More SBD, really.

. . . but I didn't write it.

Writing goddess Linda did. Btw, she finally sold! Details later, if she lets me. I put a little comment after the elements I've included in my stories -- most of them, please note. No flashing dark eyes, except maybe I think I had a dawg like that oncet. I had a half moon parrot when I was a kid. It really truly did have flashing eyes. Coolio thing.
okay so...

Linda wrote:

Editors always say they want "fresh, original voices," but how do you know which elements in your story are stale and overused? What makes a manuscript or entry stand out above the rest? I judge many romance contests every year, so I thought I would share some of the elements I see over and over again. I think when we write we tend to fall back on what feels comfortable and familiar. We've probably all come across these elements in favorite books, so perhaps we unconsciously slip them into our own.

I'm not at all saying you can't successfully include these elements in your story and make them fresh, but be aware that they appear to be cropping up with great regularity and predictability.
[emphasis added by Kate]

• The Stumbling Heroine: Our heroine trips and the hero catches her, frequently "against the hard wall of his chest," as a contrived excuse for them to feel that first attraction.
[check--current ms.]

• Variation on the Stumbling Heroine: Heroine twists her ankle, providing convenient excuse for the hero to pick her up and carry her. [yes, in the ms I'm writing now. Same scene. First page.]

• The Electric Handshake: Hero and heroine shake hands and feel a bolt or tingle of electricity shoot up his/her arm. [kinda]

• Variation on the Electric Handshake: Hero or heroine hands something to the other and their fingers brush, resulting in the tingle/electricity. [sure. hey, I've felt it myself. I'm just writing what I know...]

• The Wayward Lock: Heroine sees a strand of hair fall across the hero's forehead and her fingers itch to brush it back (an impulse she, of course, barely restrains). [absolutely--no itching, however]

• Done-to-Death Descriptions: Flame red hair and emerald eyes; eyes so dark they were nearly black; rippling muscles. [probably those muscles.]

• The Argument in the Rain: Cliché of the hero and heroine having a fight with rain and thunder in the background. [rain, no thunder]

• Saved from the Clutches: Hero rides in just as heroine is about to be sexually assaulted by bad guys, who usually have bad breath, missing teeth, wet lips and stilted accents. [she forgot the laughter. they always are laughing, those jolly, happy bad guys. I think I've done it.]

• The Big Misunderstanding: Hero/heroine sees heroine/hero kissing somebody else and storms off without ever thinking there might be something else going on. [yeah, me, but not for more than a page or so]

• The Horrendous Ex: Ex-girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband who is so catty or mean that hero or heroine ends up looking stupid for ever having gotten involved with them. Ex-girlfriends or wives are usually high-maintenance money-grubbers. Ex-boyfriends or husbands are usually abusive.

• "Oh My Gosh, He's My New Boss!" Hero and heroine have a chance encounter, sometimes sexual, frequently temperamental, where for whatever reason names and details are not exchanged. The next day heroine comes to her new job/new apartment/etc. and finds that the guy she had sex with/argued with/etc. is her new boss/doctor/neighbor/etc. [yep]

• "No Marriage, No Money": Relative dies and leave heroine with money, house, etc., on the condition that she finds someone to marry within a short period of time.

• The Whacky Family: Heroine/Hero has eccentric family she/he loves but knows is an embarrassment. Frequently includes a grandfather named Ezekiel or Jethro or some other countrified name and a crazy but well-meaning aunt who wears loud clothing/big hats, etc. [yep, doing that now. (as Flora Poste says 'Worst fears realised. Seth and Ruben too.')]

• The Big Shoot-Out: Hero or Heroine gets shot (or stabbed) trying to save the other one. The problem here is that you know they're both going to live (it is a romance after all), so is it really suspenseful? [done that.]

First appeared in the March 2006 issue of CONNections, newsletter of the Connecticut Romance Writers. Permission to forward with proper credits.


  1. I've been guilty of
    - the stumbling heroine
    - a variation of the electric handshake (heroine is telepathic and physical contact triggers her powers)
    - saved from the clutches of the bad guys, though my heroine actually manages to whack two of them before the hero shows up
    - the horrendous ex (twice - in one case the horrendous ex is actually the villain of the piece)
    - the climatic fight scene (shows up in almost everything I write)

    I think I also did the "No marriage - no money" thing once in a novel I never finished.

  2. hey, I think as long as it presented in a new and interesting manner, it doesn't matter. (that telepathic thing doesn't sound particularly standard!)

    After all the whole "two people fall in love" thing has been done forever in romance plots.

  3. OMG I freaking love this post - ROFLMAO.

  4. This was so funny, and had me trying to recall where I'd used the 'their fingers brushed - electricity' cliché.
    Damn, I know I used it somewhere. (so embarrased, hanging head in shame.)

  5. Phew. There's a few of those I haven't done - the argument in the rain, the OMG he's my new boss, no marriage no money, the Big Misunderstanding.

    The others, however - yes, Your Honour, I plead guilty. I'm not even sure I can plead original twists ;-)

  6. I have used SO MANY of those.

    But I'm not ashamed. Or at least trying not to be ashamed.

    (And I just wrote that electric fingers one, too).

  7. The electrical touch creeps me out bigtime!


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