I once had a reviewer of my first film (The Sacrifice) comment that it was refreshing to see two characters who were attracted to each other through common interests, instead of looking at each other and instantly deciding they were madly in love. I took that comment to heart. It was nice that I’d apparently done it “right” for that film, but if so, it hadn’t been a conscious choice. Now I’m much more aware of it. It turns out this is very common in gay romance and straight romance alike.
I read a short story last night which brought this to mind. I won’t name the story, because I think the author is generally very good, and there’s no reason to discourage others from reading her work. But it involves an English nobleman who falls in love with a commoner and spends the rest of the story chasing him. At the end, the nobleman wins his love through an impassioned plea that, while he may have been a rogue in the past, he is now Reformed.
The problem is, the reader can’t really see it. At the beginning, the nobleman is struck by how handsome the commoner is and decides he must have him. Fine. But it never really develops beyond that. They aren’t really seen getting to know each other. All of the scenes they have together are chasing and fleeing. The story desperately needed a couple quiet scenes in which they talk about something other than how hot they are to rip each other’s clothes off, despite the conventions of society. Without those, by the time the nobleman professes his undying love, I was far more skeptical than the commoner. All of his flowery words seemed like nothing more than a college frat boy professing to his drunk date (who’s name he has forgotten), “I’ve never met anyone like you. I’m really starting to feel something special. Will you come up to my room now?”
I’m really tired of the characters in romance novels going on and on about how beautiful their love interest is. They can do that upon first meeting, but from that point on, we don’t need more than a brief comment here and there about their physical characteristics. Constantly dwelling on their beauty simply underlines the superficial nature of the attraction. What we need is action. We need dramatic moments in which the characters share special moments. In which they show us that they have something in common, for Pete’s sake!
The author needs to constantly be showing us why these two characters are right for each other, even when they’re fighting.