Stacy's Place on Earth
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Friday, August 21, 2009:
It's the same old, same old situaaaaation...
Awhile ago I was talking to a good friend of mine who confessed to me that she pretended to not know anything about football just so that the guy she was dating could impress her with his considerable knowledge (rolling eyes). Stuff like this drives me nuts, and I told her so. I guess I've never been big on playing the helpless, silly female, especially when it comes to sports. If I know something, chances are I'm gonna tell you whether you want to know or not.
It did get me thinking though of other cliches, especially those found in romance, scenarios that I get tired of seeing over and over again. Usually they are thrown in just to make a story "easier", but I think it's taking the easy way out. I think it would be more interesting if authors didn't always fall back on certain cliches to drive their story. Such as these:
  • The lone heroine. Mostly found in paranormal romance or urban fantasy, the heroine is almost always a kick-ass chick who goes it alone. She doesn't trust anyone, except maybe her one good friend, though she usually turns out to be pretty normal and tends to have a family of her own. Other than that, our heroine is a loner, going through life fighting the good fight, engaging in casual sex and low-maintenance hook-ups, sometimes barely scraping by, but seems to always have really cool, expensive weaponry. Most heroes in these same books fit this category as well, but I get more ticked off when it's the heroine.
  • Dead parents. Now I know a lot of people lose their parents, usually in their 30's and 40's, so it's not the natural order of things that bother me. It's the endless stories with parents that die, usually in a fiery car crash at some point when our hero/heroine is a child or teen. Why do so many characters have to have such a background? I'm thinking because it's an easier way to create conflict, and used to justify why a character is distant, or avoids intimacy for fear of losing that person. I get that. But it's used way too often.

    Dysfunctional families. Like many people, I would say I come from a dysfunctional family. It's common. But so are well-adjusted families. I know several people who actually get along with their parents and siblings, and they spend all their holidays together. I know because I've been there. It doesn't mean they don't fight or get irritated with each other. It just means that they like to spend time together and look out for each other. Wow, how refreshing.

    Heroines who don't believe you can have it all. Kati did a post on this not too long about about a certain book she'd been reading, and I believe I know which one it is *g* Essentially the heroine was a career woman who didn't think she could continue her career and have a fulfilling relationship with the man she loved. She thought she'd have to choose, and in the end, she almost chose the career. Despite discovering how lonely she was, about how there was something missing in her career on the other side of the country that she was able to have living in a smaller location with people who cared about her, she still almost walked away. D'oh. This strongly borders on TSTL territory for me. In the 80's, and maybe even the 90's, I was okay with this, but now, nope. It can be done. Women do it all the time. It's no longer a novelty to have it all. It's reality. So this one tends to bother me.

    The perfect skinny body and "heroine" hair. Yes, it's fiction, and we want it to be about pretty people, but beauty does come in all shapes and sizes, and hearing about a heroine who is a size 12 being called a "large" or "heavy" heroine burns my butt. As women, we check each other out, look at what other women are wearing and what size they are. And if I were asked the question as to which woman would I be attracted to, it's not the size 2 blonde who ate a grape for breakfast this morning and looked in disapproval at my cup of fruit and piece of french toast I had on my plate. No, it's going to be the pretty, dark-haired girl with actual cleavage from her real boobs who's gotta be at around a size 10. Plus she actually has a smile on her face instead of the pruny scowl blondie hit me with. Yeah, I'd do the brunette. Yet in a romance novel, the heroines are always as tall as the man's chin, with a slim yet curvaceous body. I'm totally picturing a Barbie doll here, and hasn't it been proven that there's no way Barbie could stand up straight if she were real? (and no, I don't mean that, so get your minds out of the gutter. That's a topic for another time).

So those are just a few of the cliches that get on my nerves when it comes to romances. Sometimes you can a book and know exactly what you're going to get, and sometimes there's not a lot of fun and excitement in that.
Can you think of any others that you would love to see long gone?



  1. Great post, Stacy!
    I concur with your list, although I don't mind any one of those situations in small doses. It's when the main characters have two or more of those going on at the same time and the story starts to lose credibility with me. Especially if the circumstances are exaggerated.

    For the lone heroine. I don't mind if she's a loner by circumstance, and admire her and her story more if she admits to herself that she doesn't like being a loner and longs for a place to belong. That's normal.

    The dead parents. This circumstance is more realistic if perhaps one parent is gone. When I read Elisabeth Naughton's Stolen Fury, the heroine's mother had died doing her archeological research, and my first thought was "Please don't let it be so cliche that the bad guys killed the mom." It turns out she died of cancer before completing her research. This was so much more believable and a situation that so many readers would relate to. It pulled me into the story a little bit more f or it.

    As far as the dysfunctional family issue goes, this one hasn't bothered me as much. It seems to be a more widely used issue in PNR or UF, don't you think?

    The perfect body syndrome. Yeah, this gets annoying for either the female or male lead. Of course, we want some clues as to what our characters look like, but I tend to zone out excessive descriptions anyway.

    I try to mix up the genres I read just to avoid overdosing on these situations. I'm trying to think of other situations, but I'm coming up blank.

  2. I think most of my favorite books tend to focus less on the characters descriptions and more on their relationship and what is going on around them. I enjoy a good alpha romance where the hero is this drop dead gorgeous hunky man, but I prefer the more average kinda guy.

    I have wondered why the scenarios you mentioned are so common in backstory. I agree with Chrisitne, small doses are okay, but they do seem to be used an awful lot.

  3. OMG! You're right! These are everywhere. The dead parents/dysfunctional family thing is especially interesting (and common! I'm guilty of it, too). I think it adds to the loner thing. Maybe if there is less of a support system, it creates more sympathy. IDK!!

    So funny how common these features are!!

  4. There are so many.

    I think one of the big ones I have that you didn't mention is when the heroine gets pregnant immediately so OF COURSE she has to marry/stick with the hero. Uhg. Please. No more babies unless absolutely necessary.

  5. Great post Stacy!

    The perfect Barbie doll heroine probably bugs me the most. I do think the dead parent back-story is over used in books, tv shows(really over used), and movies, but still doesn't bother me as much as the Barbie doll heroine.

  6. Awesome post, Stacy! All of these are so true. I think we all identify with the perfect body one.

    For me, I also hate the Jewish heroine stereotype. It totally grates on my nerves. She always has the "typical" loud Jewish family, is looking for a man to take care of her, Mom is always trying to set her up and she's nobody in the eyes of her family if she doesn't have a boyfriend. Ugh. And she's usually paired with some non-Jewish guy who has the totally normal family. Picture My Big Fat Greek Wedding in a book, only substitute Jewish for Greek and it's every single book ever written with a Jewish heroine.

    The other one that drives me bonkers is the heroine who has never ever been with a guy who has a schlong as big as the hero. Why can't a hero just be normal sized, but still know what to do with it? It always comes at the expense of her dead husband, or her previous lovers (with whom she may have been perfectly happy before, but NOW she knows what she was missing out on!). I know he needs to be superlative, but really, does his wanker always need to come up to his chin when erect or hang down to his knees when at rest?

  7. Great post Stacy! Hmmm...I have to admit to not being a fan of the kick-a*s heroine. And I think part of it is because they are (mostly) loners. But it's also because they are 'different' from everyone else in oh so many ways. Just because a character is the heroine doesn't mean that she has to be differentiated to the extreme!

    And I'm so with everyone on the perfect heroine. Why are breasts bad? I never seem to read about heroines with anything above small breasts. It's that whole sterotypical (fashionable) heroine... Personally, what is wrong with a fit, curvy heroine? Some women are never going to be a size 0, so are a fit and healthy size...whatever.

    And sometimes I think it would be lovely to walk away from my dysfunctional family...but I can't, because I'm the responsible one who has to fix everything.

    Sorry, it's Monday and I'm ranting :( And I can't have a 'pick me up' as I'm on a diet. Not quite sure why as I'm not going to end up looking like a heroine from one of the books I read. I'm going to stop now....

  8. Oh the heroine is goes it alone and is mostly broke with the expensive weapons! Yes that's the one that bugs me the most, I think.

    Although....the perfect heroine is a troublesome one for me as well. I actually have a friend who HAS to have her heroine's perfect. It drives me nuts! lol (But I still love her. :)) Why can't we find a happy medium? Like a size 8? Lately in the books I've read they're either a 2 or a 10-12. * would be refreshing. :)

  9. Great post! I too would like to see more heroines with curves all over,not just their boobs. And as far as the dead parents thing, I hadn't really noticed but you're right! Maybe we're just used to it from the lack of parents in Disney stories...

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