Instant Love in Stories

Today I’ll be talking about a common trope in many YA novels. (A trope is, by Google definition, a common or overused theme or device.)

Lately I’ve discovered a trope that I often overlooked as a kid, but now it makes my eyes roll. Unless the author purposely makes me roll my eyes, like when that really irritating character has yet again said something irritating to our hero, I should not be rolling my eyes at the story.

This trope is instant love, commonly abbreviated to insta-love, which is basically when two characters–you guessed it–instantly fall in love with each other shortly after meeting or instantly upon meeting. I absolutely hate this in a story, and I didn’t realize it until I had to force my way through a novel because of it. If you enjoyed Romeo and Juliet and Titanic then you might not enjoy this post, because the three-day romance trope, also known as instant love, is exactly what I’m going to be bashing.

If you’ve read through my old posts, you’ll know I’m quite fond of great character development and consider it to be one of my favourite parts of reading a good story. The problem with insta-love is that it (usually) eliminates character development.

Some writers invent two characters with the intent of having them fall in love, but then skip the journey of such an important plot line. To snap your characters together at the hip and have them instantly love each other within hours of meeting is not only unrealistic, but it’s insulting to those characters. You’ve given them a world to thrive in but you’ve robbed them of the character developing journey.

I personally feel deprived of a good plot line when characters fall prey to insta-love. It destroys any realism they held and pulls me out of the story (where I roll my eyes). Characters screaming they’ll do anything to save each other–even to the point of dying–merely fifteen hours after meeting is just ridiculous. Why are they willing to die for this other person? I mean, did they secretly promise them a lifetime supply of cake or puppies or Cadbury chocolate eggs off-page? I just don’t get it. What’s worse is when all the other characters act like this is normal and they’re “so in love”. Yeah, right.

(There are exceptions, of course. Maybe someone is under a spell or knew the other character in another life. As long as it’s written well, it can work.)

Insta-love also gives rise to extremely predictable endings. If the relationship is rushed from start to finish, you know exactly how the story’s going to end. It’s like the older Disney movies featuring romances so conventional it literally takes a frying pan to Flynn Rider’s face to make you forget about ballroom dancing, pretty gowns, and singing fairies that all encircle every princess’s whirlwind romance. I’m not saying Disney has gotten better at insta-love since Tangled, but it’s certainly more enjoyable to watch humourous characters fall in love over long journeys rather than meeting for the first time in a musty attic, where their first kiss beside a cursed spindle means they’re now in love and the girl is marrying a random guy who just conveniently happens to be a prince.

Perhaps I’m being too cynical, but maybe you should get to know a person before declaring your undying love for them?

Happy writing,

Sandra

Over-Explaining a Scene

Let’s talk about heavy explanation in a scene.

For example:

I saw the light on over the door. It must be my sister, coming home late from the dance. I heard laughter outside, followed by giggling, and then quiet talking. She must be with someone. Her date brought her home, probably. I looked out the window to see an unfamiliar truck at the end of the driveway. Yeah, definitely not her vehicle. It was probably John from down the street, the guy she’s been crushing on for a month now.

Yes, yes, we get it–you’re very observant, Protagonist. Everything is over-explained to us and now we’re annoyed by subtly having our intelligence insulted. Always assume your reader is smart enough to guess what’s going on in a scene. If you drag out the scene, it gets boring really fast and we’ll probably skip over it to reach the good parts.

Try a simpler approach. For example:

I saw the light on over the door. It must be my sister, coming home late from the dance. I heard laughter outside, followed by quiet talking. Without moving from the stairs, I waited for her to come inside and then grinned as I asked, “Who were you with?”

“John,” she said, a bit sheepishly.

Now the protagonist is being direct instead of acting like a shady creep. And now we get some interaction between two characters instead of a giant bubble of thoughts shifting around in the protagonist’s mind. It’s so much more enjoyable to read about “action” than the musings of a character (and by action I mean the plot is moving swiftly instead of at the pace of a snail).

This little problem often pops up when the protagonist is describing something–like a place or clothing or another character. Tolkien’s works are often disliked (not by me) for his long explanations. High fantasy can be excused at times for this, though not when it happens repeatedly. Terry Goodkind explains what a Mord-Sith is about a bill-zillion times throughout his series, and always with the same exact passage. I always skip it because it’s unnecessary. Detail is good; too much detail feels like the story is being stubbornly dragged out. Try to find some common ground between what’s too little and too much in a scene.

For example, if you spend a whole page talking about a tree, I’m probably going to skip through that rather quickly. And repetition can be a serious flaw in a story. For everything that is good and holy, don’t repeat yourself. I caught myself a few times in a previous manuscript with my protagonist explaining her problems repeatedly, and deleted all mention of said problems, allowing the reader to figure the problems out through the character’s failures and struggles instead. Show, don’t tell. (I was going to link to my post about showing instead of telling but I think imagined writing it, so next month I’ll probably touch upon the importance of showing instead of telling if I can’t find that blasted post before then.)

Happy writing,

Sandra

The Secret World of Dragons Rewrite

I said a while back I was going to rewrite my YA series The Secret World of Dragons, and I’ve finished writing the first book in the series a few weeks ago. Now I’m going through the revision process.

Writing a YA series at a young age was a blast, but–looking back–I felt the books were missing the kind of lively writing Sky Knight (my steampunk novel) had to offer. Now that I’ve grown as a writer and accumulated shining reviews that acknowledge my writing ability, I decided to go back to the world of dragons and reshape it into something better.

Old readers of the series will appreciate the additional scenes and furthered development of the characters, and new readers will (hopefully!) enjoy the world of Draconis from a fresh perspective.

For those of you who are interested in The Secret World of Dragons, check out my blog next week when I release the first chapter for free. I’m really excited to reveal it after sitting on the manuscript for weeks, and am hoping to get some feedback on the story.

I haven’t forgotten the sequel to Sky Knight, of course. The final chapters need a bit of research to pull off, so I’m having trouble nailing them down. They’ll come to me in time.

Happy reading,

Sandra