chick-lit clichés

While I loved majoring in English lit, these days I like my fiction pretty fluffy. But last week, as I scanned the shelves of my library for vacation reading, I found myself getting irritated that every other chick-lit confection I picked up featured the same basic plot elements or setting. Yes, I read genre fiction when I’m in the mood for a particular kind of story, and maybe even some guarantees. But that’s just the bare bones — why so much sameness in the details? Here are just a few of the clichés that are driving me crazy lately:

  • Three girls living in a London flat. Actually any number of people living in a London flat. It’s gotten so if I see “London flat” on a book jacket, I put it back. And I’m a bit of an Anglophile.
  • For that matter, why are 90% of these novels set in either London/NY/LA or a quaint Southern town with a quirky name? There are places in between.
  • A love interest who’s in law enforcement. Actually, I’m kind of over alpha male heroes in general. Give me a good geeky hipster, like Bergdorf Blondes’ Charlie.
  • A protagonist returning to her hometown (usually a quaint Southern town with a quirky name) after a long absence, only to encounter his/her first love. There are some great books featuring this premise — Jennifer Crusie’s Tell Me Lies comes to mind — but many more mediocre ones. To me, it’s not a compelling conflict in and of itself.
  • “Size 12” or some such in the title. I like a heroine who represents the average woman. But advertising it like this makes me feel like I’m being pandered to.
  • Re-imaginings of Pride and Prejudice. There are tons of them. Yes, it’s the classic marriage plot. Please, oh please, let it be.

To be fair, there are other clichés that I’m still a total sucker for — like a pretend engagement — so I’m sure there are those who feel the same affection for cops and coming-home-again stories. But if you’re looking for a fresh genre story, check out Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella and/or What I Did For Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. (I reviewed the latter last fall.) Got any recs for me?


3 responses to “chick-lit clichés

  1. As to bullet point three, an author who wants to write a civilian-as-detective story has a problem keeping the plot going. In real life, if you discover a body in the park, that’s probably the end. In fiction, it’s probably not.

    It’s also kind of depressing the extent to which authors write to a formula because that’s what publishers want because they know it sells.

  2. I’ve said it before. You’ve gotta write your own, kiddo.

  3. I just read Beautiful Boy by David Sheff. It is a memoir about drug abuse. Not pretty, but it was really good. Also, don’t know if you’ve read A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown, but it is a really amazing story. I’m a sucker for memoirs.

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