Okay, I’m definitely guilty of this one in my writing, but I’m trying to improve and make it better, so I’m going to talk about it anyway.
A lot of the time when I read new books, I find them really boring. Maybe I think everything should be at a higher level now that I’ve read Brandon Sanderson’s books, but I really feel like there’s something missing in all of those books.
You see, sometimes I find myself reading a book, just wishing I could be at the end so that I could make sure these two characters would fall in love and have their happily ever after and then I could stop reading. Sometimes that need to make sure they end up together really is the only thing keeping me finishing certain books. And even if they do end up together, I end up feeling kind of disappointed and meh.
I think it’s because they throw it in randomly, like subplots are toppings you can put on top of a hot dog to try to make it edible, when really, they should be a part of the meat that’s ground up into the…actually, let’s not go there.
Instead, let’s talk Kung Fu Panda.
I love this movie. It was well-done, really funny, and I really did love it. But then they decided to make a second one. It seems, as a rule, that the first movies are always the best, unless you decide to plan for them.
I’m pretty sure they didn’t plan for Kung Fu Panda 2. I mean, obviously they gave themselves an opening for it with Po’s dad being a duck. (“Honestly, Dad, sometimes it’s hard to believe I’m actually your son.”) But it just felt like they said, “Hmm, let’s make more money by making a second movie, and since Po feels acceptance now, we’ve got to give him another internal conflict. Oh, right, the tragic backstory! That’ll work.” And…I didn’t really end up liking it.
And now they have Kung Fu Panda 3. I haven’t seen it yet, but just from the cover it looks like I know what subplot they decided to throw on there–romance. I have to say, I’m amazed they made it to the third movie without it. *clap clap*
Why am I amazed? Because romance is one of the easiest ways to trick readers into keeping reading/watching even when there isn’t any other interesting plot. We’re human, and romance draws us. Why did I finish all those books that I didn’t really like? Because I wanted to make sure it ended right, because we almost all like happy endings and people finding love and happiness.
While some romance is done really well, and while I love romance and ships and all that stuff, I’ve found that I have a real big appreciation for books I finish and enjoy that don’t have romance in them at all, because it shows me that their plot is actually good.
Take for example, the book I just finished today, Forest Born by Shannon Hale. The MC didn’t have any love interest throughout the whole book, and yet I still kept reading, because the story is what interested me. The three books before that in the series all had romance, but the main plot was way more important, and kept me thoroughly interested.
Or, let’s take The Lord of the Rings. There wasn’t much romance in that, especially in the books. In the movies there was a little bit more, but still the main plot was much more important, and as far as relationships went, it was obvious that Sam and Frodo’s friendship was the most important one. And I really, really loved that. I cried at the end of the third movie when SPOILERSPOILERSPOILER Frodo left, and I don’t cry very often in movies or books at all. There was something about that friendship that was so much more touching than any romance.
So what’s my point of this post? I’m not saying that romance is bad to have in books; in fact, I love it. But what I’m trying to say is that romance and shippiness shouldn’t be the only thing driving your readers through to the end of the book. Ask yourself if your novel could still survive if there wasn’t romance in it.
As far as my humble opinion goes, I really believe that romance is used as a crutch far too often in modern literature. Sometimes it makes sense, in romance novels and some realistic fic stuff, but in most books, I want a plot that makes me excited and characters that make me want to follow them. I want so much more than just romance, and maybe that’s greedy, but it’s true.
So I’m asking myself now: Could my Zel novel survive without romance? (I’m ignoring the fact that it’s a fairy tale retelling at the moment.) And thinking about that question, I think there might be a few things I need to change.
Like maybe actually adding some side characters in. But I think I’m not depending on romance for everything, and that makes me really happy.