Jul 21 2011

10 Common but Totally Unrealistic Romance Storylines

Published by at 11:51 pm under Realism,Romance

I liked this list of common but unrealistic romance storylines.

 

I was not personally familiar with the Angry Kiss, but if anybody tried those shenanigans in real life, he’d probably be registered as a sex offender, fired, and subjected to a restraining order.  As for the Wealthy, Good-Looking Stranger, let’s be honest.  If somebody is wealthy, hot and “single,” he/she is probably a mental case and/or not actually single.  Case in point: Me.  I’m hot*, single and frequently sane, so obviously I’m unwealthy.  What can I say? Writing really is less lucrative than vagrancy.

 

*On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

32 responses so far

32 Responses to “10 Common but Totally Unrealistic Romance Storylines”

  1. Wingson 22 Jul 2011 at 3:17 pm

    “…if anybody tried those shenanigans in real life, he’d probably be registered as a sex offender, fired, and subjected to a restraining order.”

    And to think I just read this article yesterday.

    This is exactly why I am afraid of Jedi Penguin. As a fluff writer, she might actually believe this stuff.

    – Wings

  2. Grenacon 22 Jul 2011 at 9:58 pm

    I’m 12* and I will do what I read in romance storylines irl.

    Also, hot dog! 🙂

    *No, not really.

  3. Contra Gloveon 23 Jul 2011 at 3:51 am

    Here’s another one, common in anime: a spineless dweeb has several beautiful women move into his house, and they’ve all got a thing for him. Some shows do this well (Tenchi Universe, Ah My Goddess), but most don’t, and it quickly exasperates me when I see this setup.

  4. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 23 Jul 2011 at 4:50 am

    “Here’s another one, common in anime: a spineless dweeb has several beautiful women move into his house, and they’ve all got a thing for him. Some shows do this well (Tenchi Universe, Ah My Goddess), but most don’t, and it quickly exasperates me when I see this setup.”

    Whenever I see an anime or manga described as “harem”, I skip right over it. I prefer it when the characters are only liked by one or two people.

  5. B. Macon 23 Jul 2011 at 4:56 am

    Also, the youngest member of the Unwanted Harem is usually like 10. “Good God, where are your parents?”

  6. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 23 Jul 2011 at 6:09 am

    “Also, the youngest member of the Unwanted Harem is usually like 10. “Good God, where are your parents?””

    Oh God, squick. Also, you can usually count on having a sporty girl with either a very flat chest, or a very large one. One who cooks and is a total doormat. A shy one who can’t stand up for herself. A tsundere who picks on the guy but is hiding her feelings. All of them are walking cliches.

  7. B. Macon 23 Jul 2011 at 7:16 am

    “One who cooks and is a total doormat.” She’s frequently a Purity Sue. Because, apparently, there can’t be anything wrong with a woman that cooks. (Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it strikes me as Unfortunate Implications).

  8. Contra Gloveon 23 Jul 2011 at 8:55 am

    “One who cooks and is a total doormat.” She’s frequently a Purity Sue. Because, apparently, there can’t be anything wrong with a woman that cooks. (Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it strikes me as Unfortunate Implications).

    Unfortunate Implications? What’s wrong with a really nice woman that can cook?

    “Oh my God, she might, she might…feed you a delicious breakfast at your bedside! Such brutality!” (/sarcasm)

  9. Contra Gloveon 23 Jul 2011 at 8:55 am

    Whoops, forgot to close the italics tag. 🙁

  10. B. Macon 23 Jul 2011 at 11:09 am

    Don’t worry, I fixed the italics tag. 🙂

  11. Grenacon 23 Jul 2011 at 11:40 am

    Someone gave me Love Hina to read and I gagged. But oh my goodness, I hate the harem genre, it makes my brain broke.

  12. The Jedi Penguinon 23 Jul 2011 at 8:04 pm

    ““One who cooks and is a total doormat.” She’s frequently a Purity Sue. Because, apparently, there can’t be anything wrong with a woman that cooks. (Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it strikes me as Unfortunate Implications).”

    Either that or Real Women Never Wear Dresses. Which is also Unfortunate Implications.

    “This is exactly why I am afraid of Jedi Penguin. As a fluff writer, she might actually believe this stuff.” Come now Wings dear, I may write romantic fluff, but I do have a solid head on my shoulders. I do know that most romance novels and plots are highly unrealistic. As are most romantic archetypes as presented. (Who in their right mind would want to marry a rich lech? Come on now! And who falls for the the bitchiest girl on campus?)
    For this reason, I cant stand a vast number of published works in my genre, particularly for teens. I really really don’t like ill-done clichés…

    Ok, My one commentary on this article… why is being a virgin bride so unrealistic?! Are girls just supposed to give their virginity to the first guy they date? Is it like, unnatural to save yourself for marriage? If so, then I am proud to be unnatural and un-realistic.

  13. ekimmakon 24 Jul 2011 at 1:57 am

    Hmm… define Doormat.

  14. B. Macon 24 Jul 2011 at 3:38 am

    “Why is being a virgin bride so unrealistic?! … Is it like, unnatural to save yourself for marriage?” Uncommon, probably. I wouldn’t conflate “uncommon” with “unnatural,” though.

    It’s not very common in the U.S. For example, the average U.S. woman loses her virginity between 17 and 18. The median age of marriage for U.S. women is 26. So, talking just about realism, the authors of the above list believe that virgin brides are more common in novels than they are in real life. I wouldn’t recommend taking that as any sort of judgment on your choice.

  15. Julietteon 25 Jul 2011 at 2:12 pm

    I think you’re spot on about the Angry Kiss, though I reckon Lost on a Deserted Island is the least likely in real life… but don’t destroy my illusions about the Wealthy Stranger! (I live in hope 😉 )

  16. B. Macon 25 Jul 2011 at 3:34 pm

    “I reckon Lost on a Deserted Island is the least likely in real life.” Yeah, I agree. Are that many romances that use that sort of premise?



    “Don’t destroy my illusions about the Wealthy Stranger! (I live in hope 😉 ).” I like your style. But if you’re looking for Wealthy Strangers, what are you doing on a writing website? 🙂

  17. Wingson 26 Jul 2011 at 11:02 am

    On the topic of unrealistic romance, Jedi and I are working on a drinking game. Every time the male lead and the word “chiseled” are used in conjunction, take a shot. Every time the word “mysterious” is used in any context, take a shot. Every time the word “soulmate” is used, take two shots.

    Any other contributors?

    – Wings

  18. B. Macon 28 Jul 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Chiseled, sculpted, furtive glances, eyes compared to gems, mysterious, swarthy…

    PS: Helpful tip, ladies. If your boyfriend is being mysterious, it’s probably because he’s cheating on you. (Have you ever been in a relationship with someone mysterious that actually went well?)

  19. Wingson 28 Jul 2011 at 6:51 pm

    And we’re just going by the summaries and outer covers. See a cover featuring a random object on a black background with white lettering? Take a shot. The word “chagrin*” appears at all? Take a shot. The title has only one word? Take a shot. If that word is “Fallen” or “Nightmare” or “Damned” or something equally “goffik”, take another shot.

    And if there’s a vampire pun in the title, then drain the entire bottle and pray for forgetfulness.

    – Wings

    *Maybe you can have half a shot instead if it was used in a grammatically correct fashion. But don’t get your hopes up.

  20. B. Macon 28 Jul 2011 at 8:24 pm

    “And if there’s a vampire pun in the title, then drain the entire bottle and pray for forgetfulness.” Oh, God. P. Mac left Dying Bites on my desk the last time I saw him. I read the back cover briefly (looking for the ISBN so I could sell it*) and it’s got something about a vampire NSA.

    *Unfortunately, nobody wanted it. Can’t blame them.

  21. Wingson 28 Jul 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Or Dying Sucks. Or Life Sucks. Or Bite Me.

    Two of the above are real vampfic titles. Pick the fake one and win a replacement shot glass, as the current one must be worn out by overdrinkage.

    – Wings

  22. LA Writeron 05 Aug 2011 at 8:53 pm

    The childhood friends is waaay overplayed (even though I guiltily like a few stories like that). And I do agree with the anime harems, if you’ve seen one, you seen them all. And addressing the vampire comments, ever since Twilight, I have had a deep hatred for vampires. What is so sexy about a guy that could easily kill you in vile way and actually has a chance of getting away with it? I actually laughed at the Angry Kiss plot. It sounds like the guy has some mental issues if he’s kissing people he supposedly hates. I think the reason why these themes are so common is because it’s one of those fantasies that we kind of wish could happen to us because it’s such a larger than life story.

  23. B. Macon 05 Aug 2011 at 9:17 pm

    “What is so sexy about a guy that could easily kill you in vile way and actually has a chance of getting away with it?” But he’s a mysterious homicidal maniac–a crucial distinction.

  24. alxrgrson 13 Jan 2012 at 8:19 am

    I have an idea that’s different but complicated:
    In the present time, my protagonist (Ryan) begins working alongside his love interest (Leya). I’ll reveal that Ryan has actually known Leya for a long time and the romance to be gradual and only show real signs of “happening” later on. Now, in flashbacks to his childhood and teenhood, Ryan will have a very close friend (whose name I haven’t decided on yet), she will be the opposite of Leya, but retains an unrequited crush on Ryan as he struggles through a painful teenhood. She will stay with him faithfully up until his journey to superherodom begins.
    The idea is that the flashbacks will reveal a transition of this friend into the future Leya, with whom Ryan will become besotted.

    I would like to include this somehow, but is it too much? Could I make it work with some impact? Or should I stick to just the one character (Leya) with a slow reveal of romance? A transition from friend to lover? I like the idea because it would increase the intensity of their future relationship ten-fold, but whether it would work or not is something that I’m having trouble with.

  25. TheJediPenguinon 02 Apr 2012 at 4:53 pm

    *looks up* Hello younger, more naive me.

    Hmm, the plus side of all these plots… if you can write them, then you can sell something. Romance is a beautiful thing sometimes. Romance is escapism, which is why all these are so prevalent. And quite a few have some element of truth (childhood friends, ugly duckling) but rarely happen as they do in fiction.

    Anyway, enough obvious rambling. I was wondering if anyone here new of a good place to get romance writing advice or to post fics (that isn’t fictionpress)? I love SN, but I know most people here write superheroes, sci-fi and/or fantasy, not romance, which a massively different beast. And I’d love to be able to get my works out….

  26. B. McKenzieon 02 Apr 2012 at 9:11 pm

    I’m pretty clueless when it comes to romances. My best guess would be to try Google searches like how to write a romance, how to write a romance novel, how to make a love interest interesting, most common mistakes for romance writers, etc. Try checking out the top 10 hits and see which websites impress you. The good news (from your perspective) is that romances are a MUCH larger market than superhero novels, so there will be much more advice in the field (and many more people qualified to give advice).

  27. TheJediPenguinon 02 Apr 2012 at 9:58 pm

    I have been googling… Some of this is pretty good. I’m liking this site here (http://romanceuniversity.org/) for anyone else who needs help with romances. But alot of this is disenheartening…. One site keeps referring to sex scenes as “love scenes”. Euphemisms much? My word…. I swear up and down, romance is the hardest genre to write in the history of ever.

  28. B. McKenzieon 02 Apr 2012 at 10:38 pm

    “I swear up and down, romance is the hardest genre to write in the history of ever.” From a marketing perspective, I think there are harder niches than romance. I think it’d be harder to try making a career in a niche where there aren’t many readers predisposed to buy the works (e.g. superhero novels)–someone like Michael Chabon built his own audience and I’d guess that most of the people that read Amazing Adventures of K&C had never read a superhero novel before. The promotional channels for romance are better-developed and more publishers are (much) more receptive.

    If writing a romance novel is hard now, imagine trying to write one that you could pretty much only sell to people that hadn’t read a romance novel before.



    One aspect of writing romance that strikes me as quite tricky is that the conventions of the genre frequently put characters in unlikable situations. For example, if I were trying to do a love triangle with a female choosing between two guys, I think it’d be a delicate balance between making her indecisive enough to create uncertainty/drama but not so indecisive that she came across as half-hearted/uncommitted or, in Bella’s case, sociopathically heartless. In real life, I think a love triangle like This Means War would probably result in the female protagonist being dumped by both guys.

  29. TheJediPenguinon 02 Apr 2012 at 10:58 pm

    I think for someone trying to make a living, romance is in general one of the easiest genres to be published in, simply because there’s always a market, and someone will always relate or like it. Even if it’s Twilight.

    But to actually write it convincingly and well, as more than a side plot? It takes a full understanding of the emotions and sensations and humanity of love. The relationship won’t be all sunshine and bubbles, but people think it should be sometimes. It’s not all physicality and sex either (at least in the happy Official Couples), but some people think it should be. And then sometimes having to put aside your own preferences about plotting and style in favour of a publishers needs for a very demanding market, it can be difficult.

    There’s also the ghetto, that all romance is trashy and shouldn’t be respected. Superhero authors an probably relate to that. Critics don’t seem to want to admit that anything that isn’t “Literary Canon” is actually good.

  30. B. McKenzieon 02 Apr 2012 at 11:52 pm

    “There’s also the ghetto, that all romance is trashy and shouldn’t be respected. Superhero authors an probably relate to that.” I think that’s true for genre fiction in general. But, yeah, I think it comes down especially hard on superhero fiction aimed at adults. Hell, there’s even some of that elitism/pretentiousness within genres/niches. For example, I don’t read anything [aimed at adults] in the vein of Dragonball Z because I find it too juvenile–if you’re going to do pure action, you need to do it really well because movies, TV shows and probably comics will always have an edge in action scenes. In terms of a novel that can compete with movies on that front, I would consider Point of Impact an exemplar. (Granted, it’s military action, but I think the same level of characterization, depth and suspense would translate well to superhero action as well).

    One thing that surprised me about Twilight was that it was as trashy as a Fabio romance, but it somehow appealed to several highly-literate women I know. I couldn’t envision that ever happening for something along the lines of DBZ.

  31. TheJediPenguinon 03 Apr 2012 at 8:51 pm

    “Hell, there’s even some of that elitism within genres/niches. For example, I don’t read anything in the vein of Dragonball Z because I find it too juvenile.” I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, as long as all authors know what they’re creating and are happy with it. And more importantly, don’t try to trash people who write that genre expressly (I’m not saying you do B. Mac!). Like it or not, it has an audience. Most of us had an age/phase where we loved DBZ or an equivalent. But I doubt the majority of us want to write that, lol.

    “Even superhero works that are intelligent may be marketed in a way that relatively pretentious people* might be uncomfortable about enjoying them.” Haha, this reminds me of a friend I had in elementary and middle school. Him and I would often trade books with each other so we could read and talk about them. Except, I liked a lot of fantasy with female protagonists which therefore had “girly” cover art. He’d always hide the covers so no one knew he was reading books starring ladies.

    “One thing that surprised me about Twilight was that it was as trashy as a Fabio romance, but it somehow appealed to several highly-literate women I know. I couldn’t envision that ever happening for something along the lines of DBZ.” The thing about Twilight… in my perspective, it was /almost/ a fantastic book. It had some interesting concepts and such. It had almost good characters. But it read like a first draft manuscript to me, with bad diction, bad syntax, unrealistic characterisation of the main character– whose head we were forced to live in. But he main thing it does is provide escapism, (almost) every woman dreams of the perfect man, always alluring, who protects and takes care of you. And twilight plays very well to that sensibility, with its easy readability and perfect guys. And it’s directly aimed at older girls and was written by a middle aged woman so… I think DBZ is more aimed directly at children, and so is regarded in the children’s area, not something to be regarded by adults. It’s a boy’s dream at heart.

  32. B. McKenzieon 03 Apr 2012 at 10:09 pm

    “And more importantly, don’t try to trash people who write that genre expressly…” Good advice. Not alienating people based on taste is a strong move because it’s almost impossible to find somebody that has exactly the same tastes as you do.



    “He’d always hide the covers so no one knew he was reading books starring ladies.” I think male readers usually get less exposure to female leads than vice versa. That creates issues for male authors because when guys write female characters (whether as major characters or just as side characters), it is obvious whether they have read any books with female leads because the characters are boring knockoffs of Hollywood cliches. If you’re an author in this situation, some male-friendly stories with interesting female leads include Hunger Games, Silence of the Lambs (the novel), maybe Ella Enchanted, and Persepolis. If your tastes run more literary, I also recommend Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, and Sister Carrie.

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