A Cliché I Can Live With

Writers are told repeatedly, “Avoid clichés.” That wise counsel is heard so often in the writing community most of us could recite it in our sleep.

In spite of the advice, there is one cliché that works for me. . .

“I love you.”

My love note, which is written on the mirror but reflected on the wall. =)

No other phrase has quite the same effect as those three little words.

If I were to follow the rules and eliminate all clichés, I’d have to omit those wonderful words from my stories, words every romance reader waits for.

With my trusty thesaurus by my side, I could come up with alternatives.

I adore you.
I dote upon you.
I care about you.
I delight in you.
I like you very much.
I have a crush on you.
I’m infatuated with you.
I’m partial to you.
I have a soft spot for you.
I have a thing about you.
I have a fondness/deep affection for you.
I have warm/tender feelings for you.
I feel an attachment to you.
I yearn for you.
I share an intimacy with you.
I feel passion/ardor for you.
I desire/lust after you.
I’m devoted to you.
I idolize/worship you.
I carry a torch for you.
I’m besotted/smitten with you.
I’m crazy/mad/nuts/wild about you.

A couple of the alternatives might work for me as the relationship is developing, but some are too mild to express the depth of emotion conveyed by the heartfelt words, “I love you.” Others express an emphasis on the physical rather than the emotional connection. There are those suitable for God rather than a person created by Him. A couple of the examples sound old-fashioned. A few sound fun but a bit flip.

I don’t know about you, but when I reach the end of a romance, none of the alternatives is as gratifying as those words I’ve waited some 200, 300, 400, or more pages to hear. Call me a purist, but I want the hero to tell the heroine, “I love you.” It’s short, simple, but, oh so satisfying–even if it is a cliché.

Now that’s not to say writers can’t have fun with those three little words. When my dear Gwynly surprised me last week and left a love note on our bathroom mirror, he added his own special touch. Not only did he tack on a word at the end that is so “him,” but his delivery scored major mush points. We’ve been married 23 years, and yet he surprised me by where he left the words. That’s the first time he’s used the mirror as his writing surface.

I’ll admit to being a hopeless romantic, but “I love you” is a cliché I can live with.

• • •

Do any words other than the traditional “I love you” work for you?

When reading or watching a romance, do you wait for those three little words?

Have you read great examples of a declaration of love that don’t use the usual three?

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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36 Responses to A Cliché I Can Live With

  1. Funny Keli, I don’t think of “I love you” as a cliche. Also … “I love everything about you.” “I think I love you.” or, “I’ve fallen in love with you.” It’s just that those three words are the ones everyone wants to hear. Can you tell, “There isn’t a thing about you I don’t love.” ?? Ooops, that last one was for you 🙂

  2. Erica Vetsch says:

    I’ve never thought of I Love You as a cliche. Hmm, have to ruminate on this one for awhile. 🙂

  3. Beth K. Vogt says:

    Well, I’ll make it a trio and say I hadn’t thought of “I love you” as a cliche. But I get your point … it certainly is a phrase we use and hear over and over and over again. And we use it for all sorts of things from people to pets to favorite cars to favorite food items. That can certainly water down the meaning of “I love you.”
    With my kiddos I like the old-fashioned XXXs and OOOs. It’s just another way to say I love them.

    • Martina Bedregal Calderón says:

      Beth, isn´t it wonderful to hear the words “I love you” still so often, in a world that is often enough ruled by hate, by war, by money…? 😀

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Beth, I think the fact that we express love for so many things shows how essential that emotion is to us. When people say, “I love it,” whatever the “it” is, I believe they’re using the word to show the depth of their convictions.

  4. Loree Huebner says:

    I never thought of “I love you” as a cliche.

    I’ve got to admit that those three little words can change a life.

    Love that you and Gwynly still have the spark after 23 years. Awesome!

  5. Nothing really says it like ‘I love you”. I do think it is over used but that’s better than not at all.

  6. Martina Bedregal Calderón says:

    You are the light of my soul, you uplift my heart, you give my dreams wings, I love you – are words I can live with, I love and I use in my writing.

    But the most beautiful words and the most wonderful declaration of love I ever got and I later used (with his ok) in my writing came from my boyfreind and the love of my life: “Your name is written on Mars, next to mine.” I had tears of joy in my eyes when my boyfriend said that to me, and I used them in a story I am currently writing….

    (Explanation: the biggest dream in my life was and is becoming an astronaut and being in the first manned mission to Mars, that is why I have a pilot license instead of a driving license and a huge telescope at home…I am fascinated by the universe, of astrophysics, exobilogy….)

    “I love you” are the most wonderful words we can say, and I never saw them as a cliché.

    I love you all for your writing, for having the gift to put into words what is in your heart and soul. 🙂

  7. the writ and the wrote says:

    I don’t think of them as cliche, either. In fact, I firmly believe we don’t use them often enough.

  8. tamikaeason says:

    I agree Keli, a romance needs to get to the heart of things and “I love you” is the perfect way to do it. Some of the alternatives may work while the characters are still wrestling with their feelings, but at the end we need confirmation. A powerful proclamation! I vote for “I love you” every time:)

  9. Okay, I’m swooning over your sweet note on the bathroom mirror. I love that and that isn’t cliche!
    I want to hear “I love you” generally, I want to hear it from the hero first! 🙂

  10. Oh, Keli, you’re living your own romance novel! How sweet is that? Definitely NOT cliche. Of course…now my romantic suspense mind is going to other more sinister reasons hubby dearest might have felt the need to write such a thing on the bathroom mirror. Was it even hubby’s doing at all?! Oh, dear…I’d better get back to writing…that’s a whole different novel! 🙂

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Sandra, isn’t it fun how a writer’s mind can take something and turn it into something else by playing those “what if” games with it? Since I write historical romance and not romantic suspense–and since I know my hubby’s heart–I took his note at face value. There’s not a sinister bone in Gwynly’s body. Now, me on the other hand. . . I just bumped off a character in my story. 🙂

  11. Keli Gwyn says:

    Thanks for your comments. I’m enjoying reading your responses. I’ll admit that when I read a blog post some time ago in which the phrase “I love you” was labeled a cliché I had to think about it. As I hoped to make clear in my post, I think the words are three of the most important ever spoken–or written. =)

  12. i hadn’t thought it cliche either. but i do like it when the concept is conveyed without the words sometimes. like to say, “I can’t live without you,” (not in the stalkerish sense, of course) or “My life won’t be the same without you.” these convey to me that the emotion is so deep that the words just won’t do.

    that picture….i thought that was written on your wall?! which would have cancelled out the sentiment just a tad, you know? gave me a laugh…very sweet. 🙂

    • Mary Curry says:

      Jeannie, that’s what I thought too! It took a bit (and Keli’s calm acceptance) for me to understand it wasn’t lipstick on a wall.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Jeannie, yes the writing does look like it’s on the wall at first, but if you look in the lower left corner of the photo, you can see the mirror image of my necklace rack. I tried taking the picture straight on, but the words didn’t show up. Since I wanted to record this treasured memory, I figured out how to use the mirror image reflected on the wall. Tricky, huh?

  13. Katie Ganshert says:

    You know what’s crazy? I’m not sure my hero and heroine say that to each other in my first book…… Please don’t throw books at me!

  14. That’s why I read romance. The story itself is a prelude to those words, “I love you”. People who criticize our genre or us as writers for being cliche don’t truly understand the inherent power of that declaration of love in a story.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Brandi, you said so eloquently in three sentences what I spent an entire post trying to convey–and don’t feel I really got across. I applaud you!!!

  15. cynthiaherron says:

    How utterly romantic! I will never tire of hearing those three precious words!

  16. Mary Curry says:

    Keli, I read this early this morning but then had to run out before I could comment. It really put a smile on my day though. What a great guy you’ve got there!

  17. That’s wonderful, Keli!! Hubby and I have been married 21 years and we always play the I LOVE YOU MUCH MUCH . . . More than XXXXX. We’re always trying to outdo each other.

    I agree, there’s nothing that can replace those three words in the final pages of a romance. They’ve just got to be there!

  18. I gotta have the three little words. And yes, I’ll second what Brandi said.

  19. Wow, Gwynly is definitely a “keeper”, Keli! 🙂 What a super sweet, romantic thing for him to do. ~ I so agree with your post, and also want to read those 3 all-important words being said (yes, preferably from the hero to the heroine first). Thanks for sharing with us—I always enjoy your blog posts! 🙂

  20. Like you, I waited until the end of my romance for the characters to say that to each other–I expect it–I want it:) I won’t ever think it is cliche:)
    My husband has used the bathroom mirror several times! I love it and that our husbands keep thinking of new ways to be romantic:)) It’s those little gestures that count.

  21. I never thought about that before, but you’re right! None of those alternatives get to the root of it. What a great post, Keli!

  22. Anne Barton says:

    Awwww! Loved the photo, Keli!
    I don’t think “I love you” ever gets old. 🙂

  23. I wait for the “I love you” in books and movies. 🙂 I still remember the exact moment my husband told me that for the first time (14 years ago) and the fact he used the words, “I am madly in love with you.” instead of just the basic three :).
    The only words that come close to the same power are “I was wrong and I’m sorry.”
    One of my favorite movie scenes is in Die Hard where John Maclaine tells the cop character, “Tell her I’m sorry. She’s heard me say I love her a thousand times. Tell her John said he’s sorry.”
    Gwynly must be a pretty good guy to leave notes like that.

  24. Oh my goodness! Your hubs is so romantic. 🙂 I’ve never thought of “I love you” as cliche either. It’s powerful every time.

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