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roboticanary

What makes a fictional romance unpalatable?

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This is I guess directed at the subset of aros who are ok with reading fiction that involves romance.

I have this swinging between one story with some romantic subplot being fine for me, but then the next story I read I get really frustrated or feel awful trying to slog through it. I am guessing that there are some things within those fictions that I can tolerate and some things I just can't but I am not sure i can describe exactly what it is that turns me away.

does anyone else experience anything similar, and do any of you have specific things about a romantic part of a story that would put you off reading it?

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When there's just loads and loads of fluff, i'm sure the characters are enjoying themselves but I really don't see the appeal of reading about people cuddling and 'whispering sweet nothings.'  both boring and icky

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I'm not a fan of romance but sometimes I get invested in unlikely couples or romances between characters that have to fight for their right to love.

I hate what I would call 'social' romance (high school movies, soaps,...) when social status and gossip is more important than love itself. But can we even call it true romance?

 

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I’m similar, sometimes it’s fine and I even have couples I really like and love their love. But, sometimes I can’t stand romance and it’s annoying. I tend to like romance that starts from friendships. I can’t think of many specific things that I don’t like besides when the characters don’t have much depth and story outside of the romance.

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I'm usually okay with romance, but one of the main things that puts me off is when the main character falls for an absolute jerk who treats them like trash, yet by the end, they're together and everyone treats this like it's not going to turn abusive. Another thing that I find particularly annoying is when a character obsesses over their love interest and doesn't have any life aside from their job at a local grocer and a friend or two to confess their "love". Both of these tie into my hate for underdeveloped main characters, they have the exact same goals as in the beginning and hardly change as a person, other genres are held to a general standard, so why should romance be exempt from that? 

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I need to know romance is coming and then they have to meet my expectations. If I'm picking up a sci-fi novel say and there's going to be romance in it then it has to be secondary to the plot. The story can't divert off into a romance, that's not what I signed up for. If I'm reading a romance novel however then the characters have to be well written and just generally respect each other. They do have to do something different though, something new. We've all seen the same romance a fucking thousand times. If I'm reading a romance then you really have to work to keep my interest. I guess plot is my priority when it comes to books and to romance haha 

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3 hours ago, Scoop said:

I need to know romance is coming and then they have to meet my expectations. If I'm picking up a sci-fi novel say and there's going to be romance in it then it has to be secondary to the plot. The story can't divert off into a romance, that's not what I signed up for. 

I recently read a phenomenal book (Recursion by Blake Crouch), and this happened. It was a fascinating book with amazing twists that you had to pause to even begin to wrap your head around. But, by the end, it stopped being about the actual plot, and just about the relationship between the main characters. It was so annoying.

Minor spoilers :

Spoiler

Seriously. The end of the book was just multiple rehashings of them falling in love in different timelines. Then the male lead decides that he was cool with the destruction of space and time because he was sad that his wife died. Instead of getting on with the plot he had to dig next to her coffin, overdose, nearly freeze to death, and then come to his senses.

I am generally okay with romance existing in books, but only because I've come to see it as unavoidable. I find it annoying when:

  1. It is unhealthy, but still happens
  2. It takes over the main plot, or causes the characters to be stupid
  3. It is the only character motivation, or replaces existing motivations
  4. Love triangles exist
  5. When it becomes gushy
  6. Cliches/overdone plotlines occur
  7. One of them is super creepy about it
  8. Boundaries are ignored to begin with
  9. Most enemies-to-lovers things happen (sue me)
  10. They don't trust each other and/or forgive and ignore things
  11. One of them lives up to a bad reputation, and it is ignored
  12. If either of them was ever afraid of the other
  13. One of them makes huge sacrifices and the other doesn't give anything back
  14. A great action sequence is interrupted for a declaration of love
  15. Other less common things that don't immediately come to mind

(That was a lot, and there are more)

At those points, it goes from mildly annoying to uncomfortable.

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I generally enjoy romance in fiction but the one's I don't like are the type of stories where I find myself thinking "If this guy wasn't good looking and the woman wasn't an idiot it would be a crime novel". Also books where the main character has multiple people panting after them (this is especially annoying when the character in dull as dish water, I'm looking at you Twilight and your profoundly forgettable yet somehow irresistible protagonist). And of course if the book is generally insipid or badly written the romance will be too; some books just suck in general.

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5 hours ago, Rolo said:

"If this guy wasn't good looking and the woman wasn't an idiot it would be a crime novel"

Wow, that is a great description of what I would accept for a romance.

 

6 hours ago, Neon Green Packing Peanut said:

But, by the end, it stopped being about the actual plot, and just about the relationship between the main characters. It was so annoying.

Yeah, looking back that sounds about right for what really puts me off, the romance taking over must be a big part of it.

Edited by roboticanary
i can't spell

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22 hours ago, roboticanary said:

This is I guess directed at the subset of aros who are ok with reading fiction that involves romance.

Difficult to find fiction that doesn't involve romance at all.

22 hours ago, roboticanary said:

I have this swinging between one story with some romantic subplot being fine for me, but then the next story I read I get really frustrated or feel awful trying to slog through it. I am guessing that there are some things within those fictions that I can tolerate and some things I just can't but I am not sure i can describe exactly what it is that turns me away.

Romance is most palatable to me when the author doesn't observe the rule "show don't tell". Spare me the details, just tell me the info about the love interests and relationships relevant for the plot.

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On 11/9/2020 at 7:23 AM, Neon Green Packing Peanut said:

It is unhealthy, but still happens

I like that one, if it's absurd enough. Romance is where I have a strong tendency for black humor. In the Overlord light novels (an isekai story) there's one human adventurer who falls in love with the humanoid looking non-human Narberal, who despises humans and can barely disguise her hatred to not ruin her stealth missions. She rejects him with utter scorn and threats of a violent death but he still keeps going on flirting with her. There are many more examples of romance in these novels and all are grotesquely unhealthy. There's "innocent" Princess Renner who is actually a psychopath; she's infatuated with her bodyguard Climb and his "puppy eyes". And tries to impress him with good deeds for the sole reason to see him make that look. She is later granted the wish to transform into a demon and manipulates him to become one, too, to fully indulge in her obsession.

A bit off-topic b/c it's not novels. There was exactly ONE thing about Dark Souls 3 I liked – only played it because the cult around it convinced me as if it were some "obligatory life experience". Egged me on and on, so to even go for the secret ending. (I mean in retrospect it's the most overhyped game. 90% of the world looks just like Aberdeen when the garbage collectors are on strike – with no anti-aliasing ... which existed in 2016, right? And the substance of the convoluted story is just: ULTRA-stupid protagonist goes on a long rampage to annihilate cooler and smarter people than him/herself and achieves nothing of value /end of rant). But ... there's one quest for the secret ending where you get married. Now you don't get a ring there for the wedding but a sword. So why do you need a sword for a wedding? It's called "sword of avowal" and you use it to .... impale your spouse. Yes, that's the marriage ceremony. He/she is undead so it doesn't matter. But I found that just too funny.

Regarding romance it can't get too dark and absurd for me to not think "Nod, nod, there's still a kernel of truth in there". I don't like when romantic love gets abused as a plot device to explain certain stupid action. But when it driven to the point of absurdity, it becomes funny.

Edited by DeltaV
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4 hours ago, DeltaV said:
On 11/8/2020 at 11:23 PM, Neon Green Packing Peanut said:

It is unhealthy, but still happens

I like that one, if it's absurd enough. Romance is where I have a strong tendency for black humor. In the Overlord light novels (an isekai story) there's one human adventurer who falls in love with the humanoid looking non-human Narberal, who despises humans and can barely disguise her hatred to not ruin her stealth missions. She rejects him with utter scorn and threats of a violent death but he still keeps going on flirting with her

In the book I am reading right now, the guy: commited genocide, ethnic cleansing, enslaved her people, burned her city down(killing millions in the process), murdered her family, nearly killed her multiple times, lied to and manipulated her, and stalked her. Yet he is still somehow the love interest and all of that was excusable because he thought she was dead and was really sad. And now that it is 18 years later, and she is alive, he is now a good guy.

It is so uncomfortable. And it is sad because the rest of the book is so good. The story is fascinating. I could just do without the clearly horrible pairing. I am personally hoping he dies.

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I don't like romance when it is abusive or treated as "all the rest doesn't matter now". And also things like "romance requires sacrifices", in particular if the sacrifices are one-sided. One of the things I hate the most : when one of the character says clearly they are not interesting, but the other kept pushing until the first character realizes he is the one (I say "he" because usually, it is the man who flirt with the woman). This is harrassment, not love!

But I like romance when the people involved grow together, when people have thing in common that justifies the relationship, and when it is useful to the plot (as a motivation for characters for instance).

I also love one-sided romance. And the phase before people get together. Maybe because I am not interesting a lot to see people doing stuff they do when they are a couple.

Edited by nonmerci
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On 11/11/2020 at 6:59 AM, Neon Green Packing Peanut said:

In the book I am reading right now, the guy: commited genocide, ethnic cleansing, enslaved her people, burned her city down(killing millions in the process), murdered her family, nearly killed her multiple times, lied to and manipulated her, and stalked her. Yet he is still somehow the love interest and all of that was excusable because he thought she was dead and was really sad. And now that it is 18 years later, and she is alive, he is now a good guy.

Also Recursion by Blake Crouch?

Reminds me of the unbearable Padme romance. Anakin is a mass-murderer too. Maybe his "not completely deranged" motive is enough excuse?

So when it happens in Star Wars nothing is "mainstream" enough to not contain such stuff – it seems there's a romance equivalent of Poe's law:

Without a clear indication of the author's intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an sincere portrayal of romance and a parody of romance.

Ok, ok, one has to make it very, very, VERY obvious for the audience to not take it seriously. Probably there are people out there who even think that the "Sword of Avowal" is "sooooo romantic". 💓

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46 minutes ago, DeltaV said:

Also Recursion by Blake Crouch?

Reminds me of the unbearable Padme romance. Anakin is a mass-murderer too. Maybe his "not completely deranged" motive is enough excuse?

So when it happens in Star Wars nothing is "mainstream" enough to not contain such stuff – it seems there's a romance equivalent of Poe's law:

Without a clear indication of the author's intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an sincere portrayal of romance and a parody of romance.

Ok, ok, one has to make it very, very, VERY obvious for the audience to not take it seriously. Probably there are people out there who even think that the "Sword of Avowal" is "sooooo romantic". 💓

Honestly, that is kinda scary that people see romcoms and are like "that is a perfect relationship!" Ummmm, no. Its intended to be nonsensical (which is why I can enjoy milder romcoms).

Also, before my most recent post, I went on a rant about the unnecessary romance in Recursion. 

Just, people doing awful stuff "in the name of love" is 1) a horrible excuse and 2) the most boring possible character motivation

Edited by Neon Green Packing Peanut
I neglected to add a word to a sentence
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That's like the serie You (inspired by a book; a weird mix of romance and thriller).

In the show, we follow Joe who is a complete psychopath and do everyting in the name of love. In this cas, I didn't find it boring (at least the first season), because we really enter his logic which is completely deranged and it's kinda fascinating how they managed to do that : making you enter the characterr's logic and at the same time dismissing it. Though we follow him, the show clearly portray him as a psycho. He does awful things in the name of "love", and by awful things I mean it begins with stalking and end with murder. It shows how someone who can seem perfectly normal and as the ideal boyfriend can in fact be crazy.

BUT there are people who will tell you that Joe is the good guy! That the girl doesn't appreciate him enough and all the things he does, and that he is so romantic. And yes, for their defense we could say that the show plays with the lines (Joe never kill a likeable character and is sweet with his neighboor), but at the end of the day, the guy lies, manipulates, stalks, kidnaps, and kills people. (major spoiler)

 

Including the woman he was doing all that for, when she discovers what he did.

How is that romantic?

 

People can be really blind when it comes to romance.

 

Edited by nonmerci
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1 hour ago, nonmerci said:

BUT there are people who will tell you that Joe is the good guy! That the girl doesn't appreciate him enough and all the things he does, and that he is so romantic.

damn thats scary, stalking, murder but no, how romantic. it makes me kind of worried that these people might end up in a relationship with someone even half as wierd as that. 

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