Friday, December 16, 2011

Storybook Romances: Instant Love v. The Blossom

I like the idea of love at first sight.
                I love when two characters meet for the first time, and zap. The chemistry between them inexorably links the two in your mind with a single thought: These two MUST end up together.

                However, I feel there’s a difference between flying sparks… and infernos that blaze out of control in less time than it takes to think, “Oh, they could be a cute couple.”

                How many books have you read where the author shoves two characters into a scene, they have their grand shining moment of [sometimes creepily] staring at each other, oblivious to all else for just a few moments…

                And then a chapter later they’re deeply, deeply in love. Willing to sacrifice everything (family, old friends, the futures they’d planned) in order to be together. Willing to die for the relationship, despite the fact they’ve only known each other for a few weeks, or days, or hours…

                As you may have gathered, this is not a plot element I’m particularly fond of. It’s something I find a lot in the paranormal/urban fantasy I’ve read. And to be honest, I think it may be one of the things that turns me off to those genres. I’m sure there are better stories in those genres than the ones I’ve read. I just haven’t found them yet.

                But, before I have paranormal-lovers dashing away in a huff, let me just say that I realize not every story can contain two people who’ve been growing together since birth, or a couple who’s been together for years and years. I think I’d find an excessive number of those stories to be tiring as well.

                Sometimes, your destined pair meets for the first time within the course of the story. Sometimes, events push them together very quickly. Sometimes it’s just necessary to move the plot forward, fast. And I’m not unaware that some people do fall for each other that quickly.

                My main concern is that the progression of these relationships is believable.

                I think Maureen Johnson handled this kind of thing very well in Name of the Star -- which I recommend, by the way. Boarding schools, ghosts, Jack the Ripper. T’is good. ;)

                In it, there’s a relationship that starts and progresses fairly quickly. Granted, I’m not particularly fond of the guy, and this relationship isn’t exactly a crucial, crucial piece of the plot. These particular characters aren’t risking their lives for each other by the end. Frankly, I still have my hopes that the Main Character will end up with a certain other character I’d love to know more about…

                But the relationship does move very quickly from, “I have just met you, and find you rather cute” to making out on a couple different occasions.

                It didn’t bother me as much as some fast-starting relationships, and I think a number of factors contributed to that.

1.       Somewhere around their first meeting, the MC states casually that he reminds him of her ex. This did two things for me. It showed me that he is conceivably the kind of guy that she would already think about dating (not just some random, shiny new guy who she knows nothing about ‘but that makes him INTERESTING 8D’) and it showed me the slightest hint of misgivings. When you first meet someone, you have no idea what they’re like. They could be your dream guy, but they could also be a psychopath, a socially awkward compulsive liar, or a vampire who’d pick drinking your blood over eating a hot fudge sundae, any time. There is a very high probability that you will have doubtish things on your mind, even if you choose to ignore them. Commenting on the love interest’s somehow-annoying habit will not immediately eliminate them as a candidate for love. The way I see things, it could make the situation feel more real.

2.       There was a brief time in the ‘friends’ stage, where they exchanged words, got to know each other a bit, etc. All of which led to…

3.       The Blossom. “I felt the like blossom in me.” That’s how Maureen Johnson put it, and when I read it I kind of paused and thought, “That’s exactly it.” Someone could be interesting at first. Intriguing. Definitely date-able. But I think that in most cases, there will be a few sharp moments where you really know for sure – where it becomes official.

                INSTANT LOVE

                Pros: Can quicken the pace. Potential to find later that not all is peachy – adds conflict.

                Cons: Easy to rush. Can be unbelievable. May be hard to get a sense of the character as an individual. Easy example: Imagine if Bella never ever met Edward. -_-

                THE BLOSSOM

                Pros: Can be more realistic/believable. Potential for ‘D’aaaaw!’ moments. More time to root for the characters to come together.

                Cons: Could take longer to set up. Impatient readers may want them to “get on with it already.” The MC noticing more of the love interest’s flaws could make them more noticeable to us as well, which could turn off some readers to the couple in the first place.

                I said it before, and I’ll say it again. I love when two characters meet, and zap. They’re linked together in your mind with a single thought: These two MUST end up together.

                But just because we think that right away, doesn’t mean the characters need to.

                What kind of relationships do you prefer in books? What books stand out in your mind as examples?  Books in genres besides the ones I mentioned? Which romances between characters fell flat, in your opinion? What relationships do you tend to write about?

                And if you’d like to change my mind about paranormal/urban fantasy, and have some book recommendations for me, leave them in the comments. XD


  1. I'm definitely a fan of the Blossom. Instant love kind of feels either forced(like the author wants them to get together uber fast for plot reasons) or insubstantial to me, because if they're instantly into each other, I assume it's for surface reasons(looks, one thing they said, obvious personality traits), because they don't know the other person well enough to TRULY love them.

    I mean, attraction from meeting one is great! It's realistic. But 'I love you forever' after a couple days/weeks/HOURS isn't going to last. They haven't known each other long enough to have found the deeper things to love, or to find the flaws that they're going to have to deal with. The Blossom allows the characters to love each other around flaws, and develops a much stronger bond that can stand the test of time, because they've been through some life together. I'm not talking friends since childhood, but I like at least about a year of friendship before they realize they love each other/act on that love.

    My favorite example of the Blossom is Ron and Hermione, because their relationship was so realistic to me. They ticked each other off on more than one occasion, got in fights, were friends, experienced life together, and THEN realized their love. I feel like that kind of love is going to last a lot longer, because the characters know what they're getting into in a relationship.

    As for what I write, it's definitely the Blossom, haha. I've had 'on first sight' couples/moments, but they don't pan out, or they have to go through a huge growing process to make it together. I know it's kind of heresy to call myself a romantic when I don't believe in love at first sight, but I am one. I love romance—just the slow-burn kind. 'Cause it'll keep burning, even when youth fades. ^_^

  2. Exactly, Amanda. You touched on a couple things I would have if my post hadn't already been ridiculously long. -_- Ability to write tight, WHERE ARE YOU?

    On a personal note, I LOVE the Blossom. I love seeing characters grow, I like seeing them struggle before they end up together...

    In my current WIP, the main character and his love interest were worst enemies five years ago, and only recently have become on the same side. They hate each other at first, or at the very least have zero respect for each other. The entirety of Book 1 will just get them to the point of not wanting to KILL each other. XD

    And did I mention they come from two different worlds? Literally, two different worlds? 8]

  3. OOOH! That sounds awesome. I love that kind of Blossom relationship especially. X)