Some Romance Subplots Need Mouth-To-Mouth

Ok, here’s a weird thing about me:

I like collecting notebooks that I will most likely never actually use. Really. They just take up space in my house and look pretty. And they have to have specific dimensions or they just bother me.

Wait, that’s not related to the post. Ok, here’s something else weird about me: my relationship with romances in stories. Movies, video games, books, pretty much anything that involves a reality other than my own. Note that when I talk about ‘romance’ in this post, I mean stories where the romance isn’t meant to be the main part of the story. I mean the horror and action and adventure with flirting and swooning thrown in there. Sorry, Nicholas Sparks.

Onto the weird thing: I like writing romances of my own in my own books, but they bother me in other people’s stories. That’s not necessarily because they’re badly written, but just… because I can’t control them?

I don’t really know. Romance novels are easy; you know who’s gonna end up with who right when you first pick it up. In Twilight, it’s pretty much advertised in the blurb (the whole “I knew absolutely three things about Edward Cullen” thing). Their names are big and usually slapped into the book pretty early, so you have time to brace yourself for it.

It’s the mysteries and sci-fi and fantasies where the heroes and heroines fall in love that bother me. Not always (I actually liked Ron and Hermione’s relationship in the HP books), but a lot of them do.

Example: Katniss & Peeta in Hunger Games. Or Katniss and Gale, if that’s your thing. The main part is the, well, Hunger Games. Then Peeta, who I like well enough, comes center stage. And Katniss said it pretty good: “He made me look weak.”

Is it hypocritical of me to sometimes think that involving an otherwise self-sufficient female character into a love plot makes her weaker, then do the exact same thing in my own book? I don’t know. Maybe just because I have control over what my characters do. Do this, not that. Katniss and Peeta ended up all right, but I caught myself flinching every time they shared a screen (or page) until the end of the series and everything worked out. Not to mention, I think we all knew who Katniss would choose at the end.

Then there’s Bill Weasley and Fleur in Harry Potter. And, let’s just say that Fleur is not my favorite character. She reminds me too much of certain classmates in high school. And even for all the redeeming qualities JK Rowling gave her in the later books, she still bugged me. I guess I have a bias against cheerleader types.

Harry and Ginny bothered me just because it seemed like Ginny got a massive personality shift between the early books and the later ones. Is she the modest younger-sister type, or is she some hot piece of ginger? Is she shy, or is she hot-headed? I don’t mind either, but I’d prefer it if her personality had been consistent, rather than changed suddenly as explained by “getting over her crush on Harry” (which didn’t really happen).

I don’t have to talk about Twilight, do I? *cough*abuse*cough*

All of my dislikes — the things that rub me wrong — they can do some good for me, though. I can remember what bothers me (sudden personality shifts, people I hate suddenly growing redeeming qualities, “melting” strong characters), and just not do them in my own books. I love me my heroine keeping her steel spine even when dealing with Mr. Hot Stuff. She even outdoes him a few times, and they save each other’s hides a few times.

And none of that silly “love at first sight” nonsense. There’s being attracted to someone at first sight (perfectly reasonable), and there’s knee-locking, foot-tripping, mouth-gaping, heart-thudding love-at-first-sight that makes me sigh and roll my eyes. Or the really obvious “attraction” *cough*Twilight*cough* that may as well be called love at first sight.

Am I a cynic? I don’t think so. I don’t mind romance, or love, or anything like that. But I have a few rules when it comes to my stories, and I really prefer it if the stories I read share them.

  1. Everyone is respected, regardless of gender/hobbies. I don’t care if his favorite color is pink and he loves watching rom-coms. You sit your butt down and you watch The Notebook with your boyfriend, girl.
  2. The girl does not give up her self-respect, competence, or ability to look after herself after the guy comes along, or vice-versa. I find it very hard to imagine how Twilight’s Bella Swan survived to live to 17 years old by the time of the first book if she was always as clumsy as she was around Edward. Which means; she took a sudden fall (get it?) in competence after Señor Sparkles came along.
  3. Seriously, they should have lives outside of each other. Your lover is a part of your world, not the whole world. In fact, platonic friendships should be just as important, if not more so, than the lover. Though the romantic relationship might take up a bit more of your time.
  4. No manipulation or mind-powers outside of the bedroom, and only if all parties consent. I don’t care about your “I was doing her a favor” excuses, Sir Rapist. Get out of my book.
  5. No abuse. Period. No exceptions. Not even if he “deserved it” for cheating on you.
  6. Also, no isolation from friends and family, please.
  7. No controlling or extreme suspicion. There is a limit to everything. If she’s spending absolutely all her time with her “gay best friend,” even though you’ve never, ever seen him with another guy, and they’re super close, you have the right to be suspicious. But even if she’s cheating on you, you have the right to break up with her/yell at her a bit, but nothing more.
  8. Platonic cuddles where setting-appropriate are worth a thousand steamy, grope-y kisses. I’m a softie.

Obviously, not every book in the world is going to follow these rules. And I doubt all of the books I write will follow them. But that’s the good thing about fiction: it pushes boundaries and our comfort zones. Will I some day write about mental manipulation? Sure. Right now, I’ve got an outline for a story about a brainwashing cult. It’s not a romantic relationship, but the basic principles are the same.

My point is that everyone has preferences. If other writers like writing about less healthy relationships: A) I hope you never have to deal with that in real life, and B) more power to ya. Just don’t expect me to read it and jump up and down over it.

Does anyone else here have a list of romance rules? Comfort zone rules? Any other rules, so I don’t feel like so much of a control freak? Let me know in the comments. I promise, I don’t bite 🙂

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