…I had to dunk my head into my super-large silo of root beer just to cool off. Dancing like that doesn’t happen in real life. No, tragically more realistic was the tango scene in Along Came Polly. Ben Stiller gets points for realism, if not for smokin’ sex appeal. (Note Heigl’s hair…it’s curling. I told you.)
Why, Miss Carlisle! You have golden and/or chestnut highlights in your previously considered dull-as-dishwater brown hair! Why? Why can’t Miss Carlisle just have plain old brown hair and still be attractive to Sir Ruttingly? Why does she need highlights to make it pretty? For that matter, why do I? I’m a brunette…Why do I spend forty extra bucks six times a year to get highlights? Clearly, it’s a conspiracy. This is another version of “Why, Miss Carlisle! Behind those glasses, your eyes are sapphires snapping with blue flame!” or…perhaps…the next thing on my list.
Frooooowww! Miss Carlisle! That red dress and those Jimmy Choos slut you right up! I quite and suddenly ravenous for you! Sure, sure, we all have dreams of prom/wedding/fabulous ball during which we’re scooped up by a Greek billionaire (Andreas, I’m still waiting!) There was Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality. Princess Mia in Princess Diaries. Cinderella in Cinderella. Just once, I’d like to see the heroine in a hideous dress that makes her look worse than the yoga pants and college sweatshirt did. (Note to self: do this in future book). Granted, my heroines have required special underwear…Dr. Rey, thank you!…but still. Let’s have him be stunned with her beauty without the dress, ’kay?
When I Faint — and I Shall — I Shall Be Caught By Hero. I fainted once. I was gardening, I was on a roll, smiting weeds with my mighty sword, I forgot to eat breakfast, didn’t stop for lunch, stood up suddenly, next thing I knew was facedown in the dirt, a rake atop my eye (the gardening tool rake, not the Duke of Badboy, heir to his grandfather’s considerable fortune) Recently, I saw Only You. The heroine faints. Robert Downey, Jr. catches her. Love that movie! Love Robert Downey Jr.! Love Italy! Love red dresses! Why oh why was I eating dirt with a rake on my eye instead of in RDJ’s arms, huh? Not fair! Not! Fair!
What are your favorite or least favorite clichés in romance writing or movies? Do spill. I’ll pick one responder and send her something fun…probably chocolates, because we all need chocolate. So come on! What clichés work, which don’t, and what’s the difference?