I'm writing a romance novel and have hit a brick wall. The problem is every way I think the future lovebirds could meet and become friends is totally cliché. After thinking about it, I've realized that the problem lays with the two soon-to-be lovebirds. Neither one is the "player" type. The boy is shy and doesn't flirt, though the girl mistakes his kindness for flirting at first. And the girl is the kind that doesn't date or even feel butterflies because of past pain. If that makes sense.

Anyways, my question is, what should I do when my characters and plot disagree with each other without changing my characters personalities? (my plot is 95% written, only this small part remains)

Or is it really that bad to have one cliché in a book if the rest is largely original?

Thanks for any help and advice!

6 Answers 6


Romance itself is a cliche, really (and this is coming from a Romance author), so I wouldn't worry too much about fighting for originality. Find a way to write the cliche in an interesting way, and get going.

That said, Romance is also all about characters and characterization, and you can't afford to violate that in the service of plot. If it isn't believable to have your characters do a certain thing, then they should absolutely not do it.

So I'm not quite sure what you're looking for, here. If the characters are shy and/or damaged, then I expect most of your plot revolves around getting them out of their shells, letting them learn to trust each other, etc. Having them meet in a way that doesn't fit with that will violate your entire story, not just a small part.

So, meeting in a cliche way? - okay, just write it well and give it what freshness you can. Meeting in an out-of-character way? - hell, no.

Good luck with it!


Let me see if I've got this right:

You've got two characters who are telling you what to do (or what not to do). And you think that's a problem? Writing believable characters who want to write the story for you is a goal that many would-be writers never achieve. Congratulations!

My suggestion would be to write the story anyway. Listen to your characters. Do what they tell you to do. Your plot is 95% written? Well, maybe not so much if you do this.

The book may not be a romance when you're done. Perhaps it will be about a missed opportunity. But wasting strong characters would be a terrible thing.

(This doesn't preclude you from writing another book that is a romance.)

  • 5
    Wish I could give this two votes! Listen to your characters! Commented Dec 17, 2011 at 16:04

"If all else fails, chase your hero up a tree and throw rocks at him." (I don't know the source of the quote, but it's catchy.)

Introduce a disaster. Car crash, random passerby collapses, dog gets loose and digs up the yard, kid gets lost and knocks on the door for help. One or both of your characters get drawn into the drama, willingly or not. They meet.


I agree with Kate. The key selling point here is about your characters and who they are - audiences will overlook bucketloads of cliches if they care about the characters and are genuinely rooting for them to get together. This, of course, involves staying true to who they are and not giving the reader a jarring experience by making them wonder why the hell Character X is doing something.

I would say the true payoff is in the journey they take after they meet, so don't worry too much about the meeting being cliched and make the growing relationship and the eventual getting together memorable.


I don't read romance novels, but I've seen a few romance movies. It seems to me that finding some odd way to get the characters together is pretty typical of such movies. Having two people meet through a dating service is fairly boring.

So neither of your characters is outgoing enough to initiate a romance, maybe not even outgoing enough to initiate a conversation. So great. Kick around ideas for how two such people could be forced by circumstances to talk to each other and do something together.

I think this is actually pretty common in romance stories. Two people are trapped together in a malfunctioning elevator or locked in a room; two people have to work together on a project for their jobs; two people are forced together by some emergency, big or small, like both being victims of a crime, or both having their dogs get loose in a park. Come up with a reason why they would just have to talk to each other about something totally non-romantic, something very matter of fact, some common problem that they have to work on.


One of the earliest Web pages on clichés (in this case, from science fiction) contains a passage about their use:

Clichés are not in themselves necessarily bad, but their overuse shows that the writer has forgotten what separates the strong tale from the hollow: "the human heart in conflict with itself," as Faulkner said. Where there is this conflict, the tale stands; where the conflict is absent, the tale falls flat, and in neither case does it matter how many ships get blown up.

When you purposefully avoid clichés, you do so either as a self-imposed exercise in creativity, or because of a fear that your use of them will distract the reader from the good parts. As the above quote says, the latter motive has no basis, if your writing is otherwise good.

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