Cliches in YA

March 17, 2009 at 8:27 PM | Posted in YA | 25 Comments
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It seems to me like almost everyone has at least one of these elements in their novel:

– a gorgeous, obnoxious guy the cynical MC is secretly in love with;

– a tomboyish MC who has a gorgeous  (usually blonde) sister;

– a supportive, “unique” best friend who drives an antique ’60s VW (painted mustard yellow) with a name (preferably Goldie–for Goldie Hawn);

– a black friend who is amazingly beautiful beyond beautiful (and has usually a creamy food skin tone, ie chocolate, caramel) (bonus points: hazel or green almond cat eyes);

– a vapid beauty-queen stepmother;

– the awkward, clumsy new girl at school who’s really insecure but all the boys are smitten with anyways;

– a quirky tomboy who becomes a model, singer, princess, national hero, actress, etc.;

– a Hero in A fantasy Novel who Is on a Quest to Destroy evil (bonus point: if your hero is the Chosen One) (bonus point #2: if almost every Word in your Novel is Capitalized to Suggest an important Title);

– a vegan/vegetarian MC who also believes in Star Wars showings, the Metro, and combat boots/Doc Martins;

– abusive parents;

– txtspk.

I rest my case.

– linda



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  1. Yay I think I might be okay. :D Except the tomboyish MC one…

  2. LMAO


    I try so hard to avoid these. Usually, my characters are all about fighting against the norm. Love isn’t always a big deal to them. and sometimes the parents are there, and sometimes they are too wrapped up
    in their own life to care.

    I don’t do the whole blonde friend thing. Pleeeeease. The one abou the black friend strikes me as odd…which book is that? LOL because I want to read it. :P

    • Yeah, I don’t think that’s really a cliche either. Personally. :)

  3. Ha! I have none of those. :)

  4. I have a supportive, “unique” best friend. hahaha. Should I make her unsupportive?! No, seriously, I’m getting some ideas here…

    Some of my favorites:

    – female MCs who complain constantly about their cats and how fat/annoying/vicious/lazy they are
    – sarcastic streaks
    – “You’re so annoying… I hate you… um, okay, maybe you’re not so bad… I think I like you, goddamnit… I AM IN LOVE WITH YOU”

  5. How about MCs who love to write? I see that one a lot.

    I think I have number one at the beginning of… yes, you remember, my book is called… Cliche! But since it is necessary for the story I think I’m safe. :D

    I love Cliches right now. They are making my WIP so much easier… :D

  6. Happy to say that I don’t have any of these, either. I’m not a young adult, but I write FOR young adults and I think it’s really, really great that you’re all young…and writing!! I’m adding you to my blogroll.

  7. We’re a publishing house for teens and we’re currently accepting submissions. Feel free to check us out and good luck with your writing.

  8. Haha – great list. Cracked me up at parts ;)

  9. “the awkward, clumsy new girl at school who’s really insecure but all the boys are smitten with anyways;”

    Can I say, Bella :D

    Is the Vegetarian one a cliche if she doesn’t wear doc martens, doesn’t like Star Wars and doesn’t make a big deal about being veggie? Now that’s the question :D

    • Nah, yours is an exception because you’re an awesome twiftie. :)

  10. Ha! I don’t have any, though I’m not counting “Abusive parents, who, yes, decide to kick around the MC just for fun.” Cuz my MC’s mom isn’t doing it for fun – she’s just mental. >_>

    • pssh. your MC’s mama isnt mental….*whispers* its just an excuse ;)

  11. ‘Course, you have to remember that cliches aren’t necessarily bad. If they were they’d have never become cliches in the first place.

    The trick is just not to overload your story with them. Though I’d love to read the manuscript of someone who has every cliche listed up there. They could call it, “Sir Generic and the Big Bad” with the setting in modern times. Toss in some random wizards and let loose.

    • HA. How about a clumsy quirky tomboy who’s on a Quest to become the next Star Wars actress?

      “Any great truth can — and eventually will — be expressed as a cliche — a cliche is a sure and certain way to dilute an idea. For instance, my grandmother used to say, ‘The black cat is always the last one off the fence.’ I have no idea what she meant, but at one time, it was undoubtedly true.” – Solomon Short

  12. Uh…I didn’t feel like signing in. Wonder if this’ll work, it’ll recognize my email…whatever.
    Great post, especially because I have none of those! The beautiful, food-toned-skinned friend cracked me right up. Before I realized that I don’t have a single person in my book who isn’t white. I have some Cuban mermaids in the next WIP . . . meh, I’m not going to just start adding characters and making them black etc. in order to be more PC.
    Anyway, it’s smalltown-Alberta, I’m not too far off.
    But if I did have a secondary character who was black, I’d just say so, not compare her to dessert in a way that ALWAYS comes across as homoerotic when it’s not supposed to . . . *cough*

    • OH CRAP. I just realized I described milk-chocolate skin in my WIP. *dies laughing*

  13. I don’t agree with the word ‘cliche’ to be honest. I think to poke at someone’s story and say “that’s a cliche” is not only disrespectful to the writer – being a writer yourself – but quite small minded. I’m not being rude, seriously, but it’s hurtful to be told your work is a cliche. Most of those things exist in real life. I have a beautiful black best friend; there are obnoxious guys you hate to love, unique and supportive friends, abusive parents. It’s how you use it that counts. You can call something unoriginal when you’ve read it and the storyline follows another book and the characters are the same as another book, but I hate people telling me what to write about. I’ll write what I want, thank you!

    • Imo, Chan, the word cliche isn’t necessarily an insult – the three I thought of (cats, sarcasm, loveyou-hateyou) are three that I actually really love reading about (the cat one in particular). I mean, one person might be sick of Hero on a Quest plots, but that same person might jump on any book with a Cynical MC in Love, and another person might be tired of cynical MCs and at the same time devour all the Hero books they can find. Plus, like islaitha mentioned, ‘cliche’ and ‘unoriginal’ don’t have to be one in the same. It’s totally possible to put a new spin – or viewpoint, or writing style – on an old idea and end up with great book. If cliches were really such horrible beasts, to be avoided at all costs, nobody would use them anymore. If you have passion for any idea, I don’t think anyone’s saying don’t use it – writing is all about doing whatever you want.

      • I find the word insulting. If it’s not a bad thing to write about a ‘cliche’ then why do we have lists? To me, a list is saying “look at all these things unoriginal people write about in their work”. If you’re going to do a list, perhaps say that you see them often and offer suggestions on how to spin them. Otherwise, who is this helping? If people want to write about them, they will, but as writers we should be supportive to one another and actually help out. Someone told me (and not only me, but a few fellow writers) their plot is a cliche. That was it. How is that helping anyone? I’m getting the word to mean ‘done before frequently’, but people only pick up on a few things. Imo, everything has been done before so then everything is a cliche. :)

      • This was an opinionated post for entertainment purposes only.

        Nothing else.

        This was a list for those interested. A statement of the facts–ignore it if you want. Print this post out and burn it. I wasn’t targeting any individual, but if you feel threatened, then…disregard it. Everyone’s opinions are different. Publishing is opinionated. Don’t blame the players. Blame the game.

        Or you could write a book with all of these cliches I mentioned, get it published at a seven-figure deal, and send me a copy of it with the words “HA! HA! HA!” across the top.


        I found no comment in my post along the lines of, “YOUR WRITING SUCKS BECAUSE YOU USED THESE GOD-AWFUL CLICHES!!!!”. I was simply stating what’s been overused to the point of exhaustion.

  14. Haha – I didn’t saaaay you said people’s writing was awful for using them! But having this list will make anyone feel bad who does, myself included. I’m just suggesting ways in which, for future references, it could be made into a nice, helpful post for everyone :)

  15. Thing is, even if they are fellow writers, we don’t pull punches when it comes to criticism. No one does in any professional field. That’s how you improve.

  16. Thats very true in a professional sense. But right now, we should be helping each other to succeed by suggesting ways in which to improve. That’s all I’m saying.

  17. whoops! i have the glam, bitchy (blonde) best friend (but it is based on experience, not cliche…. and the parents kicking the MC around (although it’s not the Main MC, but the love interest MC…..
    you can guess that i like ellipsis’ ;) xx

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