Esther: the clever girl who saves the day by her wit. (The Bible or Bleak House? Both.)
People notice the sky much more in fiction than they do in real life. (Sam Leith @questingvole)
Of course, you realise we can’t let you leave. (Fitzgerald's The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, etc.)
In any story about magic: “You summoned me and I am here!”
Things people do in books but never in real life: Stare into a mirror with self-loathing then violently throw something at their reflection, shattering the glass. (JL)
They also say: "But that only happens in books!"
Murder method: wait till victim has pneumonia, then leave a window open by their bed on a freezing winter night.
"Perfectly manicured hands" are code for "gay".
People never swear, but “let out a stream of invective”. I always wonder what they were saying.
In Golden Age mysteries, a female character pretends to powder her nose so that she can observe people behind her in her compact mirror. Would this work?
“She wrote it to break a contract with her publisher.” Say of any disappointing or baffling book by a favourite author.
In early 20th century children’s books, people disguise themselves by “staining their skin with walnut juice”.
That old classic – a family heirloom that turns out to be a fake. (Past Offences blog)
In Kingsley Amis, good women wear corduroy or denim suits.
There is always some ivy or a drainpipe to climb up to get into an upstairs window.
French women say “'ow you say” a lot.
Americans in 30s books by Brits are called Elmer or Wilmer.
Burglar finds body. (More than one Maigret.)
The gruff, lovable husband, the bright, spirited young girl... (LRB 2014 on Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi)
In Agatha Christie, the beautiful woman who turns out to be empty headed, shallow or amoral. She attracts all the men but can't keep them – see Triangle at Rhodes. (Sometimes she's a man.)
Also in Christie, the strong, dominant girl who adores her rabbity husband. (After the Funeral)
The pearl necklace that is or isn’t genuine. (De Maupassant, Maugham)
He met a stranger – she said she was his wife – he played along because... (Christie's Destination Unknown)
Mysterious stranger moves into boarding house and changes the lives of all the inhabitants. He has an annoying habit of standing in shafts of light. Someone is bound to say “Who – ARE you?”
Single woman invades family.
The beauty salon is the centre of the drugs trade.
A man turns out to be a woman in disguise.
The killer has lifted a method from a [real or fictional] detective story. (Real-life converse: killer writes a novel revealing his crimes.)
Writer of trashy fiction finds himself unable to stop spouting clichés in real life. (Aldous Huxley, PG Wodehouse)
Shadow acquires independent existence.
"We thought you were dead!"