Writing Advice · YA Films/TV/Books

Overused Romance Plot Devices

This mostly applies to TV series and movies – here are some things that commonly occur in a typical Romance story. They’re perhaps overused romance plot devices, but as with everything, if you can put a creative spin on it, there’s nothing stopping you from using it.

1. Damsel in distress

Quite often when faced with a dangerous situation, the female protagonist can only respond by screaming and crying. She’s completely helpless, is unable to defend herself and her brain stops functioning so she won’t try to run or find a sensible escape route. (And if she does start to run, she’ll almost certainly trip over and there’ll be a scene when she looks up helplessly at her attacker.) Then cue the male protagonist who swoops in just in time to save the day. He’ll fight off the bad guys, even if it’s just him and he’s outnumbered. He’ll scoop the girl up in his arms and then she falls in love with him. The hero gets the beauty’s heart, but then their love story is not so simple because: it’s a forbidden love.

2. Forbidden love

The origins of their forbidden love can be for a number of reasons. The female protagonist has already been betrothed to another. Her family are of such a high status and the male protagonist is not good enough for her, so they’ll never get her family’s approval. The family’s of each protagonist are long time enemies, be it in business e.g. rival companies, war or from the enemy state/culture.

But the strength of their love and devotion to each other helps them to overcome these obstacles and they can finally be together, BUT then….

3. Someone gets a nosebleed or a headache

Especially in Korean dramas, if the protagonist gets a nosebleed or starts to get headaches, their most likely diagnosis from the hospital is that of terminal cancer, often brain cancer. The couple then must treasure the limited time they have together before he/she passes away in the arms of the other. And there is the end of their tragic love story.

If that isn’t the case and the protagonist doesn’t get a nosebleed/headache, it is likely that the couple will have an argument over some misunderstanding. In a storm of anger, one of them will walk out into the street and due to the blinding rage they feel inside, they will completely ignore all traffic laws and not look where they are going. They only turn to see the glaring lights of the car, just before…

4. Someone gets injured and they get amnesia.

The car knocks them over and they go flying, ending up in hospital. Or in a variation of this, they slip down a flight of stairs/fall off a cliff and bang their head. Or maybe they did get a nosebleed, but they have brain surgery to remove the tumour. Or in YA novels, one of them has been brainwashed! Whichever way, they end up with memory loss and they no longer remember the person they once loved. THE END. Or not the end, as the other person then has to try and win their affections all over again.

The romance story can start another way too, and this is extremely common in romance stories with high school settings:

5. They both start out hating each other

He’s the cool guy in school who disregards every else, the ‘bad boy’. She’s the kid who gets the good grades. They get assigned to be each other’s lab partners. He tries to get her to do all the work, she’s not happy with this. They don’t like each other. This can lead to the innocent/new girl falls for popular bad boy trope. She’s the only one who can ‘tame’ him. (A very sexist trope that often belittles the supposed ‘sluts’ the boy has been with before the innocent MC.)

OR let’s put this into a royal setting: the Crown Prince has been betrothed to the princess from the nation state, their marriage will be the solid foundation for an alliance. However, their personalities clash and they cannot stand each other. But then they are both forced to spend more time with each other, which leads to…

6. Stranded

The two become stranded in the middle of nowhere, this could be due to a storm so they are unable to continue on their journey and must camp overnight or their car breaks down in the middle of a desert. They are forced to be together and they start to bond as they get to know each other better as this is the first time that they have been able to talk honestly to someone else.

Often it can start to rain, it will start to pour down a lot, but they haven’t found shelter yet.

7. Someone gets a cold

After much travelling in the terrible weather, they finally find a place where they can rest. However, one of them starts shivering, and they are looking very pale. Concerned, the other turns around and touches the forehead, “You have a fever,” he/she gasps. The shivering person can barely open their eyes and suddenly, they faint. The other must them carry the sick person in his/her arms or carry them on his/her back and nurse the person back to health. Through this, we discover that he/she is actually a nice person, hiding behind an arrogant facade to protect himself from getting hurt. And they fall in love.

Another way to get a love story going could be:

 

8. They were just friends until it became something more.

They started off as friends. Because boys and girls can’t just be friends. This is usually an end game scenario. The girl is in a relationship with the bad boy, but the best friend who has been ‘friendzoned’ has been there for her all along. He just doesn’t get why she doesn’t want him, he probably has severe ‘nice guy syndrome‘, think  Jacob Black from Twilight but instead of creepily fancying her daughter he won’t stop stalking her. Yet somehow once the girl dumps her douchy boyfriend, she pulls the Nice Guy from the Friendzone and they live happily ever after. In most of these cases the Nice Guy is the protagonist and Beautiful Popular Girl is his ‘reward’.

Have you come across other cliches or tropes in romance stories? 

-Elizabeth

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