Jennifer Lyon

Monday, August 15th, 2016
Weekend Roundup & Cliches

**Edited to add that I was actually further into the book I’m talking about below than I thought–so about nine chapters instead of two. Sorry! I just realized it when I listened to the book at the gym this morning. I also edited a few typos but I’m sure there are more :-)**

There was a weekend? I worked for most of it. I’m getting through my most troublesome part of the revision and pretty danged happy about that. I just stopped to dash off this blog.

Now let’s see if I have enough brain cells to articulate something I’m thinking about: Clichés.  Here’s a truth a lot of writers (me included!) don’t want to admit.

Clichés work.


They work when they are handled right.

I started listening to an audio version of a NYT bestselling author’s latest book. It’s getting rave reviews, and her rankings on books sales are awesome–so good, I easily think it’ll hit all the lists next week. I’m only two chapters into the story, but this baby is bursting with clichéd scenes for a romance.

Rich, powerful hero, check.

Struggling heroine, check.

Hero only wants a one night stand, check.

Heroine demands a real relationship, check.

Exhausted hero persuades heroine to have sex, then falls asleep waiting for her, check.

They sleep together that night with no sex, check.

Heroine has a gay friend who makes guy jealous at rich society party, check.

Hero sweeps heroine up in his arms at same party and whisks her away to his lair (uh bedroom) check.

Heroine ultimately refuses sex, she’s going to make him prove he wants more, check.

And we’re only a few freaking chapters in! I’m telling you guys, this book is exploding with so many clichés, they are oozing in rivers down my arms as I listen. Half of me is actually laughing in my head, like…ROTFLMAO. But..


Another part of me is captivated. Like…I’ll keep listening. I’ll drag my chocolate inspired ass to the gym this morning just to hear what happens next. Why???

Well clichés work…when they are in the hands of the right author. And this author? She can write a story. Even when my editorial brain is picking it apart, actually clutching her belly and roaring with laughter at yet another romance cliche, another part of me needs to know what happens to these characters. Why is the hero so damaged? Will the heroine with her abusive past find love with such a damaged man? And there’re the subtleties beneath the clichés. Another man (not the gay friend) is lurking deep in the shadows of this tale, and his story is not a cliché at all, making him stand out. Why’s he there? Is this going to be a torn between two lovers story? Or something else… And there’s a dark theme of past abuse crouched low and tense, waiting to spring.

I suspect this story is not going to be a typical romance, but starting off with all these cliches gives the reader a sense of safety and trust in the book and author. Clichés work because they are familiar. We know what it means when a man tucks a strand of a woman’s hair behind her ear–it’s intimate and caring. Wizard often pulls a strand of my hair off my cheek, but no other man touches me that way. It would set off my creep radar if they did. Clichés can be shortcuts at times, little familiar bread crumbs leading us into the real story.

And okay, this author uses a LOT of those cliché bread crumbs but she’s sprinkled in all these other fresh crumbs; great characters, beautiful writing, subtleties brewing beneath the surface that brush the staleness off those overused clichés and make me hold my breath as I listen wondering what twist is coming.

In the hands of the right author, clichés can work.

And that’s my deep and rambling thoughts this weekend, Otherwise, I’m buried in my revisions and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

How was your weekend?


10 comments to “Weekend Roundup & Cliches”

  1. Roz Heiko
    August 15th, 2016 at 8:37 am · Link

    Please name the book! I love this post. You describe so many of my reluctant experiences…that I get to enjoy in spite of…?

  2. Silver James
    August 15th, 2016 at 8:42 am · Link

    I want to make cliches work like that. That needs to be a panel at Nationals. LOLOL

    Glad you’re on track. I worked all weekend, too. I’m down to the last 10 pages and figuring out the transition from the old story to new story to old story ending, which works for the new story as well. One more cup of coffee.

  3. B.E. Sanderson
    August 15th, 2016 at 10:31 am · Link

    I must not read enough of any one genre for cliches to trip me up. As long as it works, I’m happy. And by ‘works’, I mean entertains me to the point where I’m outside my own writing for a while. If I feel like I constantly have to edit in my head while I read someone else’s book, it ain’t doing its job.

    Right now, though, no written work is safe. I’m editing everything in my head until I come down from this book. It’s in the editor’s hands now, so I’m good for two weeks. Back to writing new words starting tonight. Yay.

  4. Jenn
    August 15th, 2016 at 11:16 am · Link

    Hi Roz, okay I debated on this because I don’t want to sound like I’m calling out an author in any way, her book just got me thinking about cliches and how writers can use them effectively. So with that caveat, I’ll tell you the name. IT ENDS WITH US by Colleen Hoover. I really love her books and writing :-)

  5. Jenn
    August 15th, 2016 at 11:20 am · Link

    Silver I do too! I was cleaning a bit and listening to this book and really got a feel for how cliches work. A workshop would be awesome! Now I’m thinking things I don’t have time to think about and I’m blaming you!

    Yay that you only have 10 pages left! But the ending…I got pretzel brain tying to follow it :-) You’ll make it work!

  6. Jenn
    August 15th, 2016 at 11:24 am · Link

    B.E., I don’t think you’re alone, are fine with cliches if they feel fresh enough in the writing to keep them entertained. I’m just in full revision-edit mode and latched onto this. My first thought was, wait, why is this book getting such acclaim? It’s cliches…except I kept listening and began to almost unconsciously analyze, i guess :-)

    I know exactly what you mean when you’re deep in editing. It just won’t shut off and makes it hard to enjoy any entertainment. I even find myself corrected the reporters sentences on the news, LOL!

  7. Silver James
    August 15th, 2016 at 1:54 pm · Link

    :lol: Yeah, long story. I had to unhook the book from my Hard Target series, which meant deleting mention of the team by name and switching the hero to someone else. It’s all good. I’m done it’s off to quick readers and my editor while I work on formatting. :D

  8. Viki S.
    August 15th, 2016 at 3:30 pm · Link

    I love this blog today :)! I have laughed through a few books myself because of all the cliches. If it’s written well and the story flows I can get over them but sometimes it’s too much.

    I’m glad you are enjoying the read. Let’s see, you were two chapters in before going to the gym this morning, how many more cliches have you come upon ;)?

    Sounds like you had a productive weekend. I hope you took some time to just have fun too ;).

    My weekend was good. We went out for dinner Sat. for my birthday and had a good time. Yesterday hubs and the youngest got me an egg roll. Sounds stupid, but I’ve been dying for one for months. It’s been about 5 years since I last had one. It was a nice birthday treat. Oh, we went with peach pie.

    Have a great afternoon!

  9. Jenn
    August 15th, 2016 at 6:56 pm · Link

    Silver, all good? That sounds complicated but you obviously did it, so yay!!

  10. Jenn
    August 15th, 2016 at 7:01 pm · Link

    Viki, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I love that your son got you the egg roll you’ve been craving. That shows he’s listening and loves you. And the peach pie!

    I didn’t notice more cliches this morning at the gym, probably because how many are really left??? All that aside, like you I will DNF a book much more quickly these days. Who has time for a book that’s not working for us?

    Hope you have some left over peach pie to enjoy today :-)

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