Romantic Shtuff

We all like fairy tales, right? No? Well, except the guy in the third row, 56th from the right, I think I’m right in saying that we all like fairy tales. In our storytelling culture today we grow up with them, whether in Disney movies or just with our mom reading them to us out of a picture book. When we learn to read, what is that which we learn to read first? No, not King Lear, not Chaucer, not the Three Musketeers, but fairy tales like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast. What is the main theme that pervades all these bedtime stories? I’ll tell you, if you want: romance. We all love romance; happily-ever-after stories that leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

So that brings us to our blog chain topic: What are your thoughts on romance for your typical genre? Do you tend to have a little, a lot, or none at all?

I must say that I don’t really like romance, but I like it. I think it’s a good seasoning, but a book that’s based only around it is a little boring for me. I’m a boy; I like duels more than proposals, talks about philosophy rather than about love, enormously complicated plots rather than enormously complicated feelings. I don’t find romantic stories fascinating; I find them rather boring. I preferred Prince Andre’s part in the campaign against Napoleon in War and Peace to seeing Natasha pine for him. I preferred the enacting of Monte Cristo’s master plan to the problem of Valentine marrying a man she didn’t love in The Count of Monte Cristo.

Romance in fantasy, my typical genre, is sometimes a large backstory, sometimes a small backstory, sometimes a nonexistent backstory; the appeal for fantasy is in the concepts, like the existence of dragons, time travel, magic, things like that. The characters fall in love, but it’s never the main focus of the story. Though we all wanted Sam Gamgee to end up with Rosie Cotton and Aragorn with Arwen, that wasn’t the point of the story; more than all that we wanted Frodo to throw in the Ring, Sauron to be destroyed, and Gandalf the Grey to return as Gandalf the White. We really don’t care about romance as much as the evil being defeated. Again, that’s just me.

But in all I’ve said, I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I like romance when I’m reading, I enjoy it, and I think it’s a good tool in some cases. I read Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw and liked it a lot—the story was great and the characters fascinating—but one of the key elements in the choices that the main character makes is romance. Romance plays a large role in that book, and I can’t say anything against it. The same with Inkheart. I rather enjoyed the way attractions affect choices, like Farid to Meggie, Dustfinger to Resa, and even Her Ugliness to Mo (though the last was one-sided at best). I thought that was brilliant.

So yes, I do want the guy to get the girl in the end. That was why I almost threw Gregor and the Code of Claw out the window when I finished it. The same with Ptolemy’s Gate, of the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud; I don’t know why I thought K— should have ended up with N—, but I did. But both of those, despite the crushing endings, were good books/series.

When I write I tend to have a little romance, because as I said before, romance is a seasoning that helps the reader enjoy the book. A book without romance isn’t always the greatest, unless the writer really is the greatest. For instance, the Chronicles of Narnia; where’s the romance in that? It’s mostly between Aslan and his Kings and Queens, not between Caspian and Susan like the movie. (That was kinda stupid, in my opinion.) The books themselves are great, romance or no; C. S. Lewis was a great writer.

I’m not the greatest writer of romance, which is why I don’t write mostly romantic stories; I have it as a small backstory, if ever. Of course, in some places you can’t avoid romance; Isaac Phael, for example, is a Prince in a fairy-tale world who’s looking for a wife. He’s already destroyed his chances with Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, the Princess and the Pea, Beauty and the Beast. He even wrecked Hansel and Gretel’s future, and now he’s starting on the Rapunzel. Much romance? Yes and no. He never falls in love completely, but he tries to. Quite fun, actually.

I have said in the past that I think romance is the ultimate cliché. I hate clichés, and only mention them to make fun. (That’s why I like spoofs.) And romance, well, if you think about it, it’s pretty darn old. I mean, Shakespeare wrote romantic stories. Who doesn’t read Shakespeare saying “So that’s where that cliché came from!” Okay, maybe it’s just me, but still. Another example: fairy tales, as I said above. There comes a point in your life when you realize that you just aren’t as interested in fairy tales as you once were; they get old after a while. But why? I think it’s because of the romance involved.

I know I’ve rambled a ton in this post, and I’m sure I’ve contradicted myself even more, so I’ll finish up. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t object to romance, but I don’t like too much. I see it as something to laugh at if it’s unnecessary to the plot.

Anyway, here I stop.

So saying, I go on to tell you all the participating parties, day by day:

February 5– –Novel Journeys

February 6– –Lily’s Notes in the Margins

February 7– –Kirsten Writes!

February 8– — Comfy Sweaters, Writing and Fish

February 9– –A Farewell to Sanity

February 10– –The Word Asylum

February 11– –From My Head

February 12– –Esther Victoria1996

February 13– –Embracing Insanity

February 14– –Red Herring Online

February 15– –Go Teen Writers (Honorary Participant)

February 16– –This Page Intentionally Left Blank

February 17– –Oh Yeah, Write!

February 18– –The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer

February 19– –Here’s To Us

February 20– –Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for next month’s chain)

And here I stop. Really.

Leave a comment


  1. Nice post! I agree with what you said about romance being in the background, and being a seasoning. To use one of my ridiculous food analogies, romance is like nutmeg or cardamom; it’s good in small quantities, and can definitely improve some dishes, but too much is sickening. Romance is not cheese, which is good on anything.
    I would definitely rather read about the bad guys being stopped than what the girl thinks about the guy, or vice versa. Cheering in battles is way more fun than sighing at a declaration of love.

    • Yes, cheese is definitely better than romance. Humor, perhaps, is like cheese; good on everything except bitter things. Humor during a torture scene is just… ick. Thanks for the input!

  2. Great post! I, being a not-so-secret hopeless romantic, am rather inclined to enjoy having romance one of the key plot elements in fantasy, but I don’t really like romance-only books a la Sarah Dessen. I need to have some epic battles, evil overlords and doom and destruction as well as the touchy-feely goop.
    I’m compelled to mention that I love fairy tales…but not the happily-ever-after sanitized-by-Disney type. I like to read stories as close to the original form as possible: for example, I prefer the version where Red Riding Hood gets eaten, no resurrection for her or Grandma. I particularly enjoy the Cinderella in which the wicked stepsisters chop off parts of their own feet and doves peck out their eyes at the end. The lack of super-soprano singing is an added bonus.

    • Have you heard of the version of Goldilocks and the three bears where Goldilocks is actually an old lady, and the bears chase her until she somehow manages to impale herself on a church steeple?

  3. John Hansen

     /  February 18, 2012

    I so agree!! I don’t like plots based solely around romance. They bore me, too, but I guess that’s natural as a guy. However, the right amount of romance as a backstory can be really interesting and can make a book even better!
    Nice post and thanks for participating.

  4. Great posts. I share your sentiments. Love and romance are good when they’re happening to me. Otherwise they’re boring. Cliche spotting is also a favourite past time of mine by the way.

  5. Miriam Joy

     /  February 19, 2012

    You’ve read Ptolemy’s Gate. I like you. Ptolemy’s Gate is one of my all-time favourite books. I kind of liked the ending, though, because it made the book different. Also, I don’t like happy endings. Would Kitty ever have been happy with Nat? I mean, they liked each other, yeah, but they would’ve argued at the whole time. He would have had to be proper bossy not to get totally hen-pecked and she would have thought he was lording it over her because he was a magician, and he would just end up shamed because she is TOO AWESOME for him. Seriously. That’s how I see it. It wouldn’t have lasted.

    Agreement also on the good-over-evil rather than relationship-over-loneliness sort of thing. Plus, I know Eowyn ended up with Faramir, but I still felt sorry for her when Aragorn was all just like, “Arwen is amazing! Blah blah blah! I haven’t noticed that you love me too!”

    And I also agree with the Caspian/Susan thing. The films are WRONG. No, no, no! That is not how it works! Those are CHILDREN’S books and they DO NOT kiss. *sigh* What was even with that?

    Oops, essay comment. Sorry.

    • Yes, I was thinking about that today. There’s something about the main character, however despicable, sacrificing himself for the greater good. It makes for an interesting ending.
      I’m not even sure Kitty and Nat did like each other. I think it was more a fantasy on my part when it came to that.
      All long comments are accepted.

      • Miriam Joy

         /  February 20, 2012

        Nat definitely liked Kitty – I think it was a little one-sided.

        “You’re so beautiful!”
        “What, only now?”

        That made me laugh 🙂

      • Yes, that was funny. And Bartimaeus’s most frequent form in that book was Kitty’s. So I suppose so.

  6. DK

     /  January 1, 2014

    I am smiling at the thought of you writing romance, even as a ‘seasoning’. I don’t know why, but the image of you I have in my head DOES NOT write romance. At all. Ever. Don’t ask. xD

    Anyway, yeah, I agree with everything you’ve said in this post. I get tremendously put-off by romance, usually. But I think I’m beginning to understand why. Or I’ve always known, I’ve just not paid to much attention to it. Anyway, it’s the girl. Unless the female character is an interesting one, I think the romance falls flat on its head. This is curious, because no matter what the male character is like, I’ve noticed it’s the female who can either make the romance brilliant or make it as disgusting as over-sweetened cough syrup.

    Allow me to supplement my argument.

    1) Twilight. Bella is stupid. ‘Nuff said.

    2) Hunger Games (some people love this series but I hate it like I hate eggplant). I think Katniss is bitter, whiny, mean and selfish. It doesn’t matter what Gale and Peeta are like. The focus is Katniss, and she puts me off either of the two guys.

    3) Percy Jackson. In the original series, I actually loved Percy/Annabeth because Annabeth was really cool. (Of course, HoO is a different story…) Hazel leaves no impression on me whatsoever, so the Leo/Hazel/Frank triangle has no charm. Piper…let’s not even go there. You know how I feel about her.

    4) Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami. I don’t think you’ve read this and I don’t think you’ll want to. It’s a romance novel. Sort of. (Though dumbing down Murakami’s writing to ‘Romance novel’ ought to be a crime.) Anyway, there’s a love triangle (sort of), and the reason it’s my favourite book is because both the girls, Naoko and Midori, are so *interesting*. They’re not tropes, they’re not Mary Sues, none of that. They’re individual people with unique quirks and though they’re perfectly normal girls (in a way), they’re also special. They stand out. Had even one of these girls been pathetic, the book would have been awful.

    These are just the books that come to my mind immediately. It all seems to depend on the girl. If she’s boring/annoying/pathetic, the romance is boring/annoying/pathetic. I wonder why. Thoughts?


    • …What? Liam wrote a post on this?

      I agree with you again… “I don’t know why, but the image of you I have in my head DOES NOT write romance. At all. Ever.”

      And I also think you may be right about the girl.

      • You guys are weird. My heart is not made of stone. Solidified Play-Doh, maybe, but not stone.

        No thoughts, really, DK. Personally, I think that if any character in the love triangle is flat or useless, the whole thing falls flat. It’s much better just to see interesting characters as mandatory.

      • DK

         /  January 2, 2014

        Obviously you don’t have a heart of stone. But I guess I don’t picture you writing romance because you seem a bit…well, taciturn. And therefore seem as someone who would not write romance at all. Does that make sense? XD

        Interesting characters are mandatory, of course, but interesting females even more so. That what I’ve noticed.

      • Of course it does. That’s the persona I’ve created on the internet. (My evil plan is working…)

        Personally, I don’t believe you can win with an interesting girl and two cardboard cutouts. If she’s so interesting, why is she settling for them? If you can make one character interesting, you can make all of them interesting, and it’s generally better to do so.

      • DK

         /  January 2, 2014

        What does having a taciturn persona on the internet achieve, exactly? (Apart from making people think you never write romance and you have a heart of stone :P)

        Out of curiosity, have you read The Hunger Games?

      • For one thing, it allows me to forgo holiday posts, which are often purely sentimental and useless. Actually, a lot of this persona you’re seeing is derived from the analyzing I do. Instead of gushing about emotional books or how awesome things are, I pick them apart. It’s easier to do in text.

        Yes, I have.

      • Robyn Hoode

         /  January 4, 2014

        Ladies, you forget that the Head Phil has written romance. Phil Phorce. Of course, then he complained of one half of that romance being uninteresting and then that romance was terminated…

      • Robyn Hoode

         /  January 4, 2014

        Solidified Play-Doh..? So, add a little water and it becomes soft again, albeit a little slimy?

      • That’s for me to know and you to preferably forget about.

      • Robyn Hoode

         /  January 5, 2014

        I think Play-Doh exposed to too much heat chrystalizes. I’ve seen it.

        Why should I forget? You seem oddly concerned about this…
        Besides, I have a very good memory. Now that you have expressed preference that I should forget, I will probably never forget.

      • Of course, I’m only telling you to forget so you concentrate on not forgetting, while you actually need to forget the other important thing I may have said…

      • Robyn Hoode

         /  January 6, 2014

        Oh, snap…

  7. DK

     /  January 4, 2014

    I see, Liam.
    And what was your opinion on Katniss Evermean–ahem, pardon me, Everdeen?

    Robyn, I’ll probably start reading Phil Phorce this year. I haven’t read the earlier posts because I always seemed to chance upon them when it was halfway into the story and so I could never fully understand them.


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