Can We Get Over Cliche Romance Plots?: An Infographic, Of Sorts

Ok, so it isn’t a secret that I love reading YA contemporary romances. They put a smile on my face between the intensely dark and stressful fantasy/paranormal/etc books I read. I love their awkward/cute set-ups and their guaranteed happy endings.

But I also can’t get over the fact that most “chicklit” books have extremely similar plots. Don’t get me wrong…I enjoy the classic plot, a lot. I just think that the genre could grow past this “exposition ⇒ rising action ⇒ CONFLICT ⇒ make up ⇒ happy ending” model to give me some uniqueness to get excited about.

Also, I like using Photoshop to distract me from homework, and this was fun to make.

Hope this makes you crack a smile. 🙂

Chicklit plot

A bit of housekeeping: The fonts used are KG Flavor and Frames Two, AFL Font Pespaye Nonmetric, and Candara. I also used Love Doodle Brushes Two and Arrow Doodle Brushes (both by coydreamer).

Let’s discuss: Why do contemporary plots seem to follow predictable arcs more than other genres?  Or is that just me?

Do other genres (like fantasy) just hide their cliche plot arcs better behind world-building and fight scenes?

On Why I Might Ignore Your Writing Advice

click for picture credit


I love writing. And I love learning about writing. I love reading blog posts and quotes on Pinterest about writing. There is so much advice out there: how to write interesting characters, how to come up with a plot, how to create the ultimate antagonist…

It can be super helpful.

And it can also be overwhelming.

To explain, let me backtrack a little. I’m currently working on the second draft of my WIP, Devil May Care. It’s a YA sort-of-paranormal, kind-of-romance sort of thing. See? I’m so good at describing it.

The first draft was entirely free-form, written without an outline or the vaguest idea of what was going to happen next. And while I loved the experience, when I sat down to write draft two, I knew that I needed to have some sort of roadmap.

For the first 60-ish pages, I wasn’t overly concerned with definite plot structure. I knew what scenes from draft #1 I wanted to use, what new elements I needed to pull in, and that was enough. I wasn’t flying by the seat of my pants, but my plane was built of fairly shitty cardboard. It was enough to get me going, though, so I ran with it.

And then the exposition had been expositioned (wow, so not a word) and I knew I was starting to get into the meat of the story, which was great, because meat is good, but it also sucked, because my roadmap had ended. One minute, I’m following my self-made GPS’s commands, the next, I’m stranded in the middle of no where with only a bottle of water, a bag of stale Cheetos, and the knowledge that I really need to decide on a concrete plot for this monstrosity.

So I turned to the internet. A quick Google search later, I’m reading all about plot structure, how to create a plot, the parts of a plot–

And none of it is helping. In fact, an hour of skimming writing advice blogs and Pinterest infographics has convinced me that I have absolutely no hope of ever turning Devil May Care into a workable novel.

It sucked. A lot.

See, I’ve always had this idea that if I have a good premise and characters I like and a vague idea of what I want my book to say, there will also be a plot. If I think about the elements of the book I have to work with, I will eventually discover a plot. Like my WIP is a math problem and I just need to find the right formula and solve for “plot.” Like I can dump everything I created in draft one into a sifter and if I shake it enough, a nugget of plot gold will surface.

But everyone on the internet has different ideas, and they ask a lot of questions: What does your character want? What is your conflict? What is in the way of what she wants? What is The Lie Your Protagonist Believes? What is your point A and how do you get to point B? Who is your antagonist?

They’re good questions, and I know they shouldn’t be hard to answer, but they tripped me up. Not because I couldn’t think of an answer, but because I could think of too many answers. Or the answer I thought of didn’t feel “plotty” enough.

I couldn’t get my idea of the novel to fit into their molds, and it left me feeling like I’d gotten the answer wrong on a test.

Devil May Care has romance in it, but I’ve never felt like it was the central plot. On it’s most basic level, DMC is just a girl (who is a lot like me) trying to figure out who the hell she is in a society that is screaming at her to sit down, shut up, and be the person they have told her she already is. I don’t feel comfortable calling it a coming of age novel, or a bildungsroman. It’s more than that, but I’m not exactly sure how.

All I know is that the internet (well, the advice I was reading) was forcing me into a box that felt way too small for the book I wanted to write. I ended up feeling like I was doing something wrong because I didn’t have a “good” answer to their questions. I stopped writing for a weekend, overcome with doubts and anger.

But part of me realized that my idea of “good” answers were just the answers that other people would give, the answers that other books would respond with. But I don’t want to write a book that already exists, I want to write my novel.

All of this was about a week ago. Since then, I’ve actually sat down, focused on my book, and formed a plot that I like. It doesn’t exactly match the formulas the internet wanted me to use, and I’m sure I’ll change it as I go along, but I’ve got my roadmap back. And I like where it’s leading me.

I still read writing advice online. I follow a few writing advice blogs and some Pinterest boards. Most of the time, they help me focus on what I need to accomplish with my writing.

But I’ve learned that sometimes it’s okay to ignore their advice. Sometimes, that is the best thing you can do.

Have any of you experienced this? Do you read writing advice? How do you deal with it when someone tells you you’re doing something “wrong”?


Thoughts on…Love Triangles

Welcome to a new feature of 52 Letters In the Alphabet called “Thoughts On…”

A while ago, I had a post called Thoughts on Prologues. Since then, I’ve realized that I would like to discuss a lot of other elements of novels and writing. This new feature is where I will share my thoughts about various writing and story telling elements. If any of you want to share your own thoughts, feel free to comment, or post on your own space and link back to it here.

Today’s is Thoughts On…Love Triangles

thoughts on 3

I’m a YA reader. I’ve encountered a ton of love triangles, and I’ve loved a lot of them. However, especially since beginning this blog and becoming more critical of the books I read, love triangles are feeling a bit overdone.

I understand and appreciate the concept behind love triangles. They easily add conflict to a plot and help to lengthen the span of a romance over the course of a series, where a more simplistic romance might only last one book. Love triangles can be used to create character depth and growth and strengthen or weaken bonds between different parties in a plot. I get it–love triangles are useful, and definitely have a place in the world of novels, especially YA ones.

There are different approaches that authors take toward love triangles, and some of them work more than others. I want to discuss each individually, because they each affect a series with varying degrees of success.

The first and most blatant use of the love triangle concept is most commonly seen in paranormal series. In this utilization, the love triangle is introduced in the beginning of the book or series and tends to dominate the plot. For series, each book usually focuses on one of the guys gaining the girl’s attention. (I’m using the two-guys-one-girl format because that seems like the most common one in the YA world today.)

This is getting boring. I used to be satisfied with the thrill of the who-will-win???? question and the tense/awkward/impossibly sweet romantic moments. But as I’m becoming a more critical reader, and as the number of these love triangles that I’ve read has increased, the concept is becoming overdone. I want romance to be a subplot mechanism helping to move a larger, separate plot forward, and this use of love triangles usually makes the romance the entirety of the plot. This tends to sap books of the plot substance that could have made them captivating and memorable.

Books that fell prey to this syndrome include:

The Sweet Evil series by Wendy Higgins

The Shadow Falls series by C. C. Hunter

The Selection series by Kiera Cass (though I haven’t read The One yet so maybe I shouldn’t be talking)

The House of Night series P.C. and Kristen Cast (though those are like a love octagon to be honest)

The second way authors incorporate love triangles into their books happens most commonly with series, in which the author introduces a second love interest in the second (or third, or whatever) book. For me, this can go either way. Sometimes, the introduction of a second guy adds complexity to the novel, enlightens the protagonist to the importance of the first guy, and moves the plot forward without dominating it. Cash in The Unbound (The Archived, book 2) by Victoria Schwab really accomplished this in my opinion, as did the addition of Seb in the Angle Fire series by L.A. Weatherly.

However, the addition of a second guy can also ruin the series by taking what was the perfect, subtle romance and screwing it up. Honestly, I’m not a fan of OVER THE TOP ROMANTIC DRAMA in the books I read. A perfectly good series being monopolized by a sudden conflict between True Love and New Guy is freaking annoying and not what I want to read. Phoenix (book two in the Black City series) did this for me.

I’d like to point out that sometimes, love triangles just work. The Morelli vs Ranger conflict in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is so much fun to read. The more subtle Adrian vs Dimitri conflict in the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead is one of my favorites–though, to be honest, that series is heavily influenced by the romantic plot elements. The conflict between Owen and Wesley in The Archived (book one this time) really enhanced areas of Mac’s character.

How do you you guys feel about love triangles? Can’t get enough? So over them? Which ones worked for you, and which ones flopped? Please comment!