Monday, January 19, 2015

The Author's Craft: Making It Feel Real... Avoid Cliches.

The art of making a romance story feel real is actually very simple. Avoid Cliches. Well,
simple to say but not so easily done. Way too often, love gets the cliched treatment in movies, songs, and books. It drives my editors crazy when I toss in cliches and during the revision process, I find and remove at least a few.

I've collected a few tips that have helped me avoid cliches as I write. Maybe they'll help you too...

Know a Cliche when you See a Cliche.
The first step in avoiding cliches is recognizing them, i.e love at first site, never getting over your first love, the perfect soul mate, love conquers all, etc.

It's not just the situation but also the language. Words surrounding romances can be cliche too. It's easy to conjure these up just by thinking about popular songs. There are certain sentiments that are repeated often, i.e. endless love, make my heart melt, swept off my feet, etc.

Notice how cliches don't really show anything true about the situation.

There is Much to be Said for Variety.
While steering away from using cliches, not every cliche has to be avoided. Some common troupes work well and borrowing from the classic love stories is a given. Giving overused cliches a facelift can make them usable again. Changing them up to create original ideas provides variety and will make a romance story feel more real.

Focus on Specifics.
Cliches are generalizations. One way to stay away from cliches is to focus on the specifics instead of generalities. Romance stories are generally character-driven. By creating realistic characters with idiosyncrasies, gestures and personalities uniquely their own, cliches are unnecessary. Specific behaviors and thoughts come out as characters react in an organic manner. The bonus here is that when your characters do this -when their actions appear almost inevitable- they will also become more real to your readers.

Cliches aren't necessary. They can often serve as a crutch and keep you from using your "writing muscles" to create the best romance story possible. Toss them out or give them a facelift, but don't rely on them for keeping it real. They just don't work.
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