Romance is possibly the most readable genre on Earth. And no matter what age you started reading, sooner or later you would have come by a romance novel. One of my own first novels was “Love Story” by Erich Segal. The fact is, a tryst with romantic novels is one you simply cannot avoid. And it is probably good too. Romantic novels are one of those novels which because of the topics they cover are quite simply things could lift your mood. However, right now, I have become more and more distant from the genre because reading any romantic novel seems to instill this sense of deja vu in me, this feeling that am reading an old work again.
Romantic novels have basically become a form of fantasy where love seems to be the ultimate medicine for everything. The writers write in characters with flaws and then basically a love interest coming along makes those flaws disappear automatically. Love can apparently cure cancers and AIDS now. Hell, I am sure if someone was writing “love in the Time of Cholera” other than Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Fermina would be fit as a fiddle in that age, and have no wrinkles at all. While optimism in this form is good, it offers a very bad idea to the reader. There is this thought process that a lover can cure anything that you have, and it will all be alright, just because you have a lover. This is basically a very sad way of thinking about love. Love can obviously increase your self confidence and that goes a long way for people to become better but, it does not cure you. You have to aid yourself through that.
When someone abuses you, or you are in depression, you consult a therapist. You get with a doctor that will help you with the issues. Or else you work through those issues yourself. The first point in it being that you should love yourself first of all, before anyone else extends that courtesy to you.
This attitude that romances have of “you are meant to love someone and to be saved by someone” is basically detrimental to characters. Can you believe that? Someone born just to fall in love with someone else? It falls immediately under bad characterization when your character’s ingenuity lies in their soul mates. You cannot write in characters that exist because they have to fall in love with someone else. A feeling that many seem to share. Not only is it wrong from a social perspective, at the end of the day it is a very escapist form of story writing, where you are basically writing a character for the story, and not a story with the character.
There is in fact no problem in writing a fantasy but, you must follow the canonical laws of your own universe.
The characters themselves are cliche. Love as a matter of fact is a boring entity when you think about it. It is about two people coming together and having escapades, and changing things with themselves and around them. It is romantic to think of it as something ethereal and beautiful but, at the end, love’s nature does not change. What is so different with one love and another is basically the participants. And that is the problem with today’s love stories. The characters seem to fall into this very narrow spectrum. You have to be a certain age, be a certain amount of beautiful and have a certain kind of charm to be in a love story. So, what we get are novels after novels which end up reading exactly the same. The characters are more or less attractive, and are somehow noticed by the other protagonist (who by the way seems to be the player and gives no other girl the time) and it ends up being an experience. Their are many variants. The male protagonist becomes an alpha, an incorrigible fool who seems to have no issue in calculating his years lived with the amount of women have ravished.
“But, cliches are cliches for a reason right? I mean they work their magic”
Oh yes, they are important but, the basic fact is, their past and their actions do not weigh down upon them. Their status is not affected at all by the decisions they take or by the kinds of person they are. if they are insecure about their position to an extent that they must “conquer” women to make themselves feel better they would be the same even while in a relationship. Relationships may change a person but, their decisions taken before the relationship does not stop bearing on them just because they are in love right about then.
Plus, this cliched look at characters also leaves a lot to be desired. Are the other sections of society completely devoid of love? Or just because your rose tinted glasses cancel out everything that is wrong with the society, is the society right now devoid of all wrongs?
Also there is this feeling there which seems to say “Go big or go home” which leads to this huge fights hige decisions and everything. However, as a fact of the matter, small decisions matter the most in a relationship. No one is saying that going big is bad, but, for the chance of going big if you go ahead and make the small things stop mattering it weighs down the story and ultimately makes it look bad. Look, things matter ok. You are going to live with a person, small fights and disturbances do occur. Hell, one of my biggest fights with a friend was about the movies we were going to watch. If you are condensing the story, leave some little details in, leave some rituals. Because hell, those things matter more than the huge fights.
At the end of the day romance has become boring and oft repeated. Almost always containing a particular young and attractive character. It has become a genre which is filled with novels that end up reading like re-tellings. In fact in today, I would admit, a best selling romance novel for me is more of a red flag than bad reviews.