Now that I've got a total of four completed manuscripts under my belt (three published or contracted, one under the bed), not to mention a fair number of false starts and abandoned ideas, I'm starting to notice certain subconscious habits and pet words. Personal cliches, if you will.
One of my most consistent cliches--and I swear it was entirely unconsciously done--is the Dead Tall Blond First Husband. In The Sergeant's Lady, Anna's abusive first husband, Sebastian, is blond, blue-eyed, handsome, and over six feet tall. After his death, she finds happiness with Will, who's brown-haired and a few inches shorter.
The heroine of my upcoming An Infamous Marriage is also a widow. Her first husband, Giles, is entirely the opposite of Sebastian in character. He's kind, gentle, smart, sensitive--he really would've made a lovely beta hero had I been inclined to make him the star of a book. But he looks almost exactly like Sebastian, being a tall, blond, golden god type. Again the hero, Jack, is dark and just a smidge shorter.
And that book under the bed? Well, it doesn't actually have a Dead Tall Blond First Husband, but only because it was Book One of a projected fantasy series rather than romance, and my hero hadn't yet met his one true love. The hero in question? Think James from my A Marriage of Inconvenience, albeit 3-4 inches taller. Dark curly hair, bright blue eyes, athletic in a slim, lithe way rather than burly and muscular. In Book Two he was going to meet and fall in love with his eventual wife, with the <i>slight</i> initial objection that she's happily married to someone else. The hero, being heroic, keeps his feelings bottled up until Husband #1 dies--in the hero's arms in the aftermath of a battle, no less--but after that I'd planned to have things get messy, angsty, and passionate in a hurry. Naturally Husband #1 needed to present some kind of physical contrast with Our Hero, so I immediately pictured him as...you guessed it, tall and blond.
I swear I don't have a death wish for blond men. I can even name several I think are very hot. I mean, Sean Bean, ammirite?
And Matthew on Downton Abbey (Dan Stevens) is really quite pretty:
But in real life, my husband has black hair, and my ex-boyfriends and serious crushes from middle school on up? Brown or black hair. The last time I wanted to go out with a blond was, oh, fourth grade. So my default hero coloring is dark, and when I want to give the heroine a past with someone handsome, but not really my type, I go blond. And I like writing widows, since it allows me to write heroines slightly older and sexually experienced without needing any complex or historically unrealistic backstory. Therefore, by definition, the men in my heroines' pasts tend to be dead.
Still, I'm due for a blond hero soon. At the very least, I promise to find a way other than hair color to draw a contrast between my heroes and their heroines' first husbands.
What about you? Writers, do you have Personal Cliches? Readers, have you noticed such patterns in authors you follow?