Monday, July 25, 2016

I Think I've Read This Before

By: Donnell Ann Bell

I’m judging a contest. I love judging. It truly gives me a taste of what storylines are out there, and, in effect I get a glimpse of what editors and agents are seeing. Also, I’m judging some really, really great entries. So that should be an acknowledgement that there are some great upcoming authors in our future.
I also realize that there are romance tropes that are automatically accepted, and I love secret baby stories, the billionaire playboy who meets the girl next door and more. But something that is bothering me is the acceptance of something other than trope. The overabundance of cliché. Frankly, in every one I read it seemed like I’d read it before.
For instance:
That licking lip thing. It reminds me of Marlo Thomas in THAT GIRL. In that long ago series, Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas), an aspiring actress, is at a party and her manager tells her to mingle, and while you’re at it, “Wet your lips, baby. Wet your lips.” She goes around the room licking her lips. The manager points her out to a director, or some such individual, who looks at Ann and her darting tongue, and says, “Oh, right. The thirsty one.”
I’ve never got that image out of my head when a character wets her lips to attract a hero. Which reminds me, I need to try this with my husband and see if it works. (I’ll keep you posted.)
Coffee as sludge. I’m judging romantic suspense, and I kid you not, every single entry has had a terrible coffee reference. Fellow authors, this shows me that we need to stretch. Find a cop who drinks tea perhaps, or some coffee connoisseur who prides himself on making the best cup of coffee ever. Or a boss who outlaws coffee until someone can make a decent cup.
Sound familiar?
The facial hair reference. I’m guilty as the next person on this. I love the bad boy look, and don’t know how to get around it. With the exception that if a cop stops you, or a detective comes to your door, he’s probably going to be close-shaven. (I know, lets fall in love with his aftershave ;)) Or his dimples!
Forgive my facetiousness, please. I truly have had some creative and exceptional entries and many I’ve scored high. But I hate the idea of these fabulous stories being rejected or diminished because they take on words or ideas of authors who used it when the phrasing  was still fresh and creative writing.
As authors we need to work hard to make each story our own. Do clichés yank you out of the story? Cliche: Do you get the impression you've read this before?


  1. "The overabundance of cliché." Man, I have to beat those back with a stick when they creep into my mss. Great article, Donnell.

  2. Darby, I think we all do! Physical exercise isn't the only place we have to s-t-r-e-t-c-h, right? Glad you enjoyed it.

    1. Ha, ha! I see what you did there. Well played.

  3. My problem is describing certain facial expressions...I know I make some indescribable and laughable ones myself! Then if you are trying to limit adjectives.. a___smile a___laugh etc. Aye ya yey!! Writing is not easy!

  4. Ann, it's darn hard, and even harder to find your own voice. That was invaluable advice I received from Colonel Jim Roper when I started writing. It's interesting to me to see a really catchy phrase and see it show up in other books soon after. One that comes to mind is ... his smile didn't reach his eyes.... I see that in most every book I read now.


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