posted on November 2, 2021 by Cookie O'Gorman

How to Embrace the Cliché

by Cookie O’Gorman

What is a cliché, and why do people always say it like it’s a bad thing?  “Trope” is a word I didn’t know until a few years ago.  I didn’t realize there were these preordained categories of romance.  Though I’d enjoyed and read several of them, I never knew there was an actual term.  I feel like tropes, stereotypes, and clichés are sisters-from-another-mister.  Although a ‘trope’ is simply a short, punchy label that tells you in a few words what to expect in a novel, they also come with certain reader expectations.  These expectations need to be met.  To satisfy the reader, certain elements must be present—or at least that’s what I’ve heard.

And this is where the cliché comes in.

Some people love a good cliché—if it’s done well.  Personally, I love it when a book takes a cliché and flips it on its head.  I like to write that way as well.

For my newest body positive YA romance CUPCAKE, I took several clichés and intentionally tried to upend them.  I think it definitely enriched the story.

1) No Makeover.  Ariel (aka Cupcake) is a phenomenal baker, a movie addict, and a reluctant princess when she gets nominated to Homecoming Court.  Oh, and she also just happens to be plus-size.  With this kind of setup, you might expect certain things.  A big makeover scene, a plot centered around weight, the character to hate her body.  But CUPCAKE doesn’t have any of that, and it was an intentional choice.  I wanted to write Ariel as someone who already loves herself.  She doesn’t have a problem with her weight.  She’s a genuinely happy, sweet soul, who just happens to be plus-size.  A teen girl who is plus-size and loves herself.  An MC who doesn’t need a makeover or to lose weight to “earn” her happily-ever-after.

2) An Imperfect Hero.  Rhys, my male main character, is the golden-boy quarterback.  He’s popular, beautiful, and you might expect him to be perfect…but he’s not.  Rhys is surly.  He’s always frowning.  He can’t dance (something Ariel quickly learns as they practice for Homecoming lol).  He isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.  But he’s also not your typical jock/jerk.  He’s thoughtful and quietly kind.  Without giving anything away, I’ll just say Rhys has a secret and flaws, and they make him so much more than just the ‘hot quarterback.’

3) Good Female Relationships.  In YA—heck in stories in general—I’d noticed that often times, the female MC doesn’t have the best relationships with other females.  Honestly, a lot of books I’d read had the best friend committing some kind of betrayal (often cheating with the MC’s love interest or doing awful things out of jealousy).  I knew I wanted to showcase different positive female relationships in CUPCAKE.  Ariel and Toni are BFFs, not only in name, but in action.  They support each other throughout the book.  Ariel and Lana are both members of Homecoming Court, but Lana really wants the win.  She’s goal-driven, competitive, and she wants that crown.  However, in my opinion, Lana breaks the stereotype—or cliché—of the “mean girl.”  We simply have two very different characters with different aspirations, and it’s a beautiful thing to see Ariel and Lana’s relationship grow throughout the book.

4) Supportive/Present Parent.  Again, in so many YA books, the parents are either absent or have a contentious relationship with their teen.  You won’t find that in CUPCAKE.  What you will find is a supportive mother/daughter relationship.  Ariel and her mom have real love for each other.  They are interested in each other’s lives.

5) Acceptance.  I think it’s important to show characters being accepted.  A cliché you’ll often see in teen movies and books about plus-size characters are people who don’t support them.  Especially with a plot where the character is nominated to Homecoming Court, it might be a prank or joke (which definitely goes through Ariel’s head).  There may be a lot of people who don’t accept the character because of their weight.  But in CUPCAKE, I wanted to change this up.  Ariel is liked.  She is supported by her mom and classmates.  She is loved and accepted, curves and all.

My point is clichés don’t always have to be a bad thing.  Sometimes it’s good to know what they are so you can put your own spin on them.  I hope these anti-clichés resonate with readers, and I hope people will love CUPCAKE! Comment to be entered to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Cookie O

Cookie O'Gorman

Cookie O'Gorman writes YA romance to give readers a taste of happily-ever-after. Small towns, quirky characters, and the awkward yet beautiful moments in life make up her books. Cookie also has a soft spot for nerds and ninjas. Her novels ADORKABLE, NINJA GIRL, and THE UNBELIEVABLE, INCONCEIVABLE, UNFORESEEABLE TRUTH ABOUT ETHAN WILDER are out now! Her next book, The Good Girl's Guide to Being Bad, was released April 25, 2019!

8 thoughts on “How to Embrace the Cliché”

  1. Rachel Flesher says:

    I adore the idea that the MC is plus size. You really do not see that too often in books, just now and then. I like the idea that she is comfortable with her size and that she does not feel that she has to comform to media’s unrealistic ideals of beauty.

  2. Nice work. Being a mother of teen-aged girls, it’s nice to see a good body image book.

  3. Colleen C. says:

    Sounds wonderful!

  4. Jeanne says:

    This sounds like a fun, interesting and intriguing storyline.

  5. Vicki says:

    I am SOOOO excited for this book. I wish there had been more book like this when I was that age because you are absolutely right in your list of cliches and I am especially looking forward to the good female relationship one.

  6. bn100 says:

    sounds interesting

  7. GB says:

    I adore spins and the idea of the anti-cliche. Sounds like a fun read.

  8. Amber says:

    Sounds fun and tasty 🧁, great title with a stunning dress 💃 and heels 👠 !

Leave a Reply to Jeanne Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest from our Blog

Bucket List Magic

A few years back, I had the opportunity to go and see the Eagles live in concert. We had great floor seats, just far enough from the front row to not look straight up. We were adults, we could finally afford the good ones! I was ecstatic, because, you see, live music is my thing…. Read More

Read More