The INSTA-LOVE trope: just add water!


There are few things more grating to me than the insta-love trope seen so often in fiction. This device essentially involves shoving two characters in the same room, then poking them with a stick until they have nowhere else to go but each other’s arms.

The development of their relationship usually looks like this:

“Hi there! You’re nearby!”
“You’re nearby too! Imagine the odds.”
“Also I couldn’t help but notice that you are very attractive. I’m going to spend a few paragraphs waxing poetic about your attractiveness if you don’t mind.”
“Go ahead! I have no other substantial qualities anyway.”
“Yeah, me neither. At least none that would form a unique connection between us.”
“My author is saying to get a move on and declare our love already.”
“Right, sorry! I love you.”
“I love you too!”

The reason these insta-loves bug me is because they’re not based on anything. Why are these characters interested in each other? What is pulling them? Plot and authorial decision are not good enough. Neither is beauty. If I have to read one more story where Mr. Protagonist falls for Miss Angelic Beauty of Beautiful Beautifulness for no other reason than how she looks, I’m going to start throwing books out of windows. Watch your head.


I just don’t care. It’s a shallow relationship. Sure, people have shallow relationships in real life all the time, but I don’t want to read about them. Honestly though, I don’t think “realism” is the reason. I think it’s lazy character development and author impatience. Or maybe they feel obligated to throw in a romantic side-plot, so they squish two people together just to check off a list. (Movies are a prime culprit of this. Hey Hollywood, quit shoving smooches in where no smooches belong! I’d rather have NO romance over a pointless one!) When it’s not a side-story but the whole narrative itself, I imagine they want the romance to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Least common denominator. I get that, but for me, there’s gotta be something more, some basis that differentiates this couple from every other pair of carbon-based life forms.

How to accomplish this? Simple: Just Ask Why. WHY do they like each other? WHY are they together? “Why” is the most important question in a writer’s arsenal. It is the lasagna noodle of books: it layers things. And layered is what makes good stories.

When I read about a relationship, I want to root for the characters. I want to cheer them on! To do that, I have to understand what drew them together in the first place. I want to be able to say, “You crazy kids were made for each other.”

Not: “You crazy kids have compatible face shapes.”


Tell me, what are your pet peeves when it comes to romance in a story?

Now, on a more positive note, I hope you all have a happy Valentines Day! Hug a book this Feb 14th! ❤


11 thoughts on “The INSTA-LOVE trope: just add water!

    • I can’t think of what I’d call the worst offenders because honestly, MOST books/movies are guilty of this. Maybe they think the audience doesn’t need the Why, that they’ll relate to simply the *spirit* of the romance. “I’ve been in love before, these characters are in love, that’s all I need.” I also think it’s the least common denominator thing, where they want as many people as possible to implant themselves in the character. But that just doesn’t work for me. Without the Why, there’s no DEPTH. I want depth! It’s funny that character motivation is such a crucial thing to writers in every other aspect of plot… except romance. With romance, motivation is allowed to go out the window.


      • I recently watched Tristan and Isolde and kept thinking, “Wait, isn’t this supposed to be one of the most famous love stories of all time? Why does James Franco only have like three lines in this entire movie?” Action movies are probably the worst of all, but even romantic comedies tend to rely on the basic ingredients of “attractiveness + availability” to cook up their relationships. I only made it through half of Enchanted before shutting it off, but I remember that this (sung) conversation happens in one of the first scenes:

        Prince: What’s your name?
        Princess: [Tells him her name]
        Prince: I love you, let’s get married!

        What are your favorite counter-examples of this trope?

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Even a mutual adoration of pizza would be better than “hey we have hot faces, let’s mash them together.” Just somethinggggg. I couldn’t agree more with you on this. As I was reading it, I was like THEY DO THIS IN MOVIES FOREVER and then you mentioned it and yep. You and I have a better love story than THESE PEOPLE.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, I love this note. I want to have a romantic side-plot with this note.

      Yes, it’s the worst in movies. I can’t even count how many times I’ve rolled my eyes so hard at a nonsensical script-formula smooch that I lost my eyeballs in the back of my head.


  2. The title of your post suggested adding water – how about we take your fictional (and fantastically accurate) scene and put the protagonists in a sealed room slowly filling with water? Perfect 🙂

    It’s actually difficult for me to recall many believable romances I’ve seen or read. My eyes are still burning and my stomach is still roiling from reading Peter V Brett’s The Daylight War which manages to incorporate a sort of love triangle with hideously bad and repetitive “I love you. No, I love you.” dialogue. It’s left me with a need to restore my faith in both romance and the fantasy genre.

    Rant over. I agree with you wholeheartedly!!


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