Swoon Author Sandy Hall: What's the Deal with "Insta-Love"?
I spend a lot of time thinking about romance tropes. I think about ways to make them work for me, I think about how to subvert them, I think about ways to make them new and interesting.
I also think about how I’ve experienced certain tropes in my own life.
I think about all of the many times I’ve felt “insta-love.”
When I say “insta-love,” I don’t mean that I fell in love with someone and they fell in love with me. But I was a bit of a boy crazy teenager. I saw boys everywhere and thought they were cute or cool or hot. And if they TALKED TO ME!?!? OMG whole other levels of squee.
I know that’s not “insta-love.” That’s insta-like, insta-lust, insta-attraction.
But there was one thing I loved instantly that became a constant in my life.
I started working at the library in my hometown when I was sixteen. I shelved books two afternoons after school and every Saturday in the children’s room. I would go so far as to say that I INSTA-LOVED that job. From minute one it just felt right to me. If me and that job (in some kind of corporeal form, I guess?) could have run across a meadow in slow motion while a schmoopy love song played, I would have done that.
The problem was, no matter how much I loved that job, I had
a hard time believing back then that you could have a career you loved that much. I thought that your “grown up” job had
to be hard won and challenging. That there was no way I could grow up to be a
librarian because that would be the easy way out.
I was wrong. I would love to go back and tell my teenage self just how wrong I was.
Writing romance between two characters realistically is kind of like the romance I had with my first library job. Obviously it had its ups and downs (I was a very lazy teenager and would sometimes take naps in the stacks.) and, like I said, even for all of the insta-love, I worried that it wasn’t challenging enough to ever be my “grown up” job.
The same is true for romance in stories. We want to watch characters get to know each other and to work hard to get to the point of a relationship. The slow burn can be half the fun. But for me, there’s just something about the moment when two characters lock eyes across a crowded room and feel a magnetic pull towards each other. I like it. I enjoy it. I am massively entertained by it.
My point is, in terms of romance novels, instant attraction/like/lust is such a great spark for a story. Both characters are blank slates to each other and as an author I can throw up all sorts of obstacles to keep them apart once they acknowledge their attraction.
I understand the issue with insta-love. I don’t want two characters to meet and be perfect and have everything fall into place. That doesn’t read as realistic, it doesn’t feel earned.
But it doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t or would never like each other right away. I get that kind of feeling. And sometimes it’s just nice to celebrate good feelings.