Rising above cliche.

To a certain degree we all have cliches in our writing and our storylines.  The books that rise above the cliche have incredible writing, humor, heart, three dimensional characters, and fresh perspective.

Lately in YA, I’ve seen and read complaints on Goodreads about certain trends:


  • the love triangle (made popular by Twilight and continued with Hunger Games)
  • the hot paranormal bad boy 
  • the girl who falls in love (after this creature has hurt or intends to hurt her)


  • The controlling fortressed city surrounded by people who live in hovels. (Okay, I didn’t see this complaint on Goodreads but I don’t know how many more books I can read that are like this. I love coming across a dystopian that is unique.)

Do you think these concepts have become cliche? I believe these genres will continue to be popular but the ones that rise above will have to offer something new. Personally, I read in both genres and if the writing is excellent with terrific characters, I can look past the cliche. But, some of them, I’ve put down half way through. They are just too similar. Nothing new is offered.

Side note: As a parent, I’m not worried about teen girls learning the wrong thing about love from these books. It’s fiction. And teen girls are smart enough to know the difference. Every aspect of media whether it be books, movies, or advertising promotes an unrealistic view of love. I’d be more concerned with advertising than fiction.

But I do believe YA contemporary is on the rise. Readers want something different.

Not to pick on just paranormal and dystopian because there are cliche plots and characters in all genres. How do you rise above the cliche in your storyline while sticking to elements of your genre? Have you read any books that do this effectively?

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13 Responses to Rising above cliche.

  1. Carole Anne Carr October 29, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    I’m very lucky, Laura, my genre provides so many avenues that I shall never be lost for ideas :0)

  2. Stina Lindenblatt October 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    I’m with you, Laura. That’s why I’ve been reading a lot more YA contemporary than YA paranormal (and the only dystopnian I’ve read is The Hunger Games trilogy). There’re a lot less cliches. 🙂

  3. Angela Felsted October 29, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    One cliche I see a lot of in YA novels are parents who are alive but aren’t really there. Instead they’re conveniently working all the time, or are hippies who aren’t around much, or some other variation on the above which allows the author to give the teenage character a ton of freedom without actually grappling with the parent-teenager dynamic.

    • Laura October 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

      Carole – That’s just it – I think every genre has limited ideas but writers get stuck thinking it has to be certain way – which becomes a bit cliche!

      Stina – I’ve been reading more contemporary too! Just like agents, it takes a pretty unique premise for me to read a paranormal, as much as I love them.

      Angela – Yes, dealing with parents is a huge issue when it comes to kidlit, hence the missing parent.

  4. Laurel October 29, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    I’m so on the same page as Angela! I get so frustrated that authors seem unwilling to engage parent-child conflict in YA, but instead shove the parents out of the picture. A few authors are beginning to look at teens struggling to forge a more mature relationship with parents–which I think is fertile territory for us to explore, and a topic all kids can relate to. Melina Marchetta’s Saving Francesca had a really interesting mother-daughter relationship, for example.

  5. Laura Marcella October 29, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    I agree with those complaints! But books are still getting published with those elements and people are still gobbling them up. So most readers must not really mind the clichés!

  6. angela October 29, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    Nothing new is offered.

    I think this is the key right here. A well used theme, plot or angle is fine if it’s done in a fresh way. Think of the movies, and the success of certain plotlines. Even TV. Just how many Cop shows are there on TV anyway? Look at all the versions of CSI and Law and Order. They stick around because people like them. The like the gritty realism, the crime, the passion of those within the law system.

    Most people believe that there are only so many plots, characters, etc to draw from. I don’t know that I buy that, but if one does, then the writer’s job is still to create a SPIN. When we do this right, a familiar plotline or character type feels fresh and original. I think the trick is to read a lot, but think for ourselves. We can learn lessons from what’s out there now, what succeed and what doesn’t, but there is no need to redo what someone else has done. Spin, recreate and make everything your own.


    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  7. Lois Moss October 29, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    In contemporary I love reading Sarah Dessen. I like to change up what I read a lot so I don’t get bored with any one genre.

    • Laura October 29, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

      Laurel – I think there’s a lot of ways to incorporate parents without them being in every scene!

      Laura – You’re those books are still being published, but I for aspiring writers I think it’s extremely hard to get in with a paranormal romance unless
      it offers something new and different. But then again, every story needs to offer something new or different to gain interest!

      Angela – I agree. When it comes to storylines I love – it comes down to me liking the characters, the pacing, and the writer suprising me.

      Louis – It’s not a certain genre I love, it’s a good story. No an outstanding story.

  8. Karen Strong October 29, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

    Laura, I think you’re right. Contemporary is on the rise. I see that making a comeback.

    As for love triangles, I think readers really like them — but like Angela said, it’s more of what kind of spin you put to them.

    Considering the re-org of the B&N stores stocking an entire section of Paranormal Romance in the Teen books, I think this trend is far from over though.

  9. Elisa October 30, 2010 at 12:18 am #

    I’m tired of reading paranormal romance from the female’s perspective, even if she isn’t just a normal girl.

    I am more interested in reading a paranormal romance from the perspective of the stoic, emotionally distant guy.

    How does he see the female, instead of how she sees him? How does she save him and what does he have to offer her?

    It’s a place longing to be explored, but many author’s don’t go there. Maybe because it’s easier to write a character who is more social…I don’t know.

    I have a love triangle in my novel, lol, but I’m hoping the perspective and the way I present it is fresh…and goes with the story.

    I think the biggest problem I have is when a cliche seems forced, which happens often, even in contemporary. That’s when it feels like a cliche and not real life.

  10. Kris October 30, 2010 at 3:23 pm #

    So hoping contemporary YA is on the rise…since that’s what I’m writing. 😉

    I also love contemporary w/ just a touch of paranormal or fantasy. Reading FIRST LIGHT right now by Rebecca Stead.

    It’s often hard to separate cliche from trends. Trying to take something old and twist it into something new is hard.

  11. patti November 1, 2010 at 2:02 am #

    My agent Natasha has converted me on looking for Moral Premises in books. It’s hard now for me to read things that don’t have takeaway value for ME, which might be different than the takeaway value for YOu.

    That’s what I LOVE about books!!!!

    Blessings, dear one!
    GREAT POST!!!!!!

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