Romance. Generally, a genre I choose to steer clear of. Always. Which can occasionally put me in an awkward situation. Being a girl and all. I am just more of an action girl. It has always been my favorite. But I hear the word ‘romance’ and wince. I have nothing against those who love writing romance fiction; it is simply not my strong point. (Believe me, I tried. Don’t ask about it. It was ugly.)
Besides all this, I do appreciate some romance fiction; properly executed, I really love it. My favorite romance author is Francine Rivers. She is fantastic with the unexpected. I never know what direction the story is going to take, she keeps me guessing the whole time. I highly recommend her Mark of the Lion series.
Part of the reason I dislike a lot of romance is because of the way many writers handle it. So, I have compiled a little list of clichés and pitfalls in romance fiction. A lot of these I learned from experience when I attempted a romance.
1. Perfect guy falls for boring girl
The biggest cliche of all romance fiction. I am guilty of using this method in one of my stories. The nobody girl, struggling in life, not confident with her body, meets the hot, handsome, and successful guy who magically has interest in her over tons of other hot girls. Practically everyone has had this idea roll through their head while considering romance in a story. It’s pretty typical. Awfully typical. This ties in with my next point.
2. The perfect guy
This one is the worst. It is all over the place. The guy has the absolute perfect body, great career path, and is fantastic at everything. But then, sometimes you have the counterpart, which can be equally annoying.
3. Losing plot as romance takes over
This is so painful. I look into a book, super excited with the description. But as I begin reading, I watch as the intricate and creative plot fades away. I beg for it to come back, but gradually its life has been sucked away by a sappy romance between the protagonist and a random side character.
4. Love at first sight
Cliché. Cliché written all over it. Butterflies in her stomach, the moment his hazel eyes met hers. Please no. If you do pull anything like this off, I appreciate it when it backfires on them. Princess Diaries is an awesome example. She has been dreaming about this hot shot forever, and finally she gets him. Only to be slapped in the face with the result. Make things unexpected.
5. Emotional issues solved by meeting their soul mate
You are introduced to an emotional wreck of a character who is magically cured when this guy appears in their life. There is nothing wrong with them being emotional wrecks. But don’t pretend that a guy can fix all those for them. If she is struggling with her body image, show how she conquers it—don’t let the reader assume that a guy entering her life solves that problem.
6. Attraction based on physical appearance
Now this happens a whole lot more in books where romance is the subplot. The protagonist likes this girl, and they end up in a long term relationship, all based on how attracted they are physically to each other. Please, please add more to their relationship! Real romantic relationships should be more than attraction, so give your character a real relationship.
7. Characters get physical too soon
Unless your characters have been in a close relationship for some time, do not have them kissing in the second chapter. It is just disturbing. If your characters have known each other for a week or two, they should not be getting serious just yet.
8. Zero plot besides the romance
Some people like this method. I do not. There must be something else going on. I am not interested in all her emotional turmoil over this guy. We need to have something else to distract our attention besides the endless “he loves me, he loves me not” sob story. A simple little character goal on the side is fine. Make her attempting to get a job the whole book while also getting to know this guy who happens to work at the same place.
9. Romance between young characters
This one happens all the time in YA novels. Characters under the age of eighteen, having deep romantic relationships. A little playful liking to each other is fine. In fact, I enjoy a little bit of a crush throughout the story, or hints of a future relationship. But please spare me the long drawn out kissing scene between two fifteen year olds.
10. Girl realizes she doesn’t need a guy to save her, but still gets the perfect guy in the end
This method is so popular today. Pop culture is all about how “You don’t need a man to save you!” but we still have the girl falling in love with the guy in the end. Somehow she still gets the perfect, hot guy. If the girl doesn’t want a guy to save her, great. Now, please don’t give her the guy she trashed in the last chapter. Honestly, it is like objectifying the guy. “She doesn’t need him to be saved! She is her own hero! But she still needs a boyfriend, so he can come back later.” If she is her own hero, but you still want her to have the guy in the end, make her treat the guy properly throughout the story; don’t toss him to the side.
This list may seem overly critical, but that is just how I am with romance. It needs to be really good. These are some typical clichés authors fall into. Now is cliché always wrong? No, but that is an article for another day. These all tie back to what a good romance looks like.
Think about the real, romantic relationships you have seen. Do many of these points apply to them? Probably and hopefully not. It is just unrealistic. As writers it is our job to tell stories that are true. We want our reader to be able to relate, and apply what they read to the real world. Let’s not give people unrealistic expectations for their future spouse. Let’s encourage them that romance is beautiful and difficult. It’s a struggle, but it is worth it.
I hope you enjoyed the list, which one do you notice the most in the romance fiction?
C. S. Lewis has always been my inspiration. I want to write showing messages that point to Christ and inspire others to do greater things. When I am not writing I enjoy graphic design of all varieties, listening to music, and training in Karate with my nine other siblings.