Monday, November 13, 2017

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: When Romance Ruins an Adventure Novel

Romance -- never really been my thing.
I'll just admit that now.

I'd much rather read an epic fantasy than Cupid's target practice.  

Now I know what you're going to say: "BUT GRACE, JANE AUSTEN AND THE BRONTE SISTERS ARE LISTED AMONG YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS!  You do know the definition of a romance novel...right?"

Yes, I do.  And I don't hate ALL romance, but the stuff I do like doesn't rely on romance alone, and while the plot might have love as a central theme, there are a myriad of other things about it that make it an enjoyable read, such as social commentary or deep, multi-faceted characters.

For example: Pride and Prejudice explores the attitudes surrounding different social classes, the way they view each other, and the plight of women during an era where they could not inherit land or money.  Wuthering Heights examines the unpredictable mind of a young man mistreated by his family, who is forced to grow into his own independence.

So when romance meets adventure, does it hurt the story, or add to it?

Answer: YES

Okay, okay, fine.  I'll tell you what I mean.

Romance raises the stakes.
When you're fighting to defend someone you love instead of a random mass of people, you're going to fight harder.  That's the reasoning behind "if you don't tell me what I want to know, she dies", when the villain kidnaps the hero's girlfriend, and plenty of other cliche situations.  This puts the protagonist in a bit of a tight spot, because they're forced to choose between saving the love of their life (or two weeks, depending on our protagonist), or the rest of civilization.

When you're fighting alongside someone you love, you're going to want to impress and protect them simultaneously, which puts you in some very strange situations that would not have happened if you'd been fighting alone, being cautious, and generally keeping your head about you.  On the other hand, I can name plenty of protagonists who could use someone to hold them back by their hoodie before doing something that could jeopardize the entire plot.

There's also a fantastic opportunity for lots of hilarious bickering.  Which I love.

On the other hand, romance is a huge distraction.
There are so many great examples of this, and it's probably one of my biggest pet peeves.  I very rarely get excited about romance in stories in general (yes, even Jane Austen), usually I just want people to have some common sense for crying out loud, so when you add, say, a WAR THEY SHOULD BE FIGHTING, I get a little frustrated.

Just a little.

In case you hadn't noticed.


And honestly, since romance feels like an extra in adventure/action genres anyway, I feel like the drama is often used as a filler when the author can't actually think of anything else that could possibly happen, and they can't end the story yet, because it's not long enough!*

*I might be guilty of doing this ONCE.  ONE TIME.  And they were mostly fighting, and the main character didn't want to save the world ANYWAY, and the girl was mad at him for it, so it was JUSTIFIED, people.  JUSTIFIED.

Very often, the romance is directed towards the wrong person.
Just look at any tall, dark, mysterious, "bad boy" love interest.  Seriously.  Talk about emotional manipulation.  Most of the time they're the most narcissistic jerks the planet has to offer.  The only reason they look like a half decent person is because they're being compared to the villain. 

So, you know, they might be verbally abusive, controlling, self-centered, cheating, and completely and utterly void of all empathy, but at least they're not trying to take over the world and and introduce a totalitarian order!  THAT JUST FIXES EVERYTHING INSTANTLY!

So I'm sure you're all waiting for me to tell you how you're SUPPOSED to write romance.
Hahahahahahahaha you probably just want me to shut up because I haven't posted in a century and now I'm back and shouting opinions in your face.  

Honestly, the problem with writing and being an author is that one group of people is totally there for the kissing-instead-of-shooting-people, and then people like me are screaming at the pages, or TV, or whatever, and immensely frustrated because we just want explosions and epic fight scenes and to envy whatever cool tech the lead guy is using.

I need a leather jacket, massive glowing space guns, and an epic soundtrack.  Your main character is clearly too busy kissing to use such things for their intended purposes, so hand them over here and I will use them.  Thank you.

Don't cheat and use random romantic scenes to fill your novel because you ran out of plot.  Make sure that if you have romance, it's there for a reason and a purpose that fits with your characters, and what they're trying to achieve.  If they REALLY ARE stupid enough to get distracted then....well sorry, can't help you, I think you need better characters, because WHO the HECK picks SUCH PEOPLE to SAVE the FREAKING UNIVERSE!  IT'S JUST THE UNIVERSE.  NO BIG DEAL.

I don't even know if that was helpful or not, I was honestly just ranting by the end.  Do you have any romance pet peeves?  Is there anything that makes it better?  Makes it worse?  Let me know in the comments.


  1. I've mostly just started writing romance as really close friendships with some kissing thrown in. Seems to derail the plot less that way.

  2. Yeah that makes sense. I usually just shove two characters into a plot and go with whatever happens. Which usually isn't romance.

  3. I do like romance in books but I think there can be way too much.😂 And often times it's hard to ship the couple because I think they get together with the adrenaline of the adventure, but like what do they even truly have in common?! My favourite type of romance is when it's like "will they/won't they" throughout the book, so it doesn't detract from the plot but the tension is there and making things more stressful! THAT'S EXCELLENT.

    1. You have a really good point! Just because you've been through a lot with a person doesn't mean you're going to get along with them afterwards.

      I have mixed feelings about will they/won't they. It's hard for me to ship most people because I have a heart of stone, but if it's well done, that tension is fantastic!

      (also I'm fangirling because my favorite blogger just commented on my blog. GAH I need to go calm down now.)