Since the dawn of dramatic storytelling (which is somewhere around the 5th century B.C. mark, in Greece) there has been countless recycling of comedy and tragedy’s tropes. If you think about it, every good romance is either Romeo & Juliet or Pride & Prejudice. Which is to say, the characters are either “star-crossed lovers” or “star-crossed lovers” who haven’t realized it yet.
And every bad romance is still some variation of the two, but more predictable and devoid of any real story.
Many of today’s cheesy romantic novels would fall under the latter. They try to keep things “fresh” and “mysterious,” but we always know what overcooked theme is coming.
The following is a list of modern romantic novel clichés.
1. Evil Relatives
This could be an evil twin, sibling, step-sibling, mother or wife. There’s a chance it’s an evil husband or brother, but it’s usually a woman. Anyway, they’re always pure evil, and because they are so closely related to the main character, it makes them a deadly enemy. Of course, it isn’t until the end of the book that our hero realizes their overly supportive family member is really the foe. Such betrayal!
2. Evil Ex-Relatives
This is an ex-spouse or ex-communicated spouse. They’re still obsessed with their former lover and will stop at nothing to get them back, even if that means murder. In some cases, divorce is the entire battle because the evil and possessive spouse can’t let go. “He hated Marissa for cheating, but he could never be unfaithful to the marriage…” If my eyes could roll any farther into my head, they’d see my brain.
3. Evil Other Woman
This lady wishes she were one of the first two options, but she’s not even good enough for that. She’s a sexy mistress, turned psychotic stalker through jealous rage. Oh yeah, and she’s pure evil! The main character has his shortcomings, but you still root for him over the crazy woman. Because if she’s evil and crazy there can be no second guesses about him loving the female lead. And all hopeful girls want to identify with the female lead and hate on the jealous chick. It’s psychology, people. Basic psychology.
4. Amnesia Plots
It’s the perfect set up really. A writer might ask herself how the Duke could possibly fall in love with the lower-class woman, even though she normally wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell with him. The answer, of course, is amnesia because if she can’t remember all the reasons why they aren’t meant to be together, it totally levels the playing field. It also creates a “damsel in distress” archetype for bonus points!
5. “We Come From Different Worlds” Plots
Montague versus Capulet. Vampire versus human. Rich versus poor. The stuffy city girl versus the wild cowboy. The virile womanizer versus the innocent virgin. Somehow, over the course of the story, tension and frustration blossom into true love. “She was fire to his ice” and “Only he could tame her wild passion.” Readers want it more when it’s a “forbidden fruit” so to speak. But how does one make this dynamic work? Well, amnesia is a great resource. But, you could also use…
6. “We’re Forced To Be Together” Plots
It’s how these plots are written that determine their situational believability. Maybe a will stipulates that two people care for the same child. Maybe the car repair will last two weeks and they’re “stuck in this small town together.” Perhaps “Grandmother Beasley’s dying wish was that James deliver the letter to her long-lost and innocently beautiful granddaughter, Marissa.” Or, it’s possible “the handsome CEO requires the expertise of a hot secretary for the big merger.” The quality deteriorates from there. Surely, you can see where that last one was going.
I mean, wouldn’t it be nice to read a romance where they meet in a bar, go on a few dates, aren’t sure if they like each other, but have this really romantic night and realize they can’t live without one another? At least it’d be real. No murder. No evil people. No mysterious or ridiculously convenient setups. No paranormal characters like werewolves or demons. Just the story of two people getting to know each other and falling in love.
But since everybody likes a little spice (and because its hilarious) I’ve tried to include all of the above clichés into one story:
A Love Forbidden
Tropical islands are hot, but their mysterious passion burns!
In the midst of vacation, Tiffany Summers finds herself in love with a stranger, the center of a murder triangle and lost on an island without her passport or any memory of where it might be! And what’s up with all the letters from her estranged father? Only time will tell…
Note: Romeo & Juliet is technically a tragedy, not romance. I know that. Just saying.