To Cliché or Not To Cliché (Natasha Sinel)

Clichés and stereotypes exist for a reason. They can be useful to a certain degree because most people recognize what you’re saying. So, when I talk about the mean girl, the jerk jock, the geeky smart girl, the musical-loving gay guy, you can picture this person, right? Or when I say “I fell head over heels” or “his voice sent a shiver down my spine,” you know what I mean.

But, accessible as they may be, clichés become overused and then they are boring. BORING. When I read clichés  in a novel, I may, without even realizing it, roll my eyes or start skimming. I don’t want my readers to do that.

Since we’re in the month of Valentine’s Day with all of its eye-rolling sentiments and forced proclamations of love, I thought I’d share some of my least favorite romantic clichés. I’m guilty of using some of these in my own writing occasionally, of course.  But sometimes a cliché is the best choice. Anyway, hypocrisy aside, here they are:
  • The misunderstood bad boy (he’s so sensitive behind that hot angry exterior)
  • The girl who finds the boy so maddening, but can’t resist his dimples and the wave in his hair, so she falls for him
  • The high school boy who is so deeply in love—the truest deepest love there is—that he would wait centuries for the girl, follow her anywhere, and do anything for her 
  • Girls who are extremely clumsy or almost get hit by a car but are rescued by the perfectly-perfect boy who then vows to protect her forever
  • The “nice” girl who doesn’t put out and is, therefore, rewarded (gets the guy, goes to prom)
  • The “slutty” girl who does put out and is, therefore, punished (gets pregnant, STD, dumped)
  • The smart geeky girl who gets the meat-head jock (who turns out to be using her for a dare but ends up falling for her in the process)
  • The fat girl who loses weight without really trying (e.g., she starts taking her little sister to the park and chasing her around on the playground, and then presto-change-o, she’s thin!), and then suddenly the hot guy she’s always wanted asks her out because she’s thin, but she discovers that she really loves her dorky best friend, who liked her when she was fat
  • Pretty, popular, mean girls putting on lipstick in the bathroom
  • High school boys asking girls out on dates (does that happen? I thought that was kind of 1960s?)
  • Girl and boy best friend who have never thought of each other “in that way” suddenly see each other in a new light and fall in love (who’s never thought of it?)
  • High schoolers who fall in forever-love
(This is so creepy. But also perfect.)

A cliché that doesn’t bother me that much: The “love at first sight” concept. "What!?” you exclaim with disbelief. “That’s the most hated one of all! It’s so dumb.” 

I know, I know. But hear me out. It's just not labeled correctly. It’s not “love at first sight,” it’s “strong mutual attraction at first sight.” When two people look at each other and hold eye contact, it’s because they’re open for something to happen. If both like what they see, then sure, why not? It might not be insta-love, but it’s insta-attraction. That’s enough to get something started.

However, instead of the cliché where the insta-attraction must pan out into the forever-love cliché,  I’d like to see the insta-attraction end in…nothing. Maybe they make out and then are like, oh, based on that prolonged eye contact at that party that night, I thought we would be in love forever and ever, but actually not. So, that’s cool. Lemme just reapply my mascara and head to that dance tonight and scope out some fresh eyes to contact.

Natasha Sinel writes YA fiction from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon, but in her head, she's still in high school, and hopes that no one near her can read minds. Her debut YA novel THE FIX will be out from Sky Pony Press on September 1, 2015.


  1. This is a great list, Natasha! How about when the geeky girl/guy gets a makeover and everyone around them doinks themselves on the head because they never realized how hot said geeky girl/guy was before. Like we can't picture what someone looks like without glasses? Maybe not, it worked for Clark Kent. :)

  2. I love the mean girls putting on lipstick in the bathroom one. They DO that though. Don't they?

  3. Oh, Pygmalion! Yes, those glasses fool me every time. Totally, Jody, I think they DO do that. Great example of how cliches are based on reality!

  4. Third bullet point--I want to meet this boy, because based on my experience of high school boys, he doesn't exist. When I was in high school, most of the boys were doing everything they could to avoid the falling-in-love part. But what would YA lit do without this guy?!


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