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When the Romance gets in the way

It’s been a while since I wanted to rant about this topic, so I thought ‘why the hell not?’ and decided to write this as a blog post. A lot of this is about writing, and a lot of it is about reading as well. As every writer, I LOVE to read. I love to be immersed in new worlds, with new characters, find new crushes (yep, book crushes are acceptable) and just fall in love with the writing of a book. Since having started writing, I’ve learned to be a lot more critic of it as well — exhamine it carefully, how the words are created, the character development, etc.

But one thing that sometimes bothers me is the romance.

“BUT WHY, LAURA? WHAT HAS LOVE EVER DONE TO YOU?” you cry out, and surely, it actually has not harmed me in any way. I like romance as much as the next person (well, maybe not really, but still) and I love it when a romance is well done and the characters fall in love and everything about it is convincing. What I don’t love is how sometimes romance develops without making sense.

I’m not talking about insta-love here. Sometimes, insta-love serves a purpose, and sometimes, it does happen — those cute, instant crushes you have on the person you’ve seen on the public transport. But in the end, you don’t LOVE that person. You barely even know them! Getting back to the point, insta-love may be OK. It may even have a bigger objective in the narrative. And it’s not what I’m going to write about in this blog post.

I am, however, going to write about that romance that isn’t convincing enough and ends up meddling in the narrative. Yes, you know which one. You probably read one or more books that had one of those, and it stalled the story, the narrative, the characters didn’t feel like themselves… There are so many things I could point out but in the end it comes to one thing, and usually one thing only: the author got in the way.

BUT HOW CAN THE AUTHOR GET IN THE WAY? IT’S THEIR DAMNED BOOK! Too true, this statement. Most of the time, an author shouldn’t get in the way of their book. But when it comes to romance and ships, well, it can happen. I’ll explain. There are spoilers for The Selection books and the Maze Runner books ahead, so beware! I also want to disclaim here first that I’m not a person who’s a hardcore shipper. In fact, I’m pretty much the opposite. I don’t care who the characters end with as long as it makes sense to me. So let’s go.

When I first started reading the Selection, I loved it! (Still do). It’s a great and fun and romantic book. America goes to the palace and she likes the prince but their relationship is complicated. There are ups and downs and what-not, and by the end of the second book, her ex had come back into the story and was trying to fight for her as well. I read some of Kiera Cass’ interviews, and she said she changed the original ending of the book. When I read that, my knees trembled. Because I was afraid that what might happen next didn’t make a lot of sense. Thankfully, she changed so it would make sense — America chooses Maxon and chooses saving and changing the country, because she’s a responsible and wonderful girl. The ending wraps up and we’re all WOO-HOO!

The original ending? Not so great. For some random ass reason America would choose her ex (which would be completely out of character, or for short OOC) and for some even more random reason Maxon would die and Aspen (the ex) would inherit the crown. WHAT?! Thank you, Kiera, for crafting that beautiful ending that made sense and all characters stayed true to themselves.

Now let’s get to Maze Runner. There are a lot of things that don’t make sense, but at least from the start, Teresa’s and Tom’s relationship makes some sense among the utter nonsense that goes on in the Clearing. On book2, Tom meets this other girl, Brenda. Brenda’s a cool chick and everything, and then some betrayal happens that’s not really explained in the plot and Tom joins the Brenda train as the new ship. I liked Teresa, and it didn’t make a lot of sense for her to betray Tom, but OK. But when book 3 comes around, Brenda ALSO betrays Tom but does he ditch her? Of course not. There’s some random romance scenes once again, and in the end, Teresa gets ALSO randomly killed off in the most stupid manner so the author’s OTP could be together. That’s what I felt. I liked Brenda and I liked Thomas, but all of the romance just felt forced, and it didn’t feel true. By the end of the book, I was kind of just hating everything because it didn’t make sense.

As an author, it can happen. You like these two characters so much you just want them together SO BADLY that you convince yourself that they must stay together. (Believe me, it happened to great people. It has happened time and again). And yes, we all have our OTPs, but as authors, we need to stay atuned to our characters and stay true to our work. And that means not letting our own wishes for OTPs and pairings getting in the way, because it can totally ruin a good book.

And how to do that? It’s hard identifying whether it’s something that you want or something that your character wants. Sometimes you think two characters are a cute pairing, but what you have to ask yourself is this: is this what your character would want? Is this what he needs right now? Also notice if characters are getting harder to write — if they are, this may be a sign it’s time for you to reconsider what you’re writing. You know your characters better than anyone. One of the other characteristics is to see if your character hasn’t suddenly become bland. I’ve seen GREAT characters being forced into romances where they suddenly become nothing but the romantic pairing and all they think about is being possessive and a bit of a stereotypical alpha male (I’m looking at you, Rowan. Sorry.). Your characters should be more than stereotypes, and romance shouldn’t dull them. It should make them shine and show new facets of their character.

Having a romance that wasn’t there in the first place can be both good and bad for a book. It can shine a new path and a new outcome, a great outcome. But it can also go dangerously wrong — your characters start acting OOC, your book gets dangerously close to fanfiction (red alert!!!!!!), and most of all, you might lose a lot of readers’ interest. Readers have their own OTPs, of course, but that should never stop their enjoyment of the book. I’ve seen it hundred of times, where readers jump ship because there’s suddenly something more interesting in the other one, something that shines, something that promises the two characters greatness.

It’s great to have your own OTPs inside your book. It’s mostly great because they all get to be canon, right? But be careful and make sure it doesn’t get in the way of the book — a badly written romance can ruin a great story and what’s worse, it can also ruin great characters. Don’t let it happen to you.

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