How to know if your novel is original and not cliché. Take this quiz:
1) Does your novel have a vampire as one of the main characters? Yes or No
2) Does your heroine meet the hero, but by complete accident (he shows up out of nowhere) at the local library? The school library? The college library? Any library? Yes or No
3) Is your female MC oblivious to the fact that she is the key to saving the world? She has special powers (mind reading, mind blocking, unleashed ninja skills)? Yes or No
4) Does your story begin with one of the following: Yes or No
a) Girl/woman jogging?
b) Girl/woman fingering a necklace that hangs around her neck (a symbol, she has yet to figure out)?
c) It’s raining?
d) Girl/female looking out the window as the rain falls?
5) Does your female/male MC meet for the first time the male/female MC in the office of the high school? The secondary MC just so happens to be a new kid in town? Yes or No
6) Does your novel start off with a chase scene or a character fleeing something or someone? Yes or No
7) Does your main character just wake up from a dream? Yes or No
8) Is your MC warned not to do something, but does it anyway and all hell breaks out? Y or N
9) Does your MC have to find a mate or else? Y or N
10) Does your female MC find herself in a sticky situation, and the male MC comes to the rescue?
If you answered YES to any of the above, I don’t know how original an idea you have—more like a possible cliched plot or at the very least, a very cliched beginning. Be warned.
I just finished judging some entries for the Utah Romance Writers of America’s Heart of the West writing completion. And boy let me tell you, I was blown away at how many of the stories opened with the very same plot idea or theme. Now don’t get me wrong, we have genres for a reason, people come to expect certain things to happen when reading mystery or romance or paranormal, etc . . . I get that.
But when I start a novel in which the woman is out having a jog and then runs into (insert any of the following: vampire, alien, etc . . . ) and then I pick up another novel and it begins the same way, I get worried.
--Three of the entries I judged had a girl that wore a mystery necklace that she NEVER took off, ever.
--Two started out with a teenage girl in the library where she meets the super, uber, amazingly handsome hero.
--Two started out with female jogging and coming upon a) alien life form in the woods b) a fallen angel.
--Two had werewolves or, a slight difference, a werebear.
--Two had the male MC in need of finding a mate or else he would a) die/go insane (don’t all men think that anyway?) or b) lose the kingdom.
--Two started out with a girl looking out the window as the rain fell outside, she was contemplating life.
--Four had vampires or a vampire version.
--And then there were the two that used the exact same phrases “Gods! That was so annoying” (plural form of God to indicate more than one) and the term “Instinct.”
Perhaps the plot was different from everything else out there, maybe a new twist on an old idea, but the openings sure didn’t leave me to believe so. Very clichéd, in my humble opinion.
We have to make ourselves different. We have to stand out, rise above the rest. Make sure our ideas are different, or at least take an old idea and give it an incredible spin.
Any other clichéd plot lines or beginnings you’ve seen that I’ve missed. Do you agree with me or disagree? I’d love to hear from you. (I love comments and a great discussion).
(The videos below are just for fun. I'm not really dissing my romance writer pals. I love romance).
8/11/2011 02:55:30 pm
I'm a romance novel lover/writer, too. You bring up some good points, and it would be especially noticeable when judging a contest.
8/11/2011 04:37:18 pm
Great list-- but how could you forget 'super attractive female MC who thinks she's ugly (or is at least oblivious to her own looks'?
My friend says Gods and oh my Gods and such. She's pagan. Just saying ;)
8/12/2011 03:40:38 am
Hahaha! Thanks for the list. This is the benefit for writers to read much, read often, and read widely. Very useful blog post!
8/12/2011 04:19:10 am
You crack me up, Angela! I loved your quiz.
8/12/2011 06:37:36 am
For a while there I was seeing a lot of historical romance plots where the heroine, and sometimes the hero, were kidnapped and the other had to save them. Not gonna lie, it got old.
8/12/2011 08:54:47 am
LOVE the quiz. So true. The worst part is those cliches are usually original to US. Unfortunately, others have had that same "original" thought before us. (Probably while out jogging after watching True Blood the night before.)
8/12/2011 01:07:02 pm
Great post. A cliched beginning I got tired of was the heroine travelling (on a stage coach, a train, a bus, a car) thinking about her past and mulling her future. Yawn. It's scary how many boring beginnings there are from well known, NYC pubs. And I'm so sick of vampires I could spit.
11/10/2012 04:36:43 am
I am SO SICK of vampires, too! Ever since the damn Twilight fad...And it's STILL going viral.
8/13/2011 02:58:40 pm
8/13/2011 03:02:05 pm
When I first answered the quiz, I was happy to discover that THE LULLABY was a big fat 'NO' to all of them. Then I remembered to go back over it for THINKING OF YOU. 10 and 4 kind of stuck out... but probably not in the usual sense. My character does jog in the first scene but she's not actually like doing it for the sport or exercise or whatever. And she gets captured and the love interest helps her escape, but after that she's on her own.
Well, my book starts off with three normal-seeming kids at recess going to a bit of a woods on school grounds and talking about a war going on in their home country.
9/5/2012 02:18:37 am
Thankfully, I answered "No" to all of those questions! Woot! I have an original idea...maybe... :D
9/19/2012 09:22:49 am
Whew. I'm glad my novels don't begin any of those ways :)
9/19/2012 10:53:35 am
No on all counts. But then, I don't write romance or YA. ;o)
11/10/2012 04:34:30 am
I don't even write or read romance. The only romantic dramas that actually intrigue me are gay/lesbian romances lol and I'm heterosexual. But anyway, my debut book is about superhumans living on a super planet...It's more of a comedy action adventure. And mine actually starts off with the two MC girls talking on the phone, studying for their Anatomy & Physiology class, and then they each get an invitation for a superhero party that hits their windows, and it's all a trap, and blah blah, don't wanna spoil it.
12/20/2012 11:38:29 am
Well, in my story the prologue has an important (dead) character fleeing for her life and getting killed, and then in the first chapter MC wakes up from dreaming of (dead) character getting killed, but it's actually plot relevant!
12/21/2012 01:35:43 am
That sounds interesting. :) Mine sounds boring...I keep changing the intro.
10/12/2016 06:32:26 pm
please do more!
7/8/2017 10:41:06 am
Hum, I responded no to all the questions besides 2 and 3, but I was wondering if I truly got the question.
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