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The Implications of Vapid Love Interests

We all know the drill. The love interest (female) falls off a tall tower, only to be saved by the (male) hero.

Or, perhaps the (female) narrator talks about how perfect the (male) love interest’s abs are for three pages. As there is nothing more to your love interest than their looks and the ability to make the hero look good.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not that interested in what a person looks like so much as the personality that goes with it. Because we, as skeletons held together with fat and muscle, are also electric sparks.

We are personality, memory, and movement. This is caused by the sparks of electricity in the brain. Our brains are what makes us sentient, they are what tells our hearts to keep pumping blood. If we are nothing more than classic good looks, we are statues.

Thanks for the science lecture, but what has this got to do with me and my love interest?

Great question, thanks for asking.

I’ve mentioned a few times before about the importance of having well-rounded characters and why you should give an actual purpose to why your character is in the damn story. This is true even with love interests.

A blog article I read a while ago (or was it an author’s Q&A on their site?) said that love should be a consequence of the story, not the prize. Romance, even the “romance novels” books, should never be the plot of the story.Cupid and Psyche

Am I debunking the rom-coms my mother loves so much? Yes. I think I am. But I don’t care, because I want cause-and-effect and reality-ensues.

When you fall in love, there are no sparks.

Love does not end with the person’s pretty face.

I have watched my friends fall in love with each other so many times, and they were nearly always best friends. First and foremost, as I told one of my friends, true love is when your partner is also your best friend.

Even after a quarter of a century together, my parents are still in love. (It’s sickening. I mean, ew, they’re my parents.)

YOUR CHARACTERS SHOULD NOT BE ANY DIFFERENT!!!

Your romance needs to be more than a meet-cute and a jealous rival. Your characters need to care more about when they're next getting laid. Click To Tweet

If you want people to see your characters as living, breathing people, create them to BE people.

Yes, even that space elf with long purple hair and giant tits. She needs to DO SOMETHING other than look pretty and hang off the arm of Captain Kirk.

I brought the subject up in my Overly Masculine Heroes rant, but I’ll raise it again.

Your story is about your characters, and your characters’ actions are what drives the plot. If your love interest is only there to wave pompoms and scream about how big your hero’s dick is, I don’t want to read your story. This is not about equality, she isn’t furthering the plot in any way, why is she still in the story?

Your love interests, much like your villains, should have their own goals, agendas, and complicate the plot in some way. Maybe your love interest’s brother is held captive by Dark Lord Hamish, and if Sexy Marty Stu (as in, the male equivalent of Mary Sue) wants to see him alive again . . .

And, while I could rant about author insertions, I’ll keep it brief.

WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THE GODS WOULD YOU PULL AN ERAGON TRAINING MONTAGE JUST TO HAVE THE PERFECT HERO?

No, real life doesn’t work that way. This lack of logic pulls readers (i.e., me) from the story. It doesn’t take three days to become a Kung-Fu master. I wasn’t a master at archery after a single demonstration.

No single living being is perfect. These imperfections are what make characters flawed humans. Or sexy space elf vampires in short skirts which are super impractical for life on a space ship.

If your character fucks up, it adds to the drama. If your character is perfect at everything and single-handedly saves the day, I’m questioning what drugs they’re on.

Seriously.

So, are you saying I shouldn’t include a love interest in my story?

Not at all, I just want you to think about the real reason you’re including the character.

Ask yourself “WHY” quite a bit. As in:

  • Do you want to include a love interest? Why?
  • Okay, so you want the hero to fall in love. Why?
  • Because you want a sexy love triangle between a vampire, a werewolf, and a human? WHY?
  • Because the paranormal romance genre demands it? Why?
  • Because readers expect it? Why? Because other authors did it? Why?

It boils down to wish-fulfilment, in most cases. But I guarantee the answers you get from asking why are worth it.

The main point is your characters deserve a better reason to be in the story in the first place. If you want to write a love triangle, do it like Cassandra Clare and have it between more than three people who have issues of their own.

So, Clary loves Jace and Simon. Jace is believed to be her brother (he’s not) and Simon is a human-turned-vampire. Simon, for his part, chases after Clary, then leaves her with Jace to go after both Isabelle and Maia at the same time. Isabelle goes after the supernatural creatures her parents disprove of anyway, and Maia’s ex turns back up. Jace takes a turn at persuading his pseudo-brother that the sexy male warlock is a good idea (hey, there’s now a trilogy about those two!).

Okay, see how that’s a better (if slightly confusing) way to do love triangles than “I’m a clumsy human and vampires and werewolves hate each other. But they both want me.”

What’s the point of the rant this time?

Ooh boy. Here we go. The highlights:

  • If your love interest doesn’t do anything in your story, scrap them. If your love interest doesn’t further the plot in any way, scrap them.
  • In a world of equality, why are love interests treated like eye candy and nothing else? Think about that.
  • By “further the plot”, I do not mean she gets kidnapped. No, Indy, don’t chase after the damned woman.
  • Perfect characters are not real. Or they’re wish-fulfilment fanfiction. Are you writing wish-fulfilment fanfiction?
  • The best and most realistic love interests are the ones who have a primary role as a sidekick or mentor, someone the protagonist spends a lot of time with.
  • Past abuse is not a good excuse for the whole “dark and troubled past” schtick. Try “I killed someone by accident”, or “I was trapped in a collapsing building with a dead body for 48 hours.”

Basically, love is not the end-all of your story. Your characters need a better reason to exist in the story than “because I need to love interest”.

Now, go forth and think about the implications of vapid love interests.

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