Wow, it’s been ages since I’ve done a writing post. I’ve tried to write this one a few times in the past, because romance is a very popular subject across I think probably all media, so if I’m writing about writing I think I probably ought to write about my thoughts on romance in fiction. But I find those thoughts very hard to express because, honestly, I’m not entirely sure what they are. Once upon a day I despised romance, if it ever popped up in a book I was reading that would automatically be a mark against said book in my mind. In retrospect, I think I was probably just a bit bored of it popping up in basically every book I ever read, because a) it’s very popular to begin with, and b) I was an adolescent girl then, so I think books aimed at me were probably even more afflicted.
Anyway, I don’t mind it nowadays. I still think it’s a bit overused, I don’t think every story with a romance included necessarily benefits from it. Some, I think, are greatly weakened. Although I feel a bit hypocritical saying that, because I do sometimes find myself injecting romance into my own works now, if I find myself looking at two characters and thinking that actually they really would go well together. Recently I’ve even found myself with an idea for a flat out romance novel, and really wanting to write it, which isn’t something I thought I’d ever do. Although a romance novel is very different to a book with romance in it. You can just avoid a romance novel if you don’t want to read that. There’s one of my insights.
Anyway, I’ve decided that the way I’m most likely to get this post done will be to just sort of ramble about various plotlines and ideas that tend to pop up quite often with romantic plotlines.
So, I guess first off… love at first sight. That’s a pretty ingrained one, though I don’t think it’s so common nowadays – I’m not exactly an expert in this subject. But it is considered a bit of an outdated one, and the reason is because it doesn’t really seem like a solid foundation for a relationship.
I don’t really mind it too much, provided they don’t get married instantly or anything. I’m not exactly an expert on real life romance either, but I can buy people taking a liking to eachother from day one and then getting to know eachother better and it turns out they really are great together. It wouldn’t always or even usually work that way, but why not sometimes? If that’s the main plotline of your story then it would have a high risk of getting boring if the two characters are just in love right from the start, I will say that. But I think there’s not many things which can’t be made to work if the writing is good enough.
And there’s the opposite thing, where two characters seem to hate eachother at first – or maybe do actually hate eachother – but end up getting together in the end. That’s a more popular one today, it’s very popular in fact. I can’t say I’m overly fond of it. I don’t mind it in concept, but, as ever, it has to be executed properly. Insulting eachother is not automatically flirting, some people just legitimately don’t like eachother. Sometimes it feels like arguing is being treated like an inherent clue as to two people secretly liking eachother, and so it comes across like two people hate eachother then suddenly are in love, with little or no development of the relationship.
I think what’s happened is that this idea has been used to often that some people have started to take it as a bit of a given that two characters who appear to hate eachother must secretly be in love. The idea is, of course, that they don’t want to admit their real feelings and are overcompensating in their attempts to demonstrate that “no, I absolutely do not fancy this person”. I’m sure that happens in real life sometimes, but I can’t imagine it happening that often. There’d have to a decent reason why they would be so against being in a relationship with the other person. You wouldn’t want a reader to be left feeling like ‘why did they just not get together to begin with?’. And if you’re wanting to write a happy two-characters-pair-up ending, you certainly wouldn’t want readers going away convinced they’re either going to break up in a few weeks, or spend their life together in utter misery. Which they will if the writing hasn’t convinced them of the romance.
What’s another popular romance idea?
I am really not a fan of love triangles. I know sometimes you might end up in love with or at least liking more than one person, and having to choose, but… well, in fiction this isn’t actually acknowledged that much, from what I can see. How many love triangles end in the central character simply deciding they like one of their love interests better than the other? I’m not saying all of them should end that way, it’s not all that interesting a way for things to work, but what is with one of the love interests randomly turning out to be horrible? It usually is random, some works manage build up to the reveal of their true nature quite satisfyingly, but it feels more commonly like it’s just done as a cop out, like the writer doesn’t want their character to come across as a bad person for rejecting someone nice. Not that that would make them a bad person; if you don’t want to be with someone, you don’t want to be someone, that’s not evil, and that makes the amount of works which feel the need to ‘justify’ the final choice in this way even more annoying.
The other way out without the central character making a difficult choice is to just kill one of the love interests. Maybe in a heroic sacrifice, giving their blessing for the other two to be together in their dying breath. Sorry, that was a bit cynical of me. That’s the kind of scene that can be simultaneously heartbreaking and beautiful if well done. I just feel it’s a bit of a lazy way out of a love triangle. Maybe I’ve just seen it too often, another one of those things. Not a bad idea in itself, but misused quite a bit.
Aside from the resolution, love triangles do have the potential to make a character look like a bad person. Like, taking a liking to two different people is one thing, being unsure of which one you’d rather be with is also fair enough. But sometimes it comes across like a character is stringing along their two love interests, sometimes even playing them off against eachother. Oh, I hate it when the two love interests have to compete and prove which one of them is better. I think I get it, but… I just don’t like it in general when two characters get together but one had to earn the other’s love, just because… the other one was inherently better than them? If there’s a valid reason why one would have to prove themselves, like they used to have some serious character flaw or they did something questionable once, then yeah, fair enough, but when both sides are starting out on equal footing… it just doesn’t strike me as a very good basis for a relationship, when one had to ‘win’ the other. And if it is in a love triangle, and the person who’s being ‘competed’ over seems happy about the situation… then frankly, it comes across like they don’t deserve either of them.
Another thing. How come the rival love interests so often hate eachother rather than the person who’s trying to have the best of both worlds? OK, I get than in real life people who’ve been cheated on do sometimes get madder at the person they were cheated on with that the person who cheated on them, even if the other was just as oblivious as them. But sometimes you’ve got the two love interests arguing with eachother, and the one they’re fighting over is being depicted as caught in the middle, and you’re obviously supposed to sympathise with said character, even if this situation is entirely their fault because they were lying and secretly flirting with both of them. It doesn’t always go this way with love triangles, but there does seem to be this odd belief among some writers that being torn between two people is such an awful situation that it excuses lying and cheating.
I do understand why love triangles are so popular. Especially in straight out romance stories; it’s usually not hard to guess which characters are being set up to pair off, and adding multiple love interests makes it less predictable. Well, theoretically, sometimes it’s obvious which one will get picked, and it’s like the other was just thrown in as an afterthought to make things more interesting. If you think one of the love interests is miles better than the other, you need to be careful not to let that seep into the character choosing between them too early on. It’s not much of a love triangle if the central character blatantly prefers one of the love interests, unless, of course, they turn out to have made a misjudgement (but in a properly foreshadowed way, not just a twist for the sake of it), or if they didn’t make an initial misjudgement but something occurs to make them wonder if they did. Or just something that could throw the reader, make an outcome that seems obvious at some points seem doubtful at other points. Essentially, if the point of a love triangle is to add a bit of uncertainty to the outcome, then it should do that.
I know there’s plenty else I can rabbit about, but I think I’ve written a decent amount here. I wanted to get this post up before the end of the month, and it is now the last day of the month. I can always do a part two later on if I think of enough other things to write.
I probably won’t do any posts next month. I’m doing NaNoWriMo. I’m not signed up to the official site or anything, but I’m playing along. So all my time writing will be writing that. I am actually writing that romance story I mentioned having an urge to write, because it was the only one I had in my mind that I thought I’d have a chance of completing. Plus, it’ll be a challenge for me; this is my third year trying NaNo, I failed miserably the first time, and succeeded last year, but that was with a very fast paced story with lots of action scenes. I picked that one because I have trouble with quiet scenes, and because I had originally planned it to be way longer, so I figured I could write it in a way where there were only the slower scenes where they were really needed, and still have enough going on to reach 50,000 words. This story is basically the opposite; lots of quiet scenes with plenty of description required. Those are two of my biggest weaknesses – that I’m aware of – so this is going to be interesting. I’ve done quite a bit of planning, for me, that’ll hopefully help.
So yeah, probably no posts. I may take the opportunity to start putting up some of the poems I’ve got scrubbed to what I think is a decent standard, though I don’t trust myself enough to promise anything.
Thanks for reading.