Love has been a core element of fiction since…well, since forever, I guess. It drives and unites characters, it pushes plot forward, it distinguishes good from evil, and it’s an integral part of what makes a story real to us.
Romantic love certainly isn’t the only manifestation of this force, but it is a prevalent one. It’s a trend I don’t foresee readers ever getting tired of because it resonates so much with the human heart.
But genuine love is all but gone from today’s fiction menu.
A culture that soaks up visual stimulation like a sponge has replaced selfless, sacrificial, protective love with superficial mind-candy.
Pick up any given book with a romantic element to it (doesn’t even have to be romance genre), and you’re just about guaranteed to find perfect bodies (featured on the cover to make sure the book sells), high-school level personalities (the angsty-yet-so-muscly dude who can’t ever seem to control his mysterious darker self), and instant-relationship kits that have the characters sucking face on page ten.
This trend is an insult to character development to say the least.
Writers and readers, have we forgotten what real love between authentic characters looks like?
Genuine love takes time, effort, trust, and truckloads of selflessness. It hurts, forgives, fails, and learns. It starts small and grows into something beautiful despite forces that hammer against it. It has pure intentions and puts the other person’s needs first. It does not rely on physical attraction to keep readers turning pages.
Instead, writers stoop to billboard standards, and we’re stuck with the generic, shirtless vampire/werewolf/ninja/pirate whose understanding of love is reduced to, “That girl’s hot and I want her” and his female counterpart, a strong-willed babe who for no apparent reason falls for said shirtless moron no questions asked.
What people call love in most of today’s new fiction is manipulative, selfish, lust-driven, uncontrolled, and thinly veiled by cheap, meaningless revenge/rescue plots. And it stays at that.
The sad part is that those stories sell. It’s what the market wants. Writers are all too willing to take the easy route, and readers gobble it up because we live in a culture that thrives on the cheap, the quick, and the easily-obtained.
Unless we as writers step up and make a change, real love will disappear from fiction, and readers’ shelves will be stocked with empty shells of characters grasping for meaningful love in all the wrong places.