It’s no secret that pretty much everyone dislikes insta-love in novels. Two characters that just by looking at each other are instantly smitten makes us roll our eyes. There are cases when we can tolerate it or even sort of like it, but that doesn’t happen often. There are endless posts and articles out there talking about this trope and why people find it annoying, yet authors still use it in their books. Whenever I encounter it, I think to myself:
Don’t they know that the book community rejects it with a passion?! Are they writing it on purpose or are they oblivious to the fact that they used it?
No matter how much hate it receives, this controversial trope still makes appearances in many many books. It is especially evident in Young Adult novels, but Contemporary and New Adult books do not fall far behind. So today I thought I would ramble a bit on my thoughts on it and why I think authors still go for it.
I think one of the biggest problems with this trope is mistaking insta-love for attraction. The former relates to quickly becoming involved with a person, caring about them, their needs and feelings without actually knowing them that well. So, pretty much jumping into a relationship with a stranger for whatever reason:
- They have nice eyes.
- They smiled.
- They are mysterious.
- The characters crashed in a hallway and all the books fell from their arms, making them the clumsy star-crossed lovers of this generation that will save the world and beat the odds to finally be together forever and ever.
- I might have gone too far with that one… but you get what I mean.
Attraction, on the other hand, is simply that feeling of connection towards someone, which could grow to become something more with time. It’s pretty obvious that a key word here is time. A real relationship needs time to grow so the people involved can get to know each other and actually know if they care about the other person or not.
My biggest pet peeve when it comes to insta-love is whenever the characters meet, feel attracted to one another and by the time they meet again they are already professing their love. They jump from attraction to insta-love! There are no conversations in between, they don’t learn anything about each other, but they still think they are a match made in heaven. However, sometimes authors develop the relationship from there on and I can tolerate it, but others don’t even do that.
As a reader, one of my favorite things about a book is character growth. So whenever I encounter insta-love, it breaks my heart. It’s a missed opportunity to explore the characters! So, why is it so common? Let’s look at some of the reasons I came up with:
- Writing relationships is hard. Capturing a relationship on paper is not simple and insta-love provides an easy way out. Maybe the problem arises when they want to transform that initial attraction between characters into something more smoothly, but the plot doesn’t allow them to spend too much time developing it.
- Authors don’t realize it’s insta-love. This might be a flaw in character development or relying too much on what the people involved think of each other instead of actually putting them in scenes together to interact.
- They see it in other popular books and replicate it. Authors are readers and constantly pick up book in their own genre. Because of this, they all draw inspiration from one another intentionally or unintentionally. For example, the infamous phrase “I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding”. I kept seeing in one YA novel after the other – I was baffled. Forgetting to breath couldn’t be that common! It had never happened to me, so why were all these people saying that? Then I realized that, just as I had noticed, authors who read the same books had too. Maybe they liked the phrase, maybe it got stuck in their mind without them knowing, and they replicated it in their own novels. Whatever reason, it had an influence among a circle of similar writers. The same thing can be said for insta-love.
- They don’t know readers hate it. Maybe they are really disconnected from the online book community and they have no idea how much people complain about it.
- They truly enjoy it. Maybe they find love at first sight thrilling and including it in their novels is fun for them.
No matter the reason, insta-love is alive and well in literature. Is it what readers want? I really don’t think so. Insta-love isn’t realistic and it’s not a cute fantasy. We love reading fiction and made-up worlds, stories and people, but we expect all of these to be founded on realistic human emotions, motivations and relationships. We want to relate to what we are reading to an extent and insta-love doesn’t allow it. For me, this trope is a shortcut that deprives us of exploring proper interactions between characters and I have to say… I would not miss it if authors never used it again.